By Justin Schellenberg, November 28 2017 —
The Students’ Against Domestic Abuse Association (SADAA) held their second annual Road 2 Resilience conference in That Empty Space on Nov. 23.
“The conference is the first event of its kind here at the university,” said Tina Guo, founder and co-executive of the SADAA. “The objective is to provide students and participants with a very holistic and comprehensive understanding of domestic abuse, its complexities, its manifestations and then also to provide participants with strategies to support people who may experience domestic abuse or are currently experiencing it.”
The keynote speaker for the conference was Eleanor Cowan, author of A History of a Pedophile’s Wife: A Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer, which talks about her story of facing domestic abuse.
“It’s very encouraging that so many different people from so many different areas are here to help make things better,” Cowan said.
The conference also featured a panel with counsellors and survivors, as well as an interactive discussion that raised hypothetical situations on how to deal with domestic violence. Among the panelists was Jonathan Hutton, a program supervisor at Woods Homes, a non-profit children’s mental health centre in Calgary.
Hutton said events of this kind are important to keep attention on the issue of domestic abuse.
“It’s got to be a conversation that you keep having all the time, because unless there’s collective action, we’re not going to get anywhere with this,” Hutton said. “The rates of domestic abuse in our province are staggering.”
According to a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics over 11,000 domestic violence incidents occurred each year on average in Alberta between 2008 and 2013. Family violence in Alberta has increased by two per cent since 2014. Alberta also has the third-highest rate of intimate partner violence in Canada.
Panelist Prism Schneider, a clinical assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine, spoke about the need to destigmatize domestic abuse in order to help victims and patients be more open to talking about it.
“People are fearful of what to do, so it’s a lot easier just not to ask,“ Schneider said. “We’re just making it a normal thing to ask everybody.
Schneider also discussed how it can be difficult to spot someone who may be dealing with domestic violence.
“It’s very easy to miss a bad situation, especially in a very busy clinical environment,” Schneider said. “I think we all sort of have this preconception of what an abused patient or person looks like and quite often it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The SADAA will host a ‘walk a mile in her shoes’ event in March, which will see participants walking in high heels for a mile in an effort to raise money for the YWCA.