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 abusecall the 24-Hour Family Violence Helpline at (403) 234-SAFE (7233). If you are experiencing or have questions about sexual abuse and sexual assaultcall 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: https://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.