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Gender-Based Violence Conference creates a safe space

COLD LAKE – While gender-based violence can be difficult to discuss, a local conference tried to make it a litle easier to understand the lasting impacts it can have. 

The 4 Wing Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) hosted the Gender-Based Violence Conference at the MFRC building on Saturday, Feb. 8 to create awareness and share information.

“We wanted to make sure that people know that this does happen, and we want to try and get away from the stigma of it and let people know that it’s okay to talk about it,” explained Sheri Scott, family education coordinator with the MFRC. “When you want to talk about it, the supports are there for you.”

The Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre (DMSCC) and Dragonfly Counselling and Support Centre made presentations outlining the services that they offer to the area.

Sharing information about the subject was a positive take away for Dragonfly Centre counsellor Lisa Lefebvre.

 “I think it’s important for individuals to understand how the system effects trauma survivors, the impacts that trauma has on survivors, and what we’re doing to help the community,” she noted.

Keynote speaker Shannon Moroney is an author and social justice advocate. She shared her personal experience and how this issue affected her life.

A knock at Moroney’s door dramatically altered her life when she was informed her husband, Jason Staples, had been arrested. She was told Staples had been charged with assault and kidnapping two women.

“The words were like thunder in my ears. I only had a split-second to think that there was some kind of mistake when he said ‘my understanding is that he called 911 himself last night and he’s in custody.’ Then I knew everything I was going to hear was true,” she described.

When Staples was 18-years-old, he was convicted of murder and spent 10 years in jail. He was on parole for the rest of his life, and the event was considered a “one-time act of adolescent rage and the belief was that he could be rehabilitated,” Moroney said.

He told Moroney of this event on their first date, news she struggled with at the time.

“In every sense, other than this horrific and unchangeable fact about his life and what he had done, there was no way that I would have ever known this was a person capable of such violence.”

After deciding that Staples was who she was meant to be with at the time, Moroney accepted his past and that he was a very low risk to reoffend. It’s one of the reasons why learning Staples had committed such heinous acts was such a shock to Moroney.

After a two-and-a-half-year court process, Staples was declared a dangerous offender and sentenced to an indeterminate period of incarceration.

 Moroney struggled to put her life back together after Staples was arrested, and later became an advocate for restorative justice. She wrote a book about her experience called Through the Glass.

She hoped people left the conference understanding the importance of forgiveness and resilience, and that you can come out the other side a better person no matter what life throws at you.

When the MFRC was looking for their keynote speaker, Scott said they knew right away they wanted Moroney to share her personal journey at the conference.

“The biggest thing we talk about is it’s not the actual event, it’s a person’s own perspective of how big it is. Anybody else can go through the same kind of situation or event, but be affected differently by it. Letting her come and tell her story, now it’s allowing people to hear that it’s okay to talk about it and if you have been affected and you feel alone you don’t need to be alone because we’re here.”

For attendee Jessica Girard, Moroney’s story hit close to home.

“She actually went to (Trent University), the same one I did, and I remember this happening in town. I had no idea it was the same event, and it was crazy,” she expressed.

Girard was glad the Gender-Based Violence Conference was addressing a subject that touches everyone.

“So many people in the community are affected by it, and it can make you feel so alone when you do go through it. This gave everyone an opportunity to meet others in a judgement-free type of setting,” she expressed.

Floyd Perras, executive director for the 4 Wing MFRC, said he wanted the men in the audience to take the opportunity to look at the world from a different point of view.

“Part of my hope was that we try to create an open conversation about what it’s like to operate through the world of a female perspective versus a male perspective, and for us guys to learn to understand that and ensure the women in our world can feel safe. We’re doing stuff to improve who we are, but also to ensure that we’re watching out to make sure folks aren’t being left to their own devices.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle