Although we have the Canadian and World Stats on Violence Against Women…I felt it was important to dig a little deeper to find out more about the issue in the Communities the #NoMeansStop Journey to Kilimanjaro is meant to serve. I recently met with the phenomenal team of Tropicana Community Organizations VAW Services who answered some of my questions regarding their work…
1. Which Communities do you serve?
The Culturally Appropriate Counseling program of Tropicana Community Services provides services to youth and their families, particularly from the Black/Caribbean communities. A significant portion of work is with women and children impacted by domestic violence.
2. The Canadian Women’s Foundation states on its site that 1 in 2 women in Canada have faced some sort of sexual or physical violence since the age of 16.
a. How true is this statistic in the communities you serve?
This statistic seems to be an accurate depiction of the community which we serve; however, front line staff note that this might be conservative given the feedback of the community.
b. Is Violence against Women a major concern in the communities you serve?
As workers in the VAW sector, this issue is a major concern. Workers see women and children negatively impacted and strive to educate them about the issue while securing necessary resources. At the same time however, workers are unsure about the extent to which it is a priority as, in many ways, the abuse of women and children is seemingly tolerated by ineffective laws and insufficient funding for preventative services.
3. What are some of the most common instances of abuse and violence that appear in the communities you serve? (Verbal, Physical, Sexual etc.)
Amongst the youth community which TCS serves, verbal abuse seems to be the most predominant but eventually this verbal abuse, translates itself into emotional and mental abuse. Amongst women in the community, physical abuse is the most common instance of abuse and sexual is the least reported. Emotional and financial abuse is also existent within the community, but often time people do not recognize this as a form of abuse.
4. On average what is the age group of the clients you serve?
On average, amongst various counselors, the age group of clients served ranges from as young as 15 years of age to about 45 years of age.
5. In most cases who are the perpetrators of the abuse?
Often times, the most common perpetrators of abuse are the parents, especially the mother of a client – but at the same time, partners of females also are a significant perpetrator.
a. How prevalent is intimate partner abuse?
Intimate partner abuse is very prevalent amongst the community, with contributing factors like language barriers, economic status, educational achievement, social class, access to/lack of resources and knowledge – especially for immigrants.
b. Most abusive relationships do not begin that way. What are some early signs Women and Girls Should be aware of in their relationships to determine if they are in a potentially abusive situation?
Some early sign that women and girls should be aware of in their relationships to determine if they are in a potentially abusive situation include: inexplicable changes in a person’s behavior (moody, withdrawal, anger), controlling behaviour (jealousy, making decisions for her), isolation (keeping her away from friends and/or family, monitoring of a person’s phone, calling her 24/7 and always wanting to know her whereabouts).
6. From what you have seen how does this violence impact our communities, families, society?
This violence impacts our communities, families and society because it breaks up families and relationships. When seemingly condoned, it erroneously demonstrates that this behaviour is acceptable. It stifles the victims’ ability to reach their fullest potential. At the same time, it puts a strain on the current resources available within our community for prevention services.
7. What are some reasons why women stay in situations of abuse?
Some reasons why women stay in situations of abuse include financial/economic factors as they may not have any other means of support. They may stay for the children’s sake, eroded self-esteem giving them a feeling like they deserve no better or fear of what people might say about them (cultural shame and stigmas) and perhaps times when the abuser demonstrates care and affection which lead women to minimize the occurrences of abuse.
a. What advice would you give someone who may be facing abuse?
Awareness and education about abuse is vital as well as emotional support, safety planning and connections to community resources. Education should not be limited to females but should also include males in terms of their perception of females, gender relationships/ roles and privileges to name a few.
8. Why do you feel Violence against Women continues in the communities you serve?
Violence against women continues in the communities served by TCS because it is condoned on many levels. There is also silence about what abuse actually is, leaving some people with the impression that certain things are not abuse and is normal. Depending on a person’s family of origin and/or religion abuse may be normalized. Attitudes regarding child rearing, discipline and physical punishment also create ideas around the morality of abuse. Media contributes to influence what is considered to be abusive while the judicial system and government are not doing enough to sanction perpetrators of abuse.
a. What strategies do you feel can be put in place to help stop it?
Strategies that can be put in place to help stop violence includes starting a conversation about abuse and keeping it going, similar to the campaign Bell started around mental health. The education and resources surrounding this topic is minimal so it is important to begin getting everyone involved. Encourage the mind-set that abuse must not be tolerated.
b. How can we empower boys and young men to help stop Violence against Women?
Empowerment for boys and young men to help stop violence against women can start with teaching males to begin discussing and expressing feelings rather than internalizing them. Educate males about the importance of respect and start the path to eliminating gender roles, stereotypes and love. Model positive behaviours to boys and girls to demonstrate that healthy relationships cane exist in all aspects of society.
9. What type of assistance does Tropicana’s VAW Services provide to potential clients?
Tropicana’s VAW services provides potential clients with safety and transitional planning, counselling, education, advocacy and referrals to priority housing
10. How does someone find Tropicana Community Services if they require assistance?
If someone is interested in finding Tropicana Community Services, they are able to do so by calling 211 for the directory of community and social services. TCS is also noted in the Black/Caribbean newspapers. I am thankful to the following women who took time out of their very busy schedules to spend some time with me to dig deeper into Violence against Women in the Tropicana Services Community..
I’d like to send out a BIG THANK YOU to the ladies of VAW Team at Tropicana Community Services for spending some time with me and answering my questions. Unfortunately I took a photo of these remarkable women only to get home and realize that due to an overloaded memory the pic did not come out. Needless to say they were passionate and compassionate power women