By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 10, 2017.
This month’s ‘At The Legislature’ column by MLA Maria Fitzpatrick
The first time he hit me, I said to myself, “he had a bad day.” But I don’t know how many times he hit me or did other things before I realized this was family violence, that what I was experiencing was abuse – and that I had been experiencing it almost since the day we got married.
I kept the warning signs hidden – like calling places of employment, demeaning comments, excuses for minor or big injuries – and felt like I was walking on egg shells all the time so he wouldn’t become upset. It was scary for me to seek help as he had threatened me over and over again. He blamed me or our children when he was angry – it wasn’t just my life in danger. It was also embarrassing to tell anyone what was happening.
Family violence is the abuse of power within any relationship – your family, someone you are dating or any other dependency relationship (such as that of caregiver). It’s any behaviour that endangers the survival, security or well-being of another person. It can be spousal, elder and child abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, parent abuse and exposure to abuse of others in the family.
It doesn’t have to be physical. It can be psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial or even criminal harassment. As I said previously, one may not realize the behaviour they are living with is abuse. For me, it was the physical reaction to words spoken – a shiver down my back or a knot in my stomach. Those visceral responses were indicators; I just didn’t realize it at the time.
Alberta has the third highest rate of family violence in Canada and statistics show that the number of cases in communities like Lethbridge has increased as well. November is Family Violence Prevention Month and our government and community partners are working hard to raise awareness about this issue. This includes what everyone can do to help individuals so they don’t have to suffer alone, education initiatives and making sure that resources are readily available to anyone who needs them.
Research shows that neighbours, friends and co-workers play a vital role to help address and prevent family violence from occurring. Recognizing the warning signs, while not being proof of abuse, and knowing how to support family, friends, neighbours and co-workers is an important step. How to help will depend on the situation, but you won’t know and you can’t help if you don’t ask.
Reach out. Speak out – it takes all of us.
If you think someone you know is in an abusive situation, or you want to find out how you can help someone affected by family violence, you can call the toll-free, province-wide Family Violence Info Line at 310-1818, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also use the chat function, which is available from noon to 8 p.m. daily. If you or someone you know is in danger, call 9-1-1.
To learn more about what you can do to help, visit http://www.endfamilyviolence.alberta.ca, which has resources in many languages, and information on where to find local community services for help.
In a brisk return to business at the legislature, an Act to Protect Gas and Convenience Store Workers, aimed at preventing future “gas and dash” injuries and deaths, has passed third reading, as has the Resident and Family Councils Act, which will establish family councils at seniors care facilities and residences. An Act to Protect Gay-Straight Alliances, which is aimed at protecting privacy of students joining GSAs, has passed second reading. You can check the content and status of the various bills up for debate as well as watch the Legislature in session by visiting http://www.assembly.ab.ca.
We had a fantastic visit from Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs, last week. The minister and I met with representatives and members of a number of community associations and city representatives throughout the day, dined at some of our fantastic local eateries. Most importantly, we had the honour of presenting two cheques from Alberta Culture and Tourism’s Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) and the Community Initiatives Program (CIP).
One CIP grant went to the Lethbridge Exhibition for $75,000, to help with the costs of their 120th anniversary celebration; and a CFEP grant for $122,500 went to the Lethbridge & District Boys and Girls Club for the construction of an onsite facility to house the MAT, a free youth drop-in program for 11-18-year-olds in our community. It was wonderful to get out and see some of the fabulous work being done in our city by both the Exhibition and the Boys and Girls Club. Our government is happy to support them in the tremendous work they do in our community.
A reminder that this month the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association (SAEA) is featuring a Taste of Ecuador, on Nov. 24 at the Multicultural Centre – contact the SAEA to purchase tickets. And, the second annual Winter Lights Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is coming Dec. 1 – stay tuned for more information.
Lest we forget, on this Saturday, Nov. 11, please pause for the observance of Remembrance Day. Ceremonies are being held at the Lethbridge Exhibition at 9:30 a.m. and at the Cenotaph downtown at noon.
My office is located at 543 13 St. S. and is open for walk-in service Monday through Thursday 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., or by appointment outside of those hours. Constituents are welcome to contact me by email at email@example.com, or by phone at 403-320-1011.
Maria Fitzpatrick is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge East. Her column appears monthly.
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