The statistics that show 50 per cent of women will be physically or sexually abused in their lifetimes pay no mind to geography – such assaults can and do occur in small communities such as those found in the townships.
The problem is more widespread than most people care to admit, says the coordinator of the family violence prevention program offered through Woolwich Community Services (WCS) in Elmira.
Virginia Logan was at Woolwich council Tuesday night, successfully requesting the township declare November to be family violence prevention month.
Education and public awareness are two important tools in attempting to reduce incidents. Often, victims are afraid to come forward. Vigilance by others can help identify problems, she explained, adding people shouldn’t balk from intervening or calling police as necessary.
The WCS program helps about 100 to 130 people each year with issues of physical or sexual violence, the overwhelming majority being women, she said. On average, somewhere between four and 10 men use the program, which extends from crisis services to education in the schools.
Given the gender divide, it would be easy to see family violence as a women’s issue, said Logan. However, women can’t change the behaviour of those who are abusive – overwhelmingly men, it’s only men who can change the pattern, particularly through peer pressure and altered expectations among men.
Along with helping those in immediate need with support services, the WCS program focuses on prevention and education – a staffer provides outreach programs to every area school, looking to teach kids from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 that violence is not the answer to any problem.
Breaking the cycle of violence is the key to prevention, said Logan. Children raised in abusive homes are more likely to keep the cycle going when they grow up.
Even those in abusive relationships – often women being physically or mentally abused by their spouses – find it hard to get out of their situations.
Councillors quickly endorsed the resolution making November family violence prevention month. Logan also issued a challenge to businesses, churches, schools and others with signs in front of their buildings to display a message of non-violence during November.