Red roses are sprouting up around Stettler as a reminder this month of victims of abuse during Family Violence Awareness Month.
Stettler Mayor Dick Richards declared Family Violence Awareness Month last Friday with the Stettler and Family Violence Prevention Committee of the Association of Communities Against Violence.
“Referrals from the justice system are on the rise, and disclosure of domestic violence is more common today than in the past,” said Lance Penny, who chairs the committee and serves as president of an association that serves a wide region, south to Drumheller, north to Vegreville and east along Highway 21 to the Saskatchewan border.
For the second successive year, the local committee launched the Red Rose campaign.
“Over the month, the rose will slowly die, representing those victims of violence,” Penny said.
“This is one way to commemorate those individuals, increase public awareness and help prevent violence before it starts.”
Committee members and volunteers from Stettler Outreach School have invited businesses and offices to display a long-stemmed rose in a prominent place during November, with a card that states this is “In memory of the women, children and men in Alberta who have died as victims of domestic violence.”
For families in Stettler, help isn’t necessarily far away.
“The conspiracy of silence in homes around family violence is gradually breaking down and family members who are subjected to abuse are more frequently speaking out and getting help,” Penny said.
Separate sessions for men and women in such situations offered under the “Shaping Tomorrow” banner for 14 weeks in spring and fall terms provide direction and support to help curb family violence.
“Provincial court judges and probation officers are starting to make it part of a person’s plan to attend these sessions, and hopefully as a result, the person will learn ways to control their behaviour and actions to accept responsibility for the decisions they made,” said committee member Bernadette Schofer, who has many years’ experience as a social worker.
She said the message is clear that it’s critical to build stronger families.
“Our message is that all individuals have a responsibility to stand up and speak out against family violence,” Schofer said.
“Domestic violence is not about love and caring. It is about control in a relationship.
“When we are silent, we allow violence to continue.”
That fight against violence comes from within, she said.
“We want to educate and change societal attitudes about the effects of domestic violence,” Schofer said.
“Without real change, we continue to hurt our children.”
She said children who witness violence carry those scars as they become adults and often repeat the cycle of violence.
Roots of domestic violence vary.
“They may start when one partner feels the need to control and dominate the other,” Schofer said.
“Abusers learn violent behaviour form their family, people in the community and other cultural influences as they grow up.”
Stettler and District Family Violence Prevention committee works collaboratively with communities and local agencies to mobilize support and awareness and provide help to both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
“We want to provide help and solutions to deal with this issue,” Penny said.
Statistics on family violence in Alberta are staggering, with about 200,000 adults living with family violence — across all ages, income levels and ethnicities.
“Even one incident of family violence is too much,” said Andrea Silverstone, co-chair of Calgary Domestic Violence Committee.
“Family violence and bullying affects us all in one way or another,” Colleen Klein, wife of the late former premier Ralph Klein, said in a news release.
“It does more than cause physical injuries to the victims. It also robs individuals and communities of their full potential by diminishing energy, hearts and spirits.”