Domestic violence awareness month and the need for prevention in Waterloo Region

November is domestic violence awareness month. Domestic violence is not gender specific, but the majority of domestic homicides involve men abusing women.

One of the supports in place for domestic violence survivors is the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo region.

“We offer safe shelter services … regional outreach services, we do a lot of community education, and we also have 24/7 crisis support lines and an online chat feature,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of the Women’s Crisis Services said.

In terms of support for racialized women, they are starting work with Indigenous elders, they have an Equity and Anti-oppressive Task force and are working with consultants regarding equity work.

Their vision is “a community free from violence and abuse in any of its forms.”

“With that vision, I always say that my ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of jobs,” Hutton said. 

Along with their shelters and outreach services, they educate on domestic violence issues.

“Domestic violence has really existed for so long because of the shame and secrecy attached so we’ve done things like our “She is Your Neighbor” podcast series to get people talking about the issue so that there’s growing awareness.” 

This podcast tackles topics like domestic violence and impact on Black women, substance abuse, domestic violence and the experiences of transgender populations with domestic violence. In addition, it also includes  other intersectional lenses.  

Katy Hogarth, the dean of social work at Wilfrid Laurier University, believes that the approach on domestic violence must have a focus on the offender as well. 

“If we don’t focus on the offender, we are bound to see all these repeats,” Hogarth said.

“In many instances, domestic violence is learned and we need to be teaching offenders how to unlearn the maladaptive ways of coping, the toxic ways of coping. We must do both,” she said.

Women’s Crisis Services is contributing by educating young boys in their shelters.

“At any one time, about half of our residents [in the shelters] are children and many of those residents are young men or young boys and that’s a great time to intervene and to impact their thinking and hopefully change that cycle of abuse,” Hutton said. 

“We feel it’s important not just to educate women, but to educate young men.”

Due to the stigma and underreporting associated with domestic violence, they have started a program called “Neighbours and Loved Ones” for those who are worried about a loved one who may be suffering due to domestic violence and need information. 

Women who do not speak English may also seek help as the Women’s Crisis Services has staff who are multilingual and they work closely with the multicultural society for interpreters. 

They have activities throughout the month to educate and fundraise, including the “Voices Empower” walk of six kilometers on Saturday. 

“The reason why we’re walking six kilometers is because every six days in Canada, a woman is killed by an intimate partner so we really want to raise awareness of domestic violence and also that femicide rates are increasing.”

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