DOMESTIC violence is an issue that affects everyone, yet talking about it is tough.
A new radio and social media campaign – #SaySomething – aims to end the silence by encouraging all British Columbians to speak up and learn how they can safely help.
In 2013, there were 12,359 police-reported victims of domestic violence, though research suggests this may represent less than 25% of the total number, as the majority of these crimes continue to go unreported.
She may be your sister, your best friend, your neighbour or your co-worker. Knowing how and when to speak up – not to mention how to make sure those experiencing abuse stay safe when you do so – can be a delicate balancing act. #SaySomething is a call to action that recognizes how silence can feed into the abusive attitudes and behaviours that enable domestic violence.
The campaign seeks not only to raise awareness, but also to provide practical advice and strategies on how and when to safely seek help. The message – that we need to break the silence in order to stop the violence – will be spread through radio spots, multi-lingual promotional videos and online advertising across several social media platforms.
A host website − http://www.saysomethingbc.ca/ − provides information and an array of resources for victims, perpetrators, service providers and the bystanders who want to help.
Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux on Friday announced the launch of the new campaign with anti-violence partners in Surrey as part of the lead-up to International Women’s Day (March 8).
The #SaySomething campaign is intended to work in concert with existing awareness initiatives, such as Be More Than a Bystander, the Moose Hide campaign and B.C.’s Toughest Men. It builds on the momentum of B.C.’s Provincial Domestic Violence Plan, launched in February 2014, and is one of the first steps in government’s broader strategy for a Violence Free B.C.
Cadieux said: “Domestic violence is too often an unspoken evil. We may sense that something’s wrong, but we don’t think it’s any of our business so we don’t speak up when we should. This campaign provides easy access to information on safe ways to bring up tough topics and work together to end domestic violence. Please say something and help make B.C. a safer place.”
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said: “This campaign, focused on domestic violence, is an immediate, early action of the Violence Free BC strategy – the Province’s long-term roadmap to address all forms of violence against women. We all have a role to play in making B.C. safer for women, and this campaign identifies the signs of domestic violence and how to help. Working together, we must strive to prevent violence before it starts, respond to violence when it happens, and help women rebuild from its devastating effects.”
Tracy Porteous, Ending Violence Association of BC, said: “Throughout history, domestic and sexual violence against women have thrived in the shadows. Most people don’t speak up because they don’t know what to say, don’t know what to do or know where help can be found. This campaign is another step forward in breaking the silence. Reaching out to those who are struggling will help to shine a light on a subject that has been hidden for too long.”
* From 2004 to 2009, it is estimated that more than 160,000 British Columbians were victims of domestic violence.
* From 2004 to 2014, domestic violence claimed the lives of 113 women in B.C ─ an average of 10 women each year.
* The social media campaign is being supported with an $80,000 funding commitment.
* The B.C. government commits more than $70 million per year in prevention and intervention services, as well as programs to help families involved in domestic violence and other crimes.
* Last year, more than $3.5 million in civil forfeiture grants were used to support vulnerable women. A further $3 million in grants is being directed this year to support anti-violence and prevention initiatives, with a priority focus on violence against women. The Province has also committed to dedicating a portion of civil forfeiture funds in future years to support the Violence Free BC strategy.
* The Violence Free BC strategy outlines the path to creating a province where all women have the supports they need to help prevent violence, escape from violence situations, and recover if they have been victims of violence.
* In February, government helped open Surrey’s newly integrated Domestic Violence Unit – the sixth of its kind in British Columbia.
* The Provincial Domestic Violence Plan, co-ordinated through the Provincial Domestic Violence Office in consultation with the public and anti-violence stakeholders, is a three-year, $5.5-million plan to make B.C. a safer place for women, children and anyone who has been affected by domestic violence.
* The Provincial Office of Domestic Violence was created in March 2012 as the permanent lead for the B.C. government, focused on strengthening the services and supports available for children, women and families affected by domestic violence.
Q: What is domestic violence exactly?
A: There is a common misconception about domestic violence. I do not use the words domestic violence as a substitute for physical violence. Domestic violence is much more than that. It is the ongoing and intentional use of threats, intimidation, manipulation and physical or sexual violence by someone seeking power over their partner.
Q: How big a problem is domestic violence?
A: The problem is very big. 67% of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted.
Q: Women are mostly the victims/survivors. Can men/children be victims of domestic violence?
A: At Surrey Women’s Centre we serve both men and women. 98% of who we see each year are women and girls. While men may report being physically assaulted by a partner – the pattern of threats, intimidation, manipulation and fear for their lives is often not present. Children exposed to their father’s use of violence are being harmed. We can keep those children be safe by working to keep their mothers safe. These cannot be separate interventions. I’m a mother. I understand. My safety and my child’s safety are linked.
Q: What is the biggest myth surrounding domestic violence?
A: The biggest myth about domestic violence is that it only involves or must involve physical violence. The truth is that physical violence is just one form of control an abuser will use. Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour used by an abuser to exert power and control over his partner.
Q: Domestic violence seems like such a personal issue that should be handled by family and professionals. Why on earth are we encouraging people to ‘say something’ when it could be at the very least embarrassing and at the very worst dangerous to do so?
A: Women are suffering in silence. Women are suffering because of our silence. Domestic violence is not a private family issue. We have a responsibility as a community to stand up to the abusers of women and children. This does not mean exposing an abuser and breaking the confidence of a woman who has shared her story with you. It does mean believing her and knowing she is not responsible nor can she control the abuse. We need to be asking how can we help? Saying something means using our words and taking action to show that we don’t support the use or threat of violence.
Q: What is the best way to help someone you think is experiencing domestic violence?
A: Listen without judgment. Maintain her confidentiality. Offer practical help such as a safe place to stay. Reach out and connect her to resources that can help assess risk and plan for safety. You can call Surrey Women’s Centre at 604 583-1295.
Q: Are there signs to look out for that indicate that you or someone you know may be at risk of experiencing domestic violence?
A: Yes, there are definitely some red flags that we all need to be aware of. What we should be looking for are any signs that her partner exerts his power and control over her. A couple should be equal partners. Is he jealous and controlling? Does he look for ways to isolate her from her friends and family? Does he make threats about what he would do if she ever left him? Some men will even go as far as making threats of suicide. Family and friends may be the first to see these red flags so it’s important for them to know what they’re looking for.
Q: If a woman discloses that there is domestic violence in the home, could authorities take the children out of that home?
A: The authorities are not interested in removing children from their mothers. As part of my role at the Surrey Women’s Centre, I work together with the Ministry of Children and Families to keep mothers and their children together and safe from domestic violence. We want any intervention by the authorities to be a positive thing in the lives of women and children and for the violence in their home to stop.
Q: If there was only one thing you could tell someone about domestic violence, what would that be?
A: The one thing that I would tell people is that domestic violence knows no boundaries. It happens across all races, religions and economic levels. Domestic violence is a social issue and not a private matter. It affects us all.
Q: What kind of help is available in B.C. to those who experience domestic violence?
A: If someone is in immediate danger, they should call 911. Community-based victim service programs are specially trained to support women and children escaping domestic violence. There are also transition houses, women centres, and counselling programs. To find a service available in your community, you can call VictimLINK or dial 211 from anywhere in B.C. And of course, you can call the Surrey Women’s Centre at 604 583-1295.