Domestic violence is more prevalent than we think it is.
That is one of the first facts that people need to learn during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, stated Kelowna Women’s Shelter (KWS) development manager Ester Pike.
She said November is always an important month for the shelter as it’s a chance for them to educate and get the community involved in their advocacy work.
“It is a way for us to get the community involved and educated on some of the issues that we face every single day,” she said.
“It’s also a way for us to dispel some of those myths and stereotypes that we do often see our clients and us as an industry struggling with.”
Pike said oftentimes, people don’t realize that domestic violence happens more often than they think it does.
“One in three women in Canada will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime,” she said.
“And when you put that into the context of the population of Canada, that’s quite a lot of women who do end up in that situation.”
The pandemic has exacerbated the situation as well, she added. When people were first told to stay home, the assumption was only going to be for two weeks so things were a bit quiet but the longer women were stuck with their abusers, the busier KWS got.
Other assumptions that are made are that domestic violence is part of some cultures or socio-economic status, which is simply not true. Pike said that through the years, KWS has not seen any correlation when it comes to survivors who come to them for resources and those women’s backgrounds.
“Domestic violence very much does not discriminate.”
This month, Pike said KWS will be putting an extra focus on their outreach and education efforts, showing the community the resources they have available, including counselling services, as well as preventative services for children who have been exposed to or have experienced domestic abuse.
The goal of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she said, is to have more people be aware of what they are fighting against and what they are trying to help people get out of.
“Just having that awareness, as a community member helps you then be able to look around and think ‘hey, I should check in with everybody and see if they’re OK’. And if you do come across somebody who may be in need of our services, well you know exactly who to contact and suggest where they should go and what they can experience on the other end,” she said.
Often, we think that the only sign to look for is bruising on someone but it’s a lot more complex than that, Pike added.
“What we see often is a change in behaviour or mood, which can be brushed off as having a bad day or another mental health situation,” she said.
“If she’s a parent, it can manifest as she becomes less involved with her child… forgetfulness is also another sign. Signs of domestic violence aren’t always visible as a black eye.”
If you would like to help women affected by domestic abuse, you can find more information on how to do that and ways to donate on the KWS website.
Resources are also available through the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society.