DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ISSUES & IDEAS BLOG
July 7, 2019
The Calgary Stampede and Consent
Guest blog: Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse
It’s that time of the year again! Everyone puts on their boots and hats and heads over to the Stampede grounds. Everyone expects to eat corndogs, listen to live music and ride favourites like the ferris wheel. What people are not expecting is the possibility of experiencing sexual violence.
Past studies conducted by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy found that family violence and abuse calls in Calgary went up by 15% in the latter half of the Calgary Stampede compared with an average day. Stampede should be enjoyable for everyone and in order for that to happen, we need to ensure that everyone is informed and able to access support when needed.
So, what are some things you can do this Stampede to have fun and create a culture free from sexual violence?
1. If you feel unsafe, and you would like to talk to someone, reach out to the security at the establishment, the police or the sexual assault support line at: 403.237.5888.
2. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
3. Use the buddy system. If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
4. Ensure that consent is in place. This means checking-in to ensure your partner is both willing and able to consent. Being incapacitated by drugs or alcohol does not equal consent.
5. Hold your friends accountable. If they are saying sexist comments or sexually harassing someone, step in.
If someone discloses to you that they have experienced sexual violence, listen. Sexual assault can happen to anyone and can happen anywhere. It is never the fault of the person who was sexually assault and 100% on the person who chose to hurt them. If someone tells you that they experienced sexual harassment or assault here are some things you can do to support them:
1. Let them know you believe them and are there for them.
2. Support them by letting them know it wasn’t their fault.
3. Let them know you support them and their decisions.
November 7, 2018
November is Family Violence Prevention Month
Guest blog by: Staff Sergeant Paul Wozney, Calgary Police Service Domestic Conflict Unit
Do you ever hear about family violence and think, “thank goodness that issue is not something I need to worry about?” If you have had this thought, I want you know the odds are that you likely know someone who is being directly affected by domestic violence in our city.
Domestic violence is a very real issue in Calgary and it touches Calgarians across all income levels, neighbourhoods, ethnicities and religions. While there are some groups at a slightly higher risk of domestic violence, there is no segment of society that is completely untouched by this problem.
Last year, the Calgary Police Service responded to over 18,500 domestic conflict calls. That is about seven per cent of all calls to the police, or two domestic conflict calls every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
While the vast majority of domestic conflict calls did not involve physical violence, almost 5,000 of them did last year. This includes seven homicides and another seven attempted murders where, thankfully, the person survived.
We are track for even greater numbers in 2018. By August, we had already responded to over 16,000 domestic conflict calls with almost 3,400 involving some form of physical violence. This is a 13 per cent increase from last year and a 46 per cent increase from the five-year average.
These statistics are staggering, but they become even more disturbing when you consider that behind each number is a real family, often with children. The people getting hurt are somebody’s daughter, sister, mother, son or close friend and the list goes on.
These are coworkers that everyone is concerned about but no one knows how to help. These are volunteers at your child’s school that some days just don’t come in for their shift. They are the neighbours that you hear fighting but don’t know what to do about it.
We often say that there is no typical face of domestic violence in our city, and that is simply because the faces of people touched by domestic violence are all around us.
As a police service, we have learned over the years that domestic violence is not an issue that can be arrested away. The only way we can stop domestic violence is to together address the root causes of the problem instead of just the offences after violence happens.
Survivors often need counseling, financial assistance, education and other supports to move their family to safety and eventually from unhealthy to healthy. If the perpetrator is going to break the cycle of violence, they too will need effective treatment, education and support to change.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911
If you are experiencing abuse or have questions about domestic abuse, please call 403.234.7233 (SAFE)
If you are experiencing or have questions about sexual assault, please call 403.237.5888
October 31, 2o17
A New Look and Brand for the CDVC
The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective has launched an exciting new brand to better position CDVC as a self-organizing collective that creates space to address systems and structures that support violence while creating sustainable social change.
Tomorrow on November 1, 2017, we will unveil our new logo as well as an exciting campaign we have been working on to kick off Family Violence Prevention Month.
Follow along with us on Facebook and Twitter @CDVCollective and stay tuned for updates as our new brand unfolds this coming year!
September 27, 2017
The Importance of Informal Supports
Domestic violence can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate by gender, nationality or identification. This sad fact is made even sadder by the all-too-often idea that domestic violence not only affects many, it is very often kept private.
By buying into the idea that a domestic conflict is none of our business, we are ignoring a very important means of support – the support of victims of domestic violence by loved ones.
The following report is a reminder that friends and family hold an important role in preventing domestic violence and holds key information on how to offer meaningful support to someone who may be experiencing domestic violence – read along HERE.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911
If you are experiencing abuse or have questions about domestic abuse, please call 403.234.7233 (SAFE)
If you are experiencing or have questions about sexual assault, please call 403.237.5888
July 7, 2017
The Calgary Stampede – Have Fun and Stay Safe
Guest Blog by: Caitlin Simpson, Communications Coordinator, Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
The following blog was written by one of the CDVC’s member agencies, the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter (CWES). As a collective comprised of many different agencies the CDVC is committed to cooperatively raising awareness in the community around the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Each member agency uses its own language and messages to address these issues in a way they feel is effective. CDVC is committed to ensuring individuals impacted by these crimes find the support they need. CDVC also acts as an advocate to inform and educate the public that crimes of violence people choose to commit against others continue to be a significant problem in our community. We encourage everyone in the community to respect one another and contribute positively to a #SafeStampede.
This weekend many Calgarians will be swapping their shoes for cowboy boots and preparing for an ample amount of pancakes. The Calgary Stampede is undoubtedly one of the most exciting events of the year; however, as we gear up for ten days of fun it’s also important to think about the safety of our community and those who will be visiting our city before donning our cowboy hats for the greatest outdoor show on earth.
A recent study conducted by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy found that family violence and abuse calls in Calgary went up by 15% in the latter half of the Calgary Stampede compared with an average day. While increased use and misuse of alcohol may exacerbate abusive dynamics, it is not the cause of family violence and abuse. The cause is always one individual in a relationship trying to exert power and control over another and it can happen at any time of the year. It is always the perpetrator who is responsible for their own actions. Awareness around the issue and knowledge of the resources available are crucial to ending violence in our community.
Bystanders and those that could potentially become a confidant for those experiencing family violence and abuse also have a very important role to play. Informal supporters such as a friend or family member can impact how a victim feels about what has happened to them based on their responses. Positive social responses are the first step of the journey. If an individual discloses to you that they have family violence and abuse in their life in any capacity it’s important to respond positively and support them. Listen with a non-judgemental ear, tell them you believe them and that it is not their fault, and refer them to the resources available.
It is crucial to note that at no time should a bystander put their own safety at risk to intervene in a threatening situation. If you ever feel you are in a situation where your safety or another’s is at risk, call 9-1-1 immediately.
In recent years the #SafeStampede campaign began on social media as a way to share personal stories and raise awareness. Join the conversation which encourages you to speak up if you see harassment, or reach out to the many resources in the city if you have experienced harassment.
Aside from being aware of the resources available for family violence and abuse as well as sexualized violence there are a number of tips to keep in mind for having a safe Stampede. These tips do not in any way suggest that a victim is responsible for the abuse they experience. Violence and abuse is the responsibility of the perpetrator. Safety planning is important for any situation and here are some tips to keep in mind:
-Use the buddy system. Make sure you have your buddy or a designated driver and watch out for your friends.
-Do not leave your food or drinks unattended.
-Don't drink and drive: The usual zero-tolerance policy for impaired driving will be in place, but with an increased number of check stops during Stampede.
-Note exits and emergency exits: Upon your arrival at an establishment, when you are most aware, take note of where the emergency exits are in the building.
-If you feel unsafe, talk to someone, like the security at the establishment or the police.
-Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
-Ensure you have a fully charged cell phone in your possession.
