Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let's Start Talking

“As abuse often begins in teenage relationships, preventive programs are essential to ending the cycle of domestic violence. Everyone has the responsibility to step up and end violence against women.”

Ulester Douglas, Director, Training for Men Stopping Violence, Atlanta, GA


I thought of this quote when I watched singer/dancer Chris Brown give an electrifying performance during the recent Grammy Awards. I wondered, as the audience cheered and clapped, if he had really repented for having been physically abusive towards the singer, Rihanna with whom he was living at the time, or if he was still the same insecure young man who had allowed his anger to morph into rage, turning the woman he supposedly loved into his punching bag back in 2009.

Only time will tell if he has learned to take responsibility for those actions and managed to turn his thinking about women and violence around.

In the meantime, we all have a collective responsibility, to do our part to end violence against women whether it’s taking place in Hollywood or in the house next door.

The overall annual cost of domestic violence here in Canada is in excess of $6.9 billion. That’s to cover lost wages plus a range of services victims of violence need, from police intervention, employment insurance, medical costs, counseling and legal costs, child-protection agencies, food banks and temporary shelters.

In the city where I live, which is not even the largest in the country, police receive 15,000 conjugal violence calls annually.

Of those, an average of 22 a year, end up being homicides.

The assumption that things automatically improve once a woman walks away from violence to re-start her life, is to grossly simplify the facts. Women who have been abused have a higher need to visit emergency rooms, rely more on food banks, require longer employment insurance payments and use legal aid even years after their ordeal. Recent research out of the University of British Columbia cites females who end relationships because of violence, continue to be plagued by health issues, legal troubles and economic hardships long after the event, translating into a cost of $13,162 annually per woman.

Here are four things we could do that could make a difference:

·         Find out what the stats are for your city/town.

·         Talk about them to start a dialogue and brings awareness to your community.

·         Donate time, money and/or clothing to organizations that work to protect abused women and children.

·         Make sure to teach your sons/nephews/students to express anger constructively and to treat females respectfully.

Because the real cost of domestic violence is a society full of emotionally wounded children, some of whom will grow up to be bullies, while others will become their victims.

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