The Status of Women Council of the NWT is working to educate the territory on family violence prevention strategies during November.
The council has distributed grants of $1,250 to 28 communities across the territory to run events promoting images of healthy families and sharing resources to address trauma and healthy ways of handling stress.
This is the council’s 20th year running anti-family violence initiatives. This year, they are shifting the focus from family violence education to prevention.
“We’re already aware,” said Louise Elder, the council’s executive director, “so why are we still saying awareness when really we want to focus our efforts on prevention?”
Family violence occurs in the NWT at more than seven times the national rate, according to a Statistics Canada report from 2016. Of the violence reported to police, 10 per cent of victims were children aged 17 and younger. The only Canadian jurisdiction with higher rates of family violence is Nunavut.
“Violence is normalized in the North,” Elder said. “Our youth are at higher risk of experiencing violence than their southern counterparts, our Elders and seniors are at higher risk and our females are at higher risk.”
Children who experience domestic violence are, among females, more likely to be victims throughout their life, and among males more likely to be perpetrators of domestic violence, Elder explained.
The council’s change to prevention month reflects the need to create change and break the cycle.
Some of the events set for the month include: domestic violence discussion groups, essay and poster contests promoting themes of healthy families as well as radio bingo featuring ads related to family violence.
In the past, Elder said some communities have invited RCMP officers to address bystander intervention training or had counsellors host safe stress management workshops.
The council has been approving funding on a first come, first served basis. Community organizations and governments submit applications outlining their proposed activities and uses for the money. As long as it meets the criteria, “which is quite broad,” Elder said, the council approves funding. Along with the money, grant recipients are also sent a resource kit with support services and help lines.
When Elder assumed the role of executive director in 2018, the council’s anti-family violence campaign lasted for a week. In truth, Elder said, communities were asking if they could run events at different times to suit their schedule, so the initiative was already running for the duration of the month. In 2019, the council made it official to formally encourage anti-family violence activities throughout the month.
Beyond community-run events across the territory, the council organizes events of its own with partner organizations to take place in Yellowknife. The Yellowknife Women’s Society, the Native Women’s Association, the YWCA, and FOXY are among the council’s partners.
While the problems that family violence prevention month seek to address are “tragic,” Elder said, the collective approach to finding solutions is “heartening.”
It’s that cohesiveness that will help us make a difference, she said.