When it comes to family and domestic violence, it would be difficult to find someone in Canada who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by it, considering roughly half of Canadian women have experienced it, according to Anuradha Dugal, director of Canada Women’s Foundation’s violence prevention program.
“Every woman in Canada knows somebody who has been affected,” she said. Despite the prevalence of domestic violence, it is still a taboo subject she said, which makes getting help more challenging.
“We’ve found that women won’t talk about it with their employers, their primary health care providers or their family because they feel they won’t receive the support from them,” Dugal said. “Many women don’t feel comfortable talking to their family doctor about it because maybe the doctor is seeing her husband next or a few days later. Or sometimes a doctor will prescribe antidepressants but they won’t ask about what’s happening at home.”
It’s a major challenge according to Dugal, because a partner or former partner kills one woman in Canada every six days. While there has been increased education and awareness about domestic violence in recent years, that number has remained consistent.
“It’s not growing, but domestic violence isn’t decreasing very fast either,” she said.
Abuse comes in many forms – physical, emotional, psychological, religious, sexual as well as stalking and cyber-related abuse. The most commonly misunderstand type of abuse, psychological, can also be one of the most harmful, according to Dugal.
“Psychological abuse can be very damaging, because your partner may say that he loves you, but then says that you have to lose weight, that you don’t know how to raise kids or that you’re a terrible cook,” she said.
While there is more money being spent on awareness, programs and shelters, there are still many challenges when it comes to domestic violence, according to Dugal. One of the major issues facing women in rural areas is access to shelters. Even if shelters do exist, getting to them can be a major challenge, she said.
“It can be very hard for a rural woman to get to a shelter. Some families only have one car and the husband may be using it and there are no public transportation options,” she said. “These situations are even harder for people in northern or isolated areas where you have to fly in or out of or that you can’t get out of at any point in the year.”
Compounding those problems is the women from rural areas, who may have spent all of their life in the small communities, typically have to go to shelters in larger centres and start somewhere new, which can be psychologically draining, she said. Because of those types of challenges, it is very important for the community, families and friends to support the victim.
“The first thing to do is not to judge and to not expect the victim to do what you think she should do,” Dugal said. “Tell her that you are here for her and that she doesn’t have to tell you anything. But be there for her and let her make her own decisions.”
According to Dugal, it takes five to 10 times for a victim to finally leave an abusive relationship and although it seems like it is a cycle that isn’t healthy, every time the victim leaves, they learn something.
She said women should know where they can go when there is an emergency, whether it is a shelter, a hotel, a hospital or even a 24-hour coffee shop. If involved in a crisis at home, women should stay out of areas where they can’t leave the house from, like a bathroom.
“Move to a space where you can get out of the house if you need to and stay away from anywhere that could have easy weapons nearby,” she said.
If a woman needs to look up shelters or emergency plans online, Dugal said they should remember to clear their browser history so that their partner doesn’t see the information they have researched. She said some organizations have given out resource sheets with phone numbers and emergency information on them which are rolled up inside lipstick tubes or makeup compacts.
Another important message is that the victim should never feel like they are to blame.
“No victim is ever to blame for their abuse. They are often told they are, but you are never to blame, ever,” she said.
Canada Women’s Foundation supports many programs and initiatives from funding shelters, to educating young people about relationships and the impacts of abuse. Dugal said they also work with programs that help victims rebuild their lives. Currently, they are working on two programs in 17 communities across Canada that teach aboriginal youth and youth who are new to Canada about conflict resolution, healthy relationships and available resources. They also work with programs that teach about dating violence, which often can lead to domestic violence.
This article, written by Edmonton freelance writer Dave S. Clark was originally published by QMI Agency.