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July 1998


As a member of the Halton Violence Prevention Council, the Halton Social Planning Council believes it is important to make our community aware of the complexities surrounding issues of violence as it affects all individuals living in Halton. For these reasons we have dedicated this Community Dispatch to this concern.


Definition of Violence

Violence can be defined as the use of power control and oppression of others. Abuse is a power imbalance between the victim and offender. Abuse may take the following forms: physical, sexual, emotional, social, financial, spiritual, threats, stalking and harassment.

Violent behaviour in our society has become so commonplace and acceptable that it is looked upon as normal. The destructiveness of its effects are often overlooked. Violent behaviour affects all members of our society. Women and children tend to be more frequently victimized. One key to eradicating violence is to name the problem. Violence is a learned behaviour. We believe that it can be unlearned.

How serious is the problem?

In Canada:

  • 1 out of every 4 women (27%) aged 18-64 has experienced at least one incident of physical violence with husband or boyfriend
  • 50% have also been sexual assaulted in this same relationship
  • 1 out of every 2 women aged 18 - 64 has survived a rape or attempted rape
  • $1.5 billion annually is spent on health related costs as a result of violence against women.

Sources: Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women (1993) and Sexual Offences Against Children, C. Bradgley (1984).

When coupled with other forms of violence such as: elder abuse, sexual abuse, ritual abuse, racism, violent crimes and bullying, the costs of violence are staggering

Effects of Violence

There is no "typical" reaction to being assaulted or abused. Immediate reactions to violence are: shock, disbelief, confusion, fear, anxiety, nervousness, embarrassment, shame, disgust, guilt, self-blame, self-hatred, anger, betrayal, frustration, sadness, loss, depression, powerlessness, vulnerability, helplessness and hopelessness.

Long-term Effects

  • May have difficulty eating, sleeping, and maintaining personal hygiene routines
  • May think less of themselves self-blame and self-hatred
  • May hurt or injure themselves
  • May turn to alcohol or drugs (prescription or non-prescription) to escape from the pain and hurt
  • May become clinically depressed if abuse is ongoing. Women who feel helpless and hopeless are particularly vulnerable to depression and suicide

Violence and pregnancy

  • Statistics Canada found that 21% of assaulted women were assaulted during pregnancy thus pregnancy increases women's vulnerability to violence. Many women report they were first abused during pregnancy
  • Battered, pregnant women are twice as likely to miscarry and four times as likely to have low birth weight infants

Children who witness family violence

  • Children who witness abuse are now considered victims of abuse themselves
  • Research reveals that children who live with violence in their homes have many problems such as low self-esteem, low self-confidence, feelings of fear, vulnerability and guilt about abuse of mom, and feel responsible for mom's abuse.
  • Estimated 33% of children who witness abuse will be abusive themselves
  • 30 - 40% of children who witness abuse are directly abused themselves
  • Children who witness abuse are at risk for further violence, either as victims or perpetrator
  • In the next generation cycle of violence continues

Violence against women with disabilities

  • In Canada today women with disabilities are at least 1.5 times more likely than non-disabled women to experience some form of violence during their lifetime
  • 1 out of 10 people in Ontario have some sort of disability

Elder abuse

In Halton elder abuse occurs daily. And it is usually by members of their own families, friends or care givers.

  • 10% of elderly persons experience abuse
  • 66% of adult victims are women.

Violent crime

Violent crime reported to police in Canada has increased fourfold over the past 3 decades. Despite this increase, many violent crimes are not reported:

  • One survey estimates only 31% of violent crimes are reported to police
  • There are increases in reporting of wife assault and sexual assault
  • 80% of female victims knew their offender
  • 48% of male victims knew their offender

Synopsis

We live in a violent society in which there is a continuum of non-violent to violent behaviour. "Power over" structure of society perpetuates violence.

  • Child abuse is vastly under-reported and unidentified
  • Child witnesses of violence is an unrecognized form of child abuse
  • Bullying is minimized & disguised as "normal" and "acceptable"
  • Violent behaviour among youth is on the increase
  • Members of gangs are increasingly younger in age
  • Significant violence exists in dating relationships
  • All women are at risk for violence
  • Pregnancy places women at higher risk for violence.
  • Being an aboriginal, immigrant, refugee, rural, or disabled woman multiplies the risk of violence
  • Elder abuse is unrecognized and under-reported
  • Strong links exists between victimization and substance abuse
  • Sexual violence is epidemic
  • Poverty places people at a higher risk for violence

Source: Shades of Grey, Health Department, Regional Municipality of Peel (1997).

In Conclusion

It is imperative to understand the enormity and vastness of the problem of violence. In our society, the solution lies in developing a regional strategy in which violence is seen and understood and action is taken toward creating a climate in which zero tolerance of violent behaviour is the norm. Many agencies and community leaders are involved on the Halton Violence Prevention Council (HVPC). Our goal is to eradicate violence.

The following are members of the HVPC:

Burlington Counselling & Family Services, Children's Assessment & Treatment Centre, Halton Catholic District School Board, Halton District School Board, Halton Children's Aid Society, Halton Crown Attorney, Halton Family Services, Halton Social & Community Services & Health Department, Halton Multicultural Council, Halton Rape Crisis Centre, Halton Regional Police Service, Halton Social Planning Council and Volunteer Centre, Halton Women's Place, North Halton Cultural Awareness Council, R.C.M.P, Women's Information & Support Centre, Women Survivors Advisory Committee


WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT


Produced by the Community Development Halton
860 Harrington Court
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3N4
(905) 632-1975, (905) 878-0955; Fax: (905) 632-0778; E-mail: office@cdhalton.ca