November was Family Violence Prevention Month, but the work of spreading awareness about these critical issues of course extends through the year.
Committed to fighting all forms of abuse, the Stettler-based Association of Communities Against Abuse continues to broaden its reach in the community and beyond.
“Normally, that month is really a time where anybody who is connected to that issue is hoping to raise awareness and to also address some of those needs and concerns in a way that that will help to reduce the violence that we see,” said Stephanie Hadley, executive director of the organization.
“We did have a Red Rose Campaign that was distributed throughout Stettler by another committee. But we are also a member of many other committees throughout the region. So we support and participate in activities in Camrose, in Beaver County and Flagstaff and out to the east in Castor and then south to Drumheller and Hanna.”
Speaking of the Red Rose Campaign, local businesses and organizations received a beautiful rose and then throughout the month, they are asked to just let it wither and die and remain on display, she said.
“The purpose behind that is to help people to pause and to remember and to recognize the many people – women, children and men – all the individuals and families who have been impacted by family violence or abuse in some way, or who have lost their lives,” she explained.
The Red Rose Campaign was overseen by the Stettler Society for the Prevention of Family Violence.
Meanwhile, the Association of Communities Against Abuse office serves as a home base to Hadley and her staff, but the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services is the umbrella organization.
Several therapists are available across the region to help clients.
“We do what we can to help spread information about the activities that are happening in those communities as well as here,” she explained, add that therapy programs at the Association itself specialize in childhood sexual abuse treatment.
Family support workers are also available to help out when someone is accessing treatment.
Hadley said staff are also available to do free presentations on healthy relationships and abuse prevention.
Currently, those seeking help can either call in or they come in in person. What follows is a short interview that is a key part of the intake process.
“I can say that in the years I’ve been involved with the Association I have definitely seen a bit of a shift…more so where people are talking about it more, they are learning more about it, they are thinking more about it and certainly we’ve seen a much higher number of people coming forward to seek help,” she said.
“Depending on what (the client) is looking for, we have a multi-purpose approach,” said Hadley. “We can immediately provide some support to them just in offering emotional support and providing information about the impacts and what they are experiencing. Also, we quickly make referrals.
“Our primary focus is sexual violence, but we also know that very close to all of the families that we provide services to have been impacted by emotional and physical violence as well,” she said.
“If it’s a person that we don’t feel we have the appropriate services to support, then we will quickly refer them to the appropriate services,” she said. “Those are available in most of the communities that we serve.”
Sometimes, accessing services, particularly in rather isolated, rural areas, can be a challenge. It can also be a challenge for newcomers to Canada who may need considerable help navigating the system, she added.
“I think it’s important to note that this is an issue that affects all of us, and that it happens everywhere,” she said.
It cuts across any socio-economic level of society.
“It’s also happening with youth, and it’s happening with same-sex couples. We’ve seen in the last few years a much higher number of people from the LGBTQ community.” More men have been coming forward as well – as survivors, not as perpetrators.
“That’s been particularly challenging, because historically it’s been something that has been very gender specific in print materials and services. But it truly is something that affects everyone, and there is a need for a shift in that area.”
To that end, Hadley said a group has been started in Stettler called the Phoenix Circle.
“It’s a support and empowerment group. It is also not gender specific – it is open to everyone. We want it to be very inclusive. It’s also open to anyone who has experienced trauma of any kind in the past”
The next session of the 10-week program will be offered in the spring.
Currently, the Association also offers a range of preventative education programs, and those are available for people of all ages.
For more information, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.acaahelps.ca.