No one likes to talk about the elephant in the room: that uncomfortable feeling of knowing something difficult needs to be addressed but feeling unsure of how to talk about it or what to do. In some cases though, that ‘elephant’ can become dangerous and damaging when ignored or mishandled.
According to Stats Canada, Alberta has one of the highest rates of family violence and abuse in Canada. A recent study conducted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation showed over 74% of Albertans personally know someone who has experienced a physical or sexual assault in their lifetime. Family violence and abuse affect all of us and many of us do want to reach out and be supportive, but we don’t know how.
The number one reason identified by community members for not intervening is that they weren’t sure how. The good news is that numerous worldwide studies prove that with the appropriate education and training, bystanders increase their capacity and confidence and get involved supporting victims more often. This can make all the difference in the world.
The majority of victims of violence turn to someone they know first for help, as opposed to a shelter, police or some other formal service. How those family, friends, neighbours or co-workers respond, is incredibly important in shaping what the victim does next. These reactions, or “social responses” as they are known, can have very positive or very negative impacts for the victim.
Victims who receive POSITIVE social responses:
- Tend to recover more quickly and fully
- Are more likely to work with authorities
- Are more likely to report violence in future
- Are more likely to access safety services and supports
Victims who receive NEGATIVE social responses:
- Less likely to cooperate with authorities
- Less likely to disclose violence again
- More likely to receive diagnosis of mental disorder
- Less likely to access protective measures
Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter teaches how to support victims of violence and abuse
Offering non-judgmental, empathetic support is a powerful way to help end violence and make positive change in our community. As this video shows, empathy itself a special kind of healing magic.
The Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter is offers free workshops to any and all groups. These skill-building, interactive workshops will empower you to:
- Consistently recognize abuse in all its forms
- Confidently respond to victims in a non-judgmental, supportive way that is very helpful
- Effectively refer the people you care about to local resources that can help
Sarah Bingham is Family Violence Community Action Coordinator at the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. For more inforamtion or to book your workshop, call Sarah at 403-539-5315 or email her at email@example.com.