The end of November each year is a time for reflection for those in the victims services field.
Nov. 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and starts the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, ending on Dec. 10, which is, fittingly, International Human Rights Day.
It’s a time, according to Gloria Jackson, Coordinator of Community Based Victims Services with the Campbell River Family Services Society, to both reflect and raise awareness so we can move forward on this issue as a society.
“It’s about just keeping in the community mind the idea that if you’re hurting, if you know someone who is hurting, if you see someone being hurt, there are some actions you can take to assist and support them.”
On the first day of the Days of Activism, Nov. 25, Jackson and a few others will be at North Island College with a table of information for people to access.
“It’s just to keep reminding people in the community that there are resources out there.”
A few days later, on Nov. 28, Jenny McLeod, a FASD Keyworker at Dogwood Place Child and Youth Development Centre and various other community partners in the region are hosting an event in Courtenay at the Sid Williams Theatre, featuring former NHL hockey star turned author and advocate Theo Fleury.
“I work with families who have children with disabilities, specifically brain differences like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and a big piece of my role is to help parents understand brain differences,” McLeod says, “and a big piece of this event is talking about the neurodevelopment of people…and about how important it is for people to understand what’s going on in their brain to help them heal.”
Healing is what Jackson tries to facilitate, as well.
“That particular workshop is about trauma and healing, and one of the things that we know is that in situations of domestic violence, sexual assault, child assault, that trauma occurs when those things are going on,” Jackson says.
“We know that individuals who are hurting are at greater risk of hurting themselves and other people. We want them to find healing. We want them to reach out and find resources in the community to deal with their trauma, their hurting.
“Then we can hopefully stop the cycle of violence and hurting.”
So are we getting better?
As a society, are we making headway on this issue?
“I’d like to say that we are,” Jackson says. “I think that there is perhaps less stigma and less judgment about a lot of these things. Because it’s been in the media so much, and people like Theo Fleury and others stepping up and talking about it, I’d like to think we’ve come a long way in that regard. Years ago, you’d never talk about sexual abuse or child abuse. I mean, people just didn’t talk about it.”
Fleury, McLeod says, has helped continue to break down that barrier for a lot of people.
“He’s this public figure who is speaking out about something that is really hard for people to speak out about. We realize (through people like Fleury coming forward) that it happens to all people. It’s not limited to a certain group of people. It’s everywhere.”
Which means more people are willing to ask for help.
Which is good.
Now we just need to have more services for them to be able to access.
“I think we have a long way to go,” Jackson says, but she’s happy about the progress being made.
Both Jackson and McLeod acknowledge that there are some gaps in the community resources.
Funding is, as it always seems to be, the biggest hurdle in providing services.
“I think there’s a lack of free or affordable couples or family counselling,” Jackson says, “and that’s a real gap in service. I think that many of the services that exist have had funding cuts, and so they really don’t have adequate funds to continue to provide good service to a growing number of people.”
There is also a gap, Jackson says, in terms of the availability of “preventative services,” like anger management groups for men.
And yet, the organizations that do exist, Jackson says, do wonders with the small amounts of money they receive.
“There aren’t enough mental health services,” Jackson says, “but they are really working hard.”
McLeod says it would be nice if there were more “drop-in” style services rather than “appointment-based” ones.
“It creates barriers to have to make an appointment.”
“There are windows of opportunity when people are willing to reach out for help,” Jackson says, “and that can pass quickly if they can’t access those supports.”
McLeod points out that the toll-free crisis line (1-888-494-3888) is a great starting point for people who need help, as the people on the other end have all the numbers and addresses of the different community services available and can help people determine who might best serve their needs.
There is also a new online tool put together by the Campbell River and District Division of Family Practice, called Fetch (fetchbc.ca), which is a searchable database of community services.
But it doesn’t matter where you go to look for help, Jackson says, as long as you keep looking.
“Even if you’ve tried to access help in the past and you haven’t been successful, don’t give up. There are people and services out there. Keep asking and trying different places. Hopefully, eventually, you’ll hit on something that’s going to work for you and your family, at the right time with the right people.”