Alberta Newspaper Group
November is Family Violence Awareness month, with communities across the province showcasing various support services available and spreading the word that help is there for those who desperately need it.
Forty Mile Regional Family and Community Support Services is taking its awareness campaign a step further, issuing the Purple Challenge to area businesses and organizations.
As victims of domestic violence look to escape abusive situations, the safety that can result is often overshadowed by the burden of leaving all they know behind. So when they do find the courage to break free from their abuse, safety nets like the women’s shelter need to help them be comfortable.
“We are asking businesses to pick a day to take part (in the challenge),” says FCSS director Corinna Roth-Beacome. “We are asking for items that could be donated to the shelter for anybody that ends up in need there. It’s important to normalize life for them, and so that surrounds the basic needs.”
Toiletry items — shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. — are important to have on hand, as well as gift cards for a bite to eat or a trip to the movie theatre. These types of donations offer victims of family violence a chance to experience normalcy in a tragically abnormal time, and that can be essential when someone has just flipped their life upside down in order to seek safety.
Roth-Beacome says it’s extremely important to be aware all year round of family violence, but campaigns like this put the spotlight on an important issue. It also allows groups to have a little fun with their support.
“The Foremost chamber has challenged the Bow Island chamber to wear purple to their meeting and to bring donation items for the women’s shelter. The Town of Bow Island will be doing a staff day with FCSS at the library, and we’re challenging the county staff and the Village of Foremost staff to do the same … and we’ll be collecting supplies that way.”
The challenge is really for anyone in the community, not just businesses, and Roth-Beacome says the hope is that schools will also come up with a fun way to gather necessities for the shelter.
“We are certainly not immune to (family violence) living in rural communities, and there are supports in place,” she says. “We’re just looking to get that awareness up.”
While there is no women’s shelter directly in communities like Bow Island or Foremost, the support for someone in an abusive home is there, and there are options to ensure rural victims have the same access to services as those in larger centres.
“We would access the Medicine Hat women’s shelter,” Roth-Beacome says. “They have an outreach program that reaches out to the rural areas.
“We also access the Safe Haven shelter in Taber, as well as the shelter in Lethbridge.”
Added services and awareness are having a positive effect for victims in the area. The Medicine Hat Police Service recently reported a significant increase in reports of domestic violence, citing the broadening safety net as a major reason behind victims feeling empowered to come forward.
“The more we can make people aware of the support services and they have a better understanding of it, then they start reaching out and you see that spike in those statistics,” says Roth-Beacome.
Forty Mile Reeve Steve Wikkerink agrees.
“Unfortunately we can’t get away from these terrible things happening,” he says. “Even in smaller communities where you’d think someone would pick up on a problem like this happening in the neighbourhood.
“Local services are so important because a familiar face in a time when you’re under extreme stress may be all that’s needed to resolve the situation.”