More than 200 community members and children from St. Paul Elementary Community School walked from the school to St. Paul’s town hall last Tuesday morning to raise awareness about family violence.
“It’s just to get the word out that there is family violence in this community and it’s a community issue; it’s not a private family matter,” said Noreen Cotton, executive director of the St. Paul and District Crisis Association, which operates the local women’s shelter. “One of the barriers for anyone who has experienced family violence is the community. They need tremendous community support and to have that support, the community needs to be aware.”
Afterwards, walk participants gathered at the Centennial Senior Citizens Centre for hot chocolate where Town of St. Paul Mayor Glenn Andersen and County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham signed a document declaring November as family violence awareness month.
This is the first year for the walk and Cotton felt it was very successful, with people from the Town of St. Paul FCSS, Native Counselling, Portage College, St. Paul Storefront School and St. Paul Elementary School participating.
St. Paul Elementary School Principal Marie Anne Herbert said that the children were told about the reason for the walk and the morning’s Our Father prayer was dedicated to finding peace in our homes, families and communities.
“We invited school children because we believe … that with good behaviours and knowledge, they will be more successful in their adult relationships,” explained Candina Wosminity, supervisor at the Columbus House of Hope shelter. She explained that the crisis association works closely with the schools, offering educational presentations on anti-bullying and family violence awareness.
Between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, the Columbus House of Hope served 282 women and 226 children in its residential program, said Cotton.
“At least one to four children in every classroom in Alberta will see their mother abused. Studies have shown that 70 per cent of children who witness their mothers being abused are also physically abused,” states a press release from Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.
“Alberta continues to have one of the highest rates of family violence in Canada,” says Carolyn Goard, director of member programs and services, in the press release. “More children than ever before are coming with their mothers to seek shelter from domestic violence. We know children who witness or experience family violence are at higher risk of learning and physical disabilities, behavioural and mental health problems.”
Cotton said that the main reason for the walk is to get the word out about family violence in the local community, but also to remind those dealing with family violence that there is help available for them.