Families and individuals in Alberta need our help in eliminating violence against women and children. Our province has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Canada, ranking behind only Ontario and Quebec in female intimate partner victims (11,427), with Calgary Police Service reporting over 2400 domestic incident calls in the first half of 2021 alone. Our partner agencies estimate that one in three Albertans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

To mark November as Family Violence Awareness Month and today (November 25th) as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we recognize the voices from groups like The Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, Calgary Domestic Violence Collaborative, HomeFront, YW Calgary, Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Agency.

For over 30 years, Sagesse has been empowering people, organizations, and communities to break the cycle of violence and abuse in our communities. Their team graciously provided information and resources to United Way as we share five thoughts on ending domestic violence in Calgary.

1. REAL Talk

The first step to helping a survivor is to show up. REAL Talk is an online resource created by Sagesse to help talk with someone impacted by domestic violence. It offers a step-by-step guide for how to have a conversation with someone experiencing domestic violence, giving you the knowledge to recognize signs of abuse and how to provide effective responses that make a difference.

You don’t have to be an expert to help someone. You just need be there in the moment to support them.

2. The warning signs aren’t always clear

Recognizing the signs of abuse and violence doesn’t come down to a checklist. It is more about noticing a pattern of behaviours that don’t seem to fit someone, if people act differently than they usually do, or if they seem afraid or fearful due to a domestic partner. Spotting sings of a violent situation is about checking in on our assumptions about people and their relationships.

3. The power of community

Our voices have a tremendous impact. When we can openly talk about abuse and provide support to those experiencing violence, we create a strong safety net for those in need. We as individuals are best positioned to speak to our peers, friends, family and community members, and in turn, become leading advocates in ending the abuse cycle.

4. Covid Complexity

While Calgary Police Service has seen a 5% drop in domestic incident calls over the pandemic, our partner agencies have a very different story to tell. The impacts of lockdowns, job losses and school closures are creating a new complexity to many cases, leading to an increase of clients and calls. People are staying in abusive situations longer and are more hesitant to call the police. The ability to see friends and family, go to work with colleagues or take children to school eliminates vital touchpoints for both supporters and victims.

The conditions related to social isolation, a poor economy and income instability in families can aggravate pre-existing behaviours, like gender-based violence. Isolation with an abuser can also mean that women can’t seek support, because their partner is always home.

5. Use your voice to make change

We all have a role to play in stopping the cycle of violence and abuse. It can even start with speaking up when we hear a joke or a comment that makes light of domestic abuse. It’s not only hurtful, but it reinforces stereotypes that prevent us from genuinely deconstructing the systems that allow abuse to happen. We can’t eliminate violence unless all of us collectively work together.

When viewed together – poverty, mental health and domestic violence form a complex problem that takes many hands to solve. However, when united in a strong, positive force for good, we can work together to create real solutions for our communities.

With Giving Tuesday just around the corner (November 30th), we’re encouraging you to show your local love. Even a small donation leads to a collective impact in ending domestic violence and offering support to abuse survivors. Because United, we make the biggest difference.