-Ensure you have a safe ride home. Whether it be taxi or uber.
Here is a list of taxi services in Calgary: https://calgary.foundlocally.com/Trans/Trans-TaxiListing.htm
You can also call Keys Please at (403) 255-4800 or take Calgary Transit which will be running 24 hours over Stampede week. (https://www.calgarytransit.com/news/stampede-101).
As an added safety feature when taking a taxi or an Uber, you can take the license plate of the vehicle and text it to a friend or family member.
If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence and abuse call the 24-Hour Family Violence Helpline at (403) 234-SAFE (7233). If you are experiencing or have questions about sexual abuse and sexual assault call the Sexual Violence Support and Information Line at (403) 237-5888.
These two resources are two of many that can help provide information and support on these issues.
For a list of all Calgary Domestic Violence Collective member agencies and resources please go here: http://cdvc.ca/new-page-85/
We all have a responsibility to respect ourselves and others. Celebration and safety should go hand in hand. Let’s make sure this year’s stampede is not only fun, but safe for all in attendance.
June 19, 2017
Online Exploitation of Women
Guest Blog from Sarah Favel, YW Calgary
This week one CanadaCreep caught the attention of police and the media but there has been little mention of the 17,000+ creeps who, for up to a year, hid behind their screens exploiting women knowing full well none of the women they were gawking at had agreed to be filmed.
It’s deeply disturbing that thousands of people followed this Calgary-based Twitter account which existed solely for the purposes of objectifying women and girls in our community.
Until one popular social media activist, @Crackmacs caught wind of @CanadaCreep and called it out (ultimately leading to its suspension) the account persisted and the following grew.
Sometimes it seems that, no matter how many steps forward we move, we continue to be held back by a culture deeply rooted in misogyny. A culture that seemingly unconsciously accepts it is men’s right to treat women’s bodies as though they exist solely for viewing pleasure.
It is shameful that in Canada in 2017, women and girls – some as young as 14 – can’t simply walk down the street to get a sandwich or attend a show without fear their bodies will be broadcast, leered at and critiqued.
The individual who managed this account – and thanks to rapid Calgary Police action now faces multiple criminal charges related to voyeurism – bears responsibility for his disgusting behaviour.
But we’re left asking “where is the line?” for those who followed along and said nothing? Where is their accountability for encouraging, through their interest, the victimization of women? It’s time for serious introspection and re-education among those who watched, liked and retweeted images of women which were captured and shared without their consent.
The images and videos are recorded now exist online and we know that erasing them is next to impossible. They’re out there. And our most sincere empathy goes to those women victimized.
The kind of behavior exemplified by this account contribute to a community and an environment where women do not feel safe. Women do not feel safe wearing what they want because shaming based on the perceived quality of physical assets or attributes remains a very real threat, every day. Recording women as they go about their days and making pithy judgments about their bodies or clothing choices contributes to a culture of shame.
Women are shamed any time they report harassment or sexual assault when we continue to hear of women being questioned about their choices – like ‘what were you wearing’ and ‘how much had you had to drink’ and “why were you on that street” – putting the onus on victims rather than those who took advantage.
Enough. We need to continue to declare that street harassment and other forms of violence against women are not OK and that requires dealing swiftly with bullies, creeps and perpetrators.
This means bystanders and follower must speak up and speak out. Just as we’d report a suspected crime in progress on our street we must all commit to making report abusive behaviours.
June 2, 2017
Collective Impact to End Domestic Abuse
A collaborative blog from the CDVC
In a report presented to a city committee on community and protective services this May, the Calgary Police Services (CPS), demonstrated that domestic abuse continues to climb as the economic crisis deepens. In 2016, CPS recorded 3,709 domestic incident calls, compared to 3,282 calls in 2015.
This increase illustrates the need for continued collective impact work through organizations like the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective.
The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective is comprised of more than 60 community partners and strives each year to end domestic and sexual abuse in our community.
So why is collective impact so important?
Domestic abuse touches many lives, crosses all socio-economic boundaries and does not discriminate for cultural or ethnic reasons. In order to combat the wide spectrum of abuse and violence that exists today, it takes many organizations and disciplines. These organizations must first understand why abuse and violence is happening and secondly, develop programs to support, educate and prevent domestic abuse and violence from occurring and reoccurring.
The goal behind collective impact is to bring communities together to alleviate gaps in how domestic abuse and violence is approached. These groups can have a variety of support at their disposal including law enforcement, justice, treatment, education, and prevention.
Last year, the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective held its first-annual Bridging Communities Conference in November alongside their ongoing kick-off and recognition of Alberta’s Family Violence Prevention month. This conference provided influential presentations on several topics such as the intersection of domestic and sexual violence, engaging rural communities in domestic abuse programing and working collectively with families experiencing trauma. Keynote speaker Dr. Lori Haskell, C. Psych., spoke on the importance of trauma informed approaches to domestic abuse to more than 150 attendees. This inaugural conference helped service providers make important connections and find new ways to address the issue of domestic and sexual abuse in Calgary.
In 2017, we will continue to learn from and work collectively with one another in order to identify what supports are offered to victims of domestic abuse, discuss public policy ideas that can break down societal barriers to ending abuse as well as educate and engage the public. The CDVC will once again hold its conference this year and presents Bridging Communities through Strengthened Collaboration, the second annual interdisciplinary conference on family violence prevention on November 1, 2017. Stay tuned for registration details to come.
March 30, 2017
Vlog: Being Bold with Sagesse
From the perspective of: Carrie McManus, Program Manager, Sagesse
On March 8, 2017 we celebrated women everywhere by #BeingBoldForChange during International Women's day 2017. This month we asked our CDVC community members to tell us how and why they are being bold for change. This is what Sagesse had to say:
Being Bold with Sagesse
How will you be bold this year?
To learn more about Sagesse, visit www.sagesse.org
March 16, 2017
Vlog: Being Bold with the YW Calgary
From the perspective of: Heather Morley, Vice President, Programs and Services, YW Calgary
On March 8, 2017 we celebrated women everywhere by #BeingBoldForChange during International Women's day 2017. This month we asked our CDVC community members to tell us how and why they are being bold for change. This is what the YW Calgary had to say:
Being bold for change with the YW Calgary
About the YW Calgary
Being bold for change, 2017 plans
To learn more about the YW Calgary, visit www.ywcalgary.ca
February 23, 2017
Vlog: Engaging Men and Boys to end Domestic Violence (Part Three)
From the perspective of: Joseph McGuire, Sexual Assault Educator - "ManEnough?" Program, "Who Do You Tell?", Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse
Over the month of February we are focussing on discussing the engagement of men and boys for the purpose of reducing violence against women and girls. In part two of our series, Marcus Cheung from the Calgary Counselling Centre discussed the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship as well as various resources men and boys can use to build healthy relationships.
In part three, and the final portion of our series, Joseph McGuire from Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse discusses why it is so important for men and boys to get involved in changing the narrative around being "Man Enough", as well as the many resources and supports that are for men and men only, so that our male population is also supported and able to speak up about their own issues and find the help they may need to live a happy and healthy life:
Engaging Men and Boys with CCASA
What Does Engaging Men and Boys Mean to You?
Importance of Men Being Involved in Ending Violence
Resources for Men in Calgary
We all deserve to lead happy and healthy lives and if you or someone you know is in need of support, there are many programs in Calgary to guide you. Please visit our resources page or contact Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse, the Calgary Sexual Health Centre and Calgary Counselling Centre to learn more about the large community that is available to provide insight and support.
February 16, 2017
Vlog: Engaging Men and Boys to end Domestic Violence (Part Two)
From the Perspective of: Marcus Cheung, MSW and Male Domestic Abuse Outreach Program Coordinator, Calgary Counselling Centre
Over the month of February we are focussing on discussing the engagement of men and boys for the purpose of reducing violence against women and girls. In part one of our series, Tristan Abbott from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre explained what engaging men and boys means, his own journey in viewing how men are societally portrayed and some of the resources men and boys have access to in order to lead healthy lives.
