Domestic violence is a big problem in this jurisdiction, said Judge C.K. Thietke, in Slave Lake Provincial Court on Sept. 30, 2020. People who wouldn’t hit a stranger seem to have no problem striking their domestic partner.
November is Family Violence Prevention Month. The theme is #wheretoturn.
“I like that a lot,” says Shelly Ferguson, Northern Haven Support Society executive director. It ties in with Slave Lake Speaks Out, a Northern Haven campaign to encourage people to talk about family violence.
Northern Haven has been helping women and children in Slave Lake and area since 1996. It has a 10 bed emergency shelter and an outreach program. The outreach program helps both women, children, and men.
Slave Lake is part of the northeast division of the RCMP in Alberta, says Ferguson. This division recently announced that it is seeing an increase in intense domestic violence. This is because people aren’t reaching out for help.
“It’s starting to get more normal now,” says Ferguson. Early in the pandemic, the phone at the shelter was eerily quiet, with very few people calling for help. Many of the calls they did get were people struggling with mental health issues, who just needed someone to talk to. At the same time, the number of women killed by a domestic partner increased around the world.
“We’re watching this situation,” she continues. “We’re concerned with that.”
However, she adds, the outreach part of Northern Haven remained steadily busy throughout the pandemic. Many of the people helped by this program were already signed up prior to COVID-19.
The first step in raising awareness about family violence in Slave Lake will be putting up purple ribbons in downtown Slave Lake. Purple is the colour chosen for family violence, Ferguson doesn’t know the reason. It’s just been the colour since she first became aware of the cause as a teenager.
Unfortunately, this year, Ferguson says, Northern Haven decided not to hand out small ribbons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they did buy extra large ribbons which people can put up in their businesses.