November is Family Violence Prevention Month
In 1986, the first Family Violence Prevention campaign initiative was launched in Hinton, Alberta. The purpose of the campaign was to bring more awareness to the issue of violence perpetrated within the family unit and to develop support for families. The importance of this discussion was recognized by the Government of Alberta and November has been proclaimed as Family Violence Prevention Month.
Statistics from across Canada clearly show that family violence continues to affect Canadians both directly and indirectly:
- In Canada, half of all women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
- Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
- It’s estimated that each year, Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of intimate partner violence, according to the Department of Justice.
- 67% of Canadians say they have personally known at least one woman who has experienced physical sexual abuse.
- Indigenous women are killed six times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
Alberta has the third highest rate of self-reported intimate partner violence among Canadian provinces. Increasing awareness of the warning signs and the resources and supports available play a key role in moving upstream on this issue and preventing family violence. According to a report by Justice BC, prevention occurs on three levels – primary, secondary and tertiary. The legal sector fits within the tertiary phase as a system that can lessen the long-term negative impacts of family violence. By analyzing legal tools and laws, the system can evaluate how it is working to help keep people safe and respond in a trauma-informed way to support families experiencing violence as they move through the legal process.
With revisions to the Divorce Act and the introduction of Clare’s Law in Alberta, steps have been taken to bridge the gap between legal recognition and practice. As highlighted in a recent paper published by the Alliance of Canadian Research on Gender-based Violence, there is a call for the legal sector to better understand, recognize and reduce coercive control in family violence cases and court proceedings. The paper outlines three key areas for legal and support practitioners to focus on, to provide more education on understanding the complexities of these cases. One of the Alberta Law Foundation’s grantees, Calgary Legal Guidance, also identified the importance of the clients’ need to be heard and understood in an article published in LawNow.
In addition to addressing changes to practices when navigating the legal process, the laws governing this process need to be considered. In a report published in 2021, gaps and best practices for the legal and justice systems were identified in the area of gender-based violence. Compared to other provinces, Alberta laws have some deficiencies including inconsistencies in legal definitions, multiple layers to navigate, and inequities in accessing supports that can impact the safety of individuals and families.
Although progress has been made in the legal sector when addressing the issue of family violence, there is more work to be done. The Alberta Law Foundation’s vision is accessible justice for all Albertans. This vision is reflected in one of the Foundation’s primary values – prioritizing funding for organizations that assist vulnerable populations – which includes families experiencing domestic violence. The following Foundation grantees provide legal support in the area of family law and specifically domestic abuse:
This November we all are being called upon to move from awareness to action and stand together to end family violence. Initiatives such as “Take a Stand” through FearIsNotLove provide an opportunity to learn how to identify family violence, how to respond compassionately and how to connect to resources.
If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, please reach out.