In part two of our series and following one of the world's most popular days to celebrate love (Valentine's Day 2017), Marcus Cheung from the Calgary Counselling Centre discusses the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship and the supports men and boys can find in Calgary to help them create and sustain healthy relationships:
Supporting men and boys in Calgary
What does engaging men and boys mean to you?
What does a healthy relationship look like?
What does an unhealthy relationship look like?
Resources for men and boys in Calgary, AB
We all deserve to lead happy and healthy lives and if you or someone you know is in need of support, there are many programs in Calgary to guide you. Please visit our resources page or contact the Calgary Sexual Health Centre and Calgary Counselling Centre to learn more about the large community that is available to provide insight and support.
February 14, 2017
Celebrating Healthy Relationships
By: CDVC Guest Blogger, Anonymous
Each year when Valentine’s Day arrives, the deeper meaning of the day is often lost in chocolates and flowers. But when the chocolate is eaten and the roses wilted, you might want to consider if your relationship is healthy.
A healthy relationship should feel good. It should add value to your life and bring more happiness than stress. Every relationship takes work, but prolonged tension with your partner could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
As outlined on Alberta Health Services website, a healthy relationship should include trust and respect and a partner should not make the other person uncomfortable.
A healthy relationship should have stability. Both partners should be able to maintain independence while enjoying the relationship. There should be reasonable boundaries and both partners should be free to spend time with their friends and family. When a dispute occurs, it should be resolved fairly with respect on both sides.
All relationships have their challenges. Sometimes the lines between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one can be confusing.
According to My Health Alberta, in an unhealthy situation, one partner might be afraid to tell the other how they feel, disrespect and ignorance is common and there can be a pattern of increasing or ongoing verbal or psychological abuse.
There is room for improvement in any relationship, and often being able to talk to someone other than your friends and family can help you sort through your concerns. However there are many additional resources for both men and women in Calgary and Alberta.
This Valentine’s Day, as you purchase your gifts and enjoy the time together, do a quick check in on your relationship. Are you and your partner growing individually and as partners? If so, wonderful! Enjoy it. If not, consider reaching out for support. There are many options available.
Please check out the following resources for support:
If you or someone you know is in need of support or immediate help, please contact us here: http://cdvc.ca/contact-us-1/
February 9, 2017
Vlog: Engaging Men and Boys to end Domestic Violence (Part One)
From the Perspective of: Tristan Abbott, Calgary Sexual Health Centre
“Some of the greatest advances happen when people are bold enough to speak their truth and listen to others speak theirs.”
― Kenneth H. Blanchard
Within prevention of domestic and sexual violence there has been a surge of programs, initiatives, and research focused on the engagement of men and boys for the purpose of reducing violence against women and girls. The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective (CDVC) has made engaging men and boys a core area of work as apart of its framework and for the month of February, we will be sharing three vlogs that concentrate on what this initiative means and the work the CDVC and its members are doing to make a transformative impact on the lives of men and women collectively.
In part one of our series, Tristan Abbott from the Calgary Sexual Health Centre explains what engaging men and boys means, his own journey in viewing how men are societally portrayed and some of the resources men and boys have access to in order to lead healthy lives:
What Does it Mean to Engage Men and Boys?
Working Together for a Better Future:
We all deserve to lead happy and healthy lives and if you or someone you know is in need of support, there are many programs in Calgary to guide you. Please visit our resources page or contact the Calgary Sexual Health Centre to learn more about the large community that is available to provide insight and support.
December 14, 2016
New Beginnings, a Client Story from the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association
From: Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA)
*Lily came to Canada in 2006 from China with her husband *Fred and daughter to gain a new start. Since the beginning of their marriage, Fred was very abusive but Lily was hopeful that moving to a new country and distancing herself from her in-laws would positively change her relationship with Fred.
