January 23rd, 2018

Response important to help end abuse


By Mabell, Dave on January 12, 2018.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

Canadians are now hearing reports of violence and abuse – issues that were seldom discussed in the past

We’re learning more about abuse – physical, sexual, psychological – because victims are speaking out.

But a Lethbridge audience was urged to recognize and respond to incidents they witness, as part of a community approach to reducing its impact on women, men and children.

Lethbridge-educated Jaisie Walker, an awareness and public education co-ordinator, told participants at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs everyone can make a difference.

“There is always some way to respond that is appropriate,” they said. “These are things you can practise.”

Whether it’s an incident in the home or a public place, a third party can attempt to derail the interaction through distraction, or by verbally confronting the aggressor. Alternately, Walker said, the observer can seek help from someone else who’s nearby.

Then it’s also important to follow up with the victim afterward, to see what help is needed.

That listening ear is just as important when someone is ready to reveal the abuse they’re receiving.

With women speaking out on social media and in public about what they’ve experienced at home or at work, Walker said a friend or relative can help the healing process begin by simply listening.

Don’t interrupt, they said, assure the person that the abuse was in no way deserved, and offer thanks for trusting you. Then ask what the victim needs to move ahead.

Walker, based at the Safe Haven Women’s Shelter in Taber, pointed out abuse crosses gender lines.

“Abuse of power happens across a wide spectrum.”

And it takes the form of economic or spiritual abuse, neglect or criticism, as well as physical and sexual attacks.

A member of the audience responded by speaking about the abuse he received while growing up in a toxic family situation.

But women are most often the victims in North America, Walker said – yet women’s shelters in Alberta turn away hundreds for lack of space.

Workplace abuse can also include verbal slurs, sexist jokes – or dismissive attitudes, pointed out Lethbridge East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick.

“If you don’t ‘call’ it, you’re part of the problem,” she maintained during question period.

While speaking at a forum on abuse in the family, Fitzpatrick said, she observed differing responses from various men in the audience.

“Some of the men cried,” she said. “Some others would not look at me.”

The fact that Canadians are addressing the problem offers hope for the future, Walker suggested. Proactive initiatives at the University of Lethbridge and campuses across the nation are also a positive sign, helping participants find effective ways to respond to various forms of abuse.

“I’ve seen a lot of real progress on this.”

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