Stettler targets family violence, bullying in November campaign

The Stettler region has jumped on board a provincial campaign against family violence.

Stettler Mayor Dick Richards signs a declaration last Friday proclaiming the town’s participation in the provincial Family Violence Awareness Month. In the front row with Richards are Stettler family violence committee members Noreen Woolsey and Bernie Schofer. In the back row are Stettler RCMP Sgt. Duncan Babchuk

The Stettler region has jumped on board a provincial campaign against family violence.

Stettler Mayor Dick Richards signed a declaration Friday proclaiming the town’s inclusion in the provincial Family Violence Awareness Month, which is November.

The special designation highlights the work of the Society for the Prevention of Family Violence, an organization operating in the Stettler area for about 25 years.

“Primarily, we do preventive education work around family violence and bullying,” said society representative Judi Beebe, who is also the executive-director of the Association of Communities Against Abuse.

“This year, during November, we’re doing what we call a Red Rose campaign. On the second of November, we will be approaching businesses in Stettler and offering to put a red rose on their front counter, with a little sign that says, ‘In memory of women, children and men who have died as a result of family violence in Alberta.’

“We’re hoping businesses will come on board with us. It’s an awareness campaign where people coming into their business will see it and maybe reflect a little bit about family violence. We’re hoping they’ll keep those roses on their counters for the whole month of November.”

Businesses might also be asked to display a collection jar.

“We’re always looking for a little bit of donations to run some of the group programs that we have in the Stettler area,” Beebe said.

“The Association of Communities Against Abuse is a program that is in Stettler, but covers a large area, and we certainly are trying to stop child abuse and all other types of abuse that goes on within our families, so that our families can have safer, healthier lives and their children can grow up in safety.”

Bullying has been a hot-button issue in recent weeks, with the suicidal death this month of 15-year-old Amanda Todd, a British Columbia girl who had suffered through years of cyberbullying abuse.

Students at four Stettler schools are scheduled to hear from an Alberta anti-bullying champion, Austen Radowits, on Nov. 12. His previous school visits have included Erskine and Bashaw.

“With where we are now with cellphones and Internet and all that, with the cyberbullying that’s out there, it’s even more pronounced and harder to identify and harder to get a handle on,” Beebe said.

“So we certainly need programs in our schools and in our communities to address the issue, so that people become more aware (of bullying) and are watching for it more.”

While family violence and bullying are problems that people might read about in a brochure or see in a TV commercial, they’re much more real for victims, including those in Stettler and area.

“We have many agencies in this community that deal with families where there’s domestic violence on a daily basis, almost,” Beebe said.

“We are a small community, but we are not isolated. It happens here, as well as anywhere else.

“One of the things that we do find is that we’re farther away from some other resources, and that’s why we’ve worked hard at trying to offer preventive education and resources such as groups in our own home community, so that people don’t have to travel to Edmonton, Calgary (and) Red Deer to access those (support) services.”

Even with counselling resources in the nearby cities of Red Deer and Camrose, there’s no guarantee that those centres can help Stettler-region residents, Beebe said.

“The problem right now is Red Deer will only accept clients from Red Deer itself and the County of Red Deer. And Camrose, their program has been full the last two times it was run. So we really need to have some of those resources available in our own community.”

Stettler offers 15-week programs — known as Shaping Tomorrow — for men and women trying to combat family violence.

“It goes for 15 weeks, two-and-a-half hours each week, and it really takes a look at the whole kind of dynamic of domestic violence, and hopes to changes attitudes and behaviour,” Beebe said. “And hopefully, our families that are involved in those programs will be able to lead healthier lives free of violence.

“A lot of our referrals for the men’s side of the group are court-mandated, so they actually have charges of assault against their partner, and it requires they have to be referred. We do about a two-hour intake interview to see if we think they’re appropriate for the group. They’re a group member for those 15 weeks, and then we refer them to other resources at the end of that.

“And for the women’s group, hopefully, it’ll be the partners of the men that are in the group. It can be anybody that is affected by domestic violence and it really is a kind of support and information group for them.”

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