I’ve been with P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. for over 10 years. Every year Family Violence Prevention Week grows in both the number of participants and the number of events across the Island. This year Family Violence Prevention Week is Feb. 10-16. We choose a different theme each year. This year’s theme is the engagement of men and boys in family violence prevention. The number of men getting involved in violence prevention is growing. This is good news, because everyone working together is the best approach to ending family violence.
More men getting involved is just one example of a number of shifts happening now. There has been a recent change on the topics we cover in education sessions. An important part of what we do is public education on various aspects of family violence and abuse prevention. While we still deliver a lot of information on what family violence is and how to recognize the signs, there has been an increasing demand for going a step farther. Training on the importance of bystander intervention is in high demand. Many Islanders know what family violence is and want to do more to stop it. People are ready to act when they see something they know is wrong. This is good news, because people knowing some safe actions to take can save a life.
There is a growing number of men coming forward to say they have been abused or witnessed abuse as children. There are a number of celebrities who talk very openly about this, like actors Terry Crews and Patrick Stewart, and NHL hockey player Patrick O’Sullivan. They have spoken publicly about family violence in their childhoods. They do this to raise awareness of the harm abuse causes, and to help others find the courage to speak out. This is good news, because role models have the power to change attitudes.
More employers are making a commitment to support employees who experience family violence. We deliver education on the impact of family violence on workers. Employers are very interested in helping out. Some have policies in place to support their workers when they are leaving abuse. Others with referrals and allow their employees to take time off to access the services they need. This is good news, because people leaving abuse shouldn’t worry if needing time off puts their job at risk.
On P.E.I., violence in dating relationships is included in the definition of family violence. Sometimes sexual violence happens between dating partners. There is a growing body of post-secondary students working to end sexual violence on campus. Students are pushing for better policies to deal with violence when it happens. They are organizing and educating their peers. They are speaking out against negative attitudes. These students are driving the transformation of how we approach and talk about sexual violence. This is good news, because when youth get involved there is a better chance for a future without abuse.
So while a week talking about abuse doesn’t sound like good news, there are important things happening. Many of them are happening right here on P.E.I. We should all be proud of the people working to end abuse. We can all work towards creating a safer, more peaceful province. You may see people taking a stand to end family violence next week. I encourage you to stand with them.
Danya O’Malley is the executive director of the P.E.I. Family Violence Prevention Services Inc. and co-chair of the Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention Pubic Awareness Working Group.