November marks Family Violence Prevention Month, and local advocates continue to work hard to bolster awareness about the issue.
Judi Beebe is the coordinator of the Stettler Society for the Prevention of Family Violence, but her work in the field actually extends back to 1973.
“When I first moved back to the area, I was asked to speak at a couple of different organizations talking about these issues. Definitely, back in those days, the idea was that it didn’t happen out here – it happened in the city,” she explained.
“So one of the reasons for the group was to help build awareness all of the time – it wasn’t just a one-month-of-the-year issue. The goal was to have a group that would be working on it all of the time.”
As for Family Violence Prevention Month, Beebe said that the reason for the month is largely to help raise awareness and to bring the issue to the forefront of people’s consciousness.
“During the month of November, we have the Red Rose Campaign and the calendars that we put out. We also put up banners around town including a huge one by the police station – but over the years we have also done a lot of presentations in schools about healthy relationships right from Kindergarten through to Grade 12,” she said.
“We’ve also done a lot of talks with local groups – men’s groups, women’s groups, community groups – just to help build that awareness.”
The Shaping Tomorrow Program has also been running for about 15 years now, she added.
“This is groups for men and women. The men’s group is both for court-mandated individuals who have been charged with assault, but we also take self-referrals,” she explained. “And the women’s group is really a support group, but in the last few years we’ve actually had some women who have been court-mandated as well.”
Those groups run twice per year.
“They are 15 weeks long, and about 2.5 hours each week,” said Beebe, adding that people from across the local region can take part.
As to the about-to-be-released calendar, it will feature various folks from the community offering their thoughts on the issues surrounding family violence. And just this past week, local officials signed a proclamation for the month with Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls and Stettler County Reeve Larry Clarke.
Another highlight through November is the aforementioned Red Rose Campaign which involves the disbursement of 12 dozen roses to various businesses and organizations across the community.
“We give each business one rose in a vase, and ask them to display it on a counter. The idea is that, through the month, that rose is going to die,” she explained. “This represents the effects on families that domestic violence has.”
The roses are also given in memory of the women, children and men in Alberta who have died as victims of domestic violence.
“When we think about domestic violence, it usually very targeted and it’s very often around control and power,” she said.
According to the Government of Alberta, family violence is also defined as, “An abuse of power in a family or other trusting relationship where people rely on each other. When someone experiences family violence, their well-being, security and survival are threatened.
“There are many terms or names for family violence with similar meanings. Family violence is a broad term that includes: domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation, child sexual abuse, elder abuse and neglect, and witnessing the abuse of others in the family.”
Alberta also has the third highest rate of self-reported spousal violence among Canadian provinces.
Ultimately, what helps keep Beebe passionate about what she does is the constant opportunity to truly make a difference in so many lives.
It’s also been heartening to see the improvements over the years in terms of legislation that helps to keep people safer.
“Just this year, Claire’s Law (came into effect) here in Alberta,” explained Beebe. It’s actually out of the UK.
“Clare Wood was killed by her partner. Her father did a lot of lobbying and said that if she would have been aware of how abusive and how many charges and incarcerations he had had, she would have never gotten involved with this man.”
So Clare’s Law clears the way for individuals to obtain the history of a potential partner’s criminal history. Prior to this, this kind of information wasn’t available.
Meanwhile, another aspect that fuels her passion in this area is to stand up for the well-being of kids.
“It’s also about making our communities safer for children,” she said.
For more information, find the Stettler Society for the Prevention of Family Violence on Facebook.
Those affected by family violence can also call the the Family Violence Info Line (310-1818) which is available toll-free to Albertans 24/7 in over 170 languages.