As soon as they arrived, Fred’s behaviour towards Lily and her daughter only got worse and the two would experience constant verbal, emotional and financial abuse. Lily was also physically assaulted multiple times and was never allowed to talk to any friends or relatives in Canada or back home. Fred had full control over the phone, computer, immigration documents, credit card and internet. Lily became isolated and feared for her daughter's well-being.
After searching the internet secretly, Lily located the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association (CIWA). When Lily first spoke with a counsellor over the phone, she expressed feelings of distress, isolation, hopelessness and lack of safety in her home due to Fred’s violent behavior. The First Language Support Program offered by CIWA made it easy for Lily to immediately open up to the Family Counsellor and helped her boost her self confidence. She felt sure that she would not be judged for her cultural beliefs and values and she even built up enough courage to respond to her husband and leave the house on her own to seek counselling through CIWA. Her counsellor helped Lily by creating a safety plan and providing the tools she needed to file an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) through the court system.
After being forced to move out of the house, Fred also started to seek help to deal with his own anger issues. Lily slowly began implementing the tools she learned through counselling and found optimism and strength. She also learned how to access supports and services for her basic needs. Despite past struggles, Lily was still hopeful and wanted her family to be together and happy for her daughter’s sake. After the EPO was lifted, Lily forced her husband to seek couple's counselling and Chinese translation was provided. After many sessions, they learned a healthier way of communicating and problem solving. Lily and Fred are now working together to rebuild their relationship and heal.
Lily is now able to make new friends, attend social activities and live a happy life. The change in her life after connecting with CIWA has left her feeling empowered and confident. Lily now smiles often and proudly says, “I have never been happy for the past 15 years but now I am.”
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality
November 15, 2016
Bridging Communities through Strengthened Collaboration
By: The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective
On November 1, 2016 the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective (CDVC) launched its first annual Bridging Communities through Strengthened Collaboration conference in Calgary, AB.
Each year in Alberta, concerned citizens and community groups join together to recognize November as Family Violence Prevention Month. This conference is part of our ongoing commitment to provide educational opportunities, increase public awareness and engage the community in ending family violence.
Earlier this month, it was reported that the Calgary Police Service had already surpassed its average number of domestic violence calls by 36 per cent at the end of September.
On average, police respond to approximately 2055 domestic violence calls by this time of year. However, in 2016 alone they have already responded to a staggering 2796 calls. Each one of these calls represent a family. Domestic violence doesn't discriminate, impacted families include all races, sexual orientations, communities and demographics.
With the increasing rates of domestic violence in Calgary, the inaugural Bridging Communities conference and its takeaways are more important than ever.
Members of our collective welcomed guests with informational booths and conversation around the preventative and support mechanisms available to assist those who have been touched by domestic violence.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi issued a proclamation to commence Family Violence Prevention Month. Mayor Nenshi addressed the need for collaboration in our community and expressed our city’s strength in numbers in the fight to ending domestic violence. He also invited us to be a part of Canada’s sesquicentennial (a new word we all learned) by sharing the acts of giving we do as a domestic violence sector.
Calgary Police Staff Sgt. Rob Davidson spoke with media regarding the astounding statistics surrounding domestic violence in our city this past year and Karen Lee, a survivor of domestic violence shared her story – reminding us all that each statistic represents a vulnerable Calgarian who needs our support.
Calgary Herald covered those stats here.
Dr. Lori Haskell, who joined us from Toronto, inspired us to examine more deeply the intersection between trauma and domestic violence Dr. Haskell is an accomplished clinical psychologist whose expertise lies in trauma, re-victimization, sexual abuse and sexual violence in relation to psychological development. Dr. Haskell presented a comprehensive discussion detailing connections between trauma, domestic violence and social context. Information about Lori Haskell and her book First-Stage-Trauma-Treatment-Professionals can be found here.
Following our keynote speaker, more than 200 sector professionals attended eight breakout sessions to explore various topics, workshops and response plans that are all working to help end domestic violence in our city. Examples of sessions included updates on what is occurring in the area of elder abuse in Calgary, a workshop on intersection in domestic violence and sexual violence, research on how to engage rural communities in domestic violence programming and working collaboratively with traumatized families. A presentation on the Protection Against Family Violence Act (PAFVA) was also explored with attendees as well as a session specifically targeted towards engaging men and boys in the prevention of domestic violence.
A full day of learning, networking and collaboration, CDVC’s Bridging Communities 2016 conference was a tremendous success. Thank you to all who attended, our keynote speakers, presenters and everyone who worked tirelessly to make this event happen. A special thank you also, to Mayor Nenshi for his attendance and to our local media for covering our event and the important statistics that our collective is working hard to change.
October 26, 2016
Myths and Realities of Domestic Violence: Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking
By: Courtney Sharma, Communications Coordinator, Servants Anonymous Society of Calgary
According to the Polaris Project, sex trafficking is defined as “a form of modern slavery that exists […] globally. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will.” The lack of understanding that domestic violence is imbedded in the complexity of sex trafficking can hinder a survivor’s efforts to find help.
Not only is domestic violence rampant among sex trafficking situations, the tactics of sex traffickers to control their victims are eerily similar to those applied to victims of domestic violence. Traffickers retain victims in exploitative situations by ways of social isolation, forcible confinement, withholding identification documents, imposing strict rules, limitation of movement, as well as threats and violence to victims and their families.
According to a participant of Servant’s Anonymous Society (SAS), a collaborative member of the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective’, “In one instance, my pimp wanted to rent a new apartment, and wanted me to buy us a very expensive couch to go with it. I did what I had to do to make ends meet. I eventually started recruiting women when my pimp would ask. However, after a month’s rent and a damage deposit, there was not enough money left for our new couch. This upset him to the point where he beat me up so badly, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.”
Nonphysical tactics used by sex traffickers can be just as harmful. Many believe sex trafficking is synonymous with prostitution, implying the willful choice of a woman to sell sex. However, the reality is many victims are groomed, manipulated, and coerced to enter the sex trade by promises of love and understanding. Another SAS participant recalled, “My first pimp trafficked me from the east coast to western Canada. Many times I wanted to leave, but I was brainwashed into believing I had nowhere to go.” It can be extremely dangerous for a victim in attempting to leave. Another past SAS Participant knows this firsthand: “I saw the opportunity to run away from my pimp and left, only to be kidnapped by him. I was then locked in a hotel room, unable to leave and working as much as he forced me to.”
Sex trafficking survivors are well acquainted with the cycle of violence, meaning the pattern of abuse that escalates over time, similar to other domestic violence relationships. “After he turned extremely physically abusive, I finally found the courage to leave him,” said a Past Participant of SAS of her first of what would turn into a number of pimps. “From that point on, I learned to always keep enough money to leave whichever pimp I was with at the time. However, working for a new pimp always ended in the same way: being abused so severely that I would finally leave, only to repeat the cycle with someone new.”
The transgenerational nature of domestic violence and sex trafficking alike is incredibly difficult to exit. Traumas early in life follow victims for years until they are able to break the cycle; a cycle passed onto them by family members who were abuse victims themselves. “As a child, I was sexually abused by my stepfather,” said a past participant of SAS. “This was the catalyst for my being drawn to older men, one in particular who eventually forced me to sell sex.”
Many assume that the typical sex trafficking survivor is poor and a visible minority. On the contrary, the RCMP stated in its report, ‘Domestic Human Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation in Canada’ (2013) that survivors are typically Caucasian and increasingly people from stable backgrounds. Furthermore, as with domestic violence, anyone can become a victim of sex trafficking. K.J. Wilson, author of ‘When Violence Begins At Home,’ stated the truth of the matter well: “If anything is truly equal opportunity, it is battering. Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, educational, age and religious lines.”