Comox Valley encouraged to speak up about domestic violence
Comox Valley residents need a reminder that family violence happens here, according to the Comox Valley Transition Society (CVTS).
CVTS executive director Heather Ney said the Peace Begins at Home — Purple Ribbon Campaign, which is in full swing, is designed to generate community awareness that family violence exists in the Comox Valley and to show people that it's important to speak out about it.
The campaign is "important because people need to be reminded what some of the members of our community are experiencing in the privacies of their homes," said Ney. "A lot of people don't talk about the violence that's occurring in families, and so (the Purple Ribbon Campaign) brings it to peoples' minds, I think, and creates an awareness and challenges us to speak up against it."
According to Ney, about 1,200 calls come into CVTS' 24-hour crisis line each year, and about 300 women and children use CVTS's counselling services.
According to the campaign's website, www.peacebeginsathome.ca, women are most likely to be the victims of police-reported domestic violence, accounting for 83 per cent of victims, and in the Comox Valley women are the victims in 97 per cent of domestic violence calls.
About 200 to 250 Comox Valley women and children use the CVTS' transition house, Lilli House, each year, said Ney.
Lilli House offers women a place to go when they need to escape violent or abusive situations, either as a respite or permanently. Many women use Lilli House to regroup, rest and gain strength before going back to their homes, according to Ney, who added many factors contribute to a woman's decision to stay in a violent home.
"Women go back for a lot of reasons, love, hope, the children, they don't have the financial resources to make it on their own, and with the income assistance supports being as they are it's very difficult to find safe and appropriate housing, so they don't have a lot of housing options in our community," explained Ney. Or, "They don't have the self-esteem and they hope that it's going to work out — that he's going to stop."
CVTS counsellor Basira Godfrey said it can be difficult to watch a person repeatedly go back to a dangerous situation but the decision to leave is ultimately up to the person leaving.
"The crux of our counselling is to empower the woman to make her own choice because we really believe that nobody changes on somebody else's advice or recommendation," said Godfrey. "They have to get to that place of seeing it for themselves that it really isn't working or it isn't healthy for them."
Women who are ready to leave receive CVTS support with things like finding housing, legal information and obtaining income assistance. Counselling services are available for women and children after they've left Lilli House as well as while they're there.
Soroptimist International of Courtenay provides Soropti Paks, which include essential items, like kitchen utensils and linens, to help them get set up in their new homes.
Godfrey added she sees many women who end up going back to abusive homes when they are emotionally ready to leave because they don't have the physical means to leave.
"That's one of the things that keeps women in relationships is the financial aspect, and if they haven't been working and they haven't been out on their own," said Godfrey. "Some of them married right after high school and they haven't worked for years and it's pretty challenging then to go out and start your life, you know, as if you were 18 again."
According to Godfrey, many people assume domestic violence happens to the uneducated or people in lower economic classes, but she said this is not the case.
"Violence happens across all those lines, so to educated people to every race, every gender, and every economic (class)," explained Godfrey.
The Peace Begins at Home — Purple Ribbon Campaign started April 16 and finishes up April 30, but Ney said she hopes people talk about family violence throughout the year. Purple ribbons can be picked up at Too Good To Be Threw Thrift Shop, the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce offices and the Cumberland Museum and Tourist Bureau.
For more information or to take the pledge against family violence, visit www.peacebeginsathome.ca.
Godfrey noted awareness generation is key to help stop family violence in the Comox Valley.
"Awareness is what changes, what increases change," said Godfrey. "When we intervene, or we say to somebody 'That's not OK to talk to someone like that,' I think all of that has a ripple effect."