A lunchhour overview of the services available to victims of domestic violence in Fort Smith was like extra credit for two of the dozen or so Aurora College students who took it all in at Thebacha campus on Thursday.
The college participates in NWT Family Violence Awareness Week every year, and the hour-long forum included brief presentations by representatives of the RCMP, Sutherland House, the Children’s Aid Society, Victim Services and the college itself.
“The college has a more mature student population and some students bring their families and spouses, so prevention and awareness around domestic violence issues is important to create a safe environment so students can function,” manager of student success Laura Aubrey said afterward, noting family violence knows no boundaries along demographic, socioeconomic or racial lines.
“I believe if you look across any academic institution with residences you would witness the same types of domestic violence challenges you do at Aurora College.”
It needs to be talked about so people know they have choices, and know where to turn.
The most recent data posted on the GNWT website indicate more than 87 per cent of 753 people interviewed for a 2007 survey said they are “worried” or “somewhat worried” about family violence in their community.
Sergeant Richard Brown said domestic violence calls are a near-daily occurrence in Fort Smith.
“It affects all of us,” he said, assuring the students they can always come to the RCMP to report something they have witnessed. “(However) police are only one part of the entire system. Ending abuse is the only way we can ever move forward as a society (and) we can only reduce it if we work as a community.”
Lynn Napier-Buckley of Victim Services said students who travel to Fort Smith are by definition separated from their personal support network of family and friends when they arrive. In many cases, a victim’s abuser is also the only support they feel they have, being a breadwinner, child-care provider or both.
“Abusers aren’t always abusive,” she said. “Those foundations of trust and support from the start of relationship are still there. It’s hard to move on and sometimes you just want it to be like back to normal. They’re used to that person being in their home. So we try to help them get their lives as close to normal as possible so they’re not worrying about food, rent and getting their kids to school during the process.”
For future teachers Karen Lepine-McFeeters, from Fort Chipewyan and Denise Zoe, from Behchoko, the information at the forum forms a toolkit they will use to help their students.
Lepine-McFeeters and her two daughters took part in the Take Back the Night march on Sept. 18.
“This is a topic very close to my heart,” she said. “I have a lot of family, friends and coworkers who’ve dealt with it, and I’ve been a support (to victims) in my past work. It needs to be talked about so people know they have choices, and know where to turn.”
Added Zoe: “There’s so much going on in our homes. I have friends who live close to me who…went through a rough stage. I didn’t understand why the social workers and police officers got involved in things like this. Now I know.”
Resources for victims of crime
Sutherland House Women’s and Children’s Shelter
Staffed 24/7, 24/7 crisis line: 867-872-4133, toll-free 877-872-5925
Victim Services Office in McDougal Centre but will meet anywhere.
867-872-5911 (Rings through to cellphone.)
Fort Smith social worker Office at hospital but will meet anywhere.
867-872-6209, after hours 867-872-6200
Kids Help Phone
NWT Help Line