I’ve lived in the Lower Similkameen for six years now. I know that for many Review readers, that still makes me a new-comer. But six years is long enough to know that this is a special place. I love it here. I especially like our growing and harvest seasons. The old song title would seem apropos for us: “Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy”.
I’m also thankful for my job. I think it’s an important job, and I find satisfaction in it. I work with people I like and respect. And as the RCMP’s Victim Services Coordinator I often meet people in their most vulnerable times. They share themselves with me more deeply sometimes than people normally would. Usually because they’re hurting, or because they’re concerned about someone else who’s been hurt, or is anxious, or afraid. Some of you who are reading this may be among them, or they may be your friend or neighbor or family member. In a small community such as ours, chances are that you do know at least some of my clients, though you may not know it.
And of this I’m also certain: For every one of my clients, there are many more who are hurting just as much. They do so in silence; they try, for many reasons, to keep their sufferings secret. And even when it may not be a secret, many choose not to report their problems to the police, or even to other helping professions. Yes, here in our Valley, for most of us, the livin’ is easy. But not for everyone. And not all the time. Not even in summer.
Precisely because of my job, I may be more aware than many of us of the amount of “un-easiness” that also resides here. Specifically, I’m speaking of spousal abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, sexual assault, and bullying.
No, it is not of epidemic proportion. It may even be that there’s a little less of it in our valley than throughout our country and province in general. Maybe. Even so, family and relational violence is here. It’s sad, it’s ugly, it’s always destructive, and it can be deadly. It deserves to be addressed, and not ignored.
Beginning this week, you will see posters on bulletin boards and in store windows throughout our valley. The poster addresses several forms of abuse, and features two prominent words in bold black print: “STOP IT!” They’re meant to grab your attention. The posters are not meant to imply an epidemic, but to name and address a real, existing problem, of which we have our share. They are part of the efforts of PVPP – our area’s Proactive Violence Prevention Project – whose purpose is to promote “Safety in our Homes, Safety in Our Communities”, “through awareness, education, and positive action.”
A colleague, in response to his early viewing of the poster, has described it as “strident”. He says its message “implies a serious scale and incidence in our community” and he asks to be referred to “any formal stats from reliable sources on the incidence of [these abuses] in our area.” I appreciate his comments. They may well be predictive of the response of others who will see the poster.
Regarding statistics, I have shared many of them in several articles over the past two-plus years. Though I will not repeat them in this article, they are sobering, and my office can provide them to anyone who may be interested. Here, though, let me share some local numbers, from just two venues. (1) My office works with an average of 25 cases of domestic abuse per year, all within our valley area. But I do not receive client referrals from every domestic abuse or sexual assault case dealt with by the police. And we know that many assaults are never reported to the police at all. (One studied estimate is that only 20 per cent are reported. Conservatively, that would mean that our valley experiences over two cases of domestic abuse per week.) (2) During the school year SESS deals with instances of bullying on at least a weekly basis. It’s summertime, and school is in recess. But bullying isn’t. In fact, without the positive structured socialization influence of the school, bullying is bound to increase through the summer months.
Regarding whether abuse, assault, and bullying are of “serious scale and incidence in our community”, what do you think? An average of three or more incidents per week – over 150 per year — in a seemingly quiet little valley seems serious to me. And I’m pretty sure that the victims of these acts of violence would agree.
Finally, while I would not argue the description of the poster as “strident”, I would instead describe it as “clear and to the point”. Its two bold key words – STOP IT — are addressed, with different nuances, to two different audiences. To persons who are violent and abusive in their relationships with persons close to them, they mean exactly what they say: “Stop your violent behavior now! It’s just plain wrong!” (The poster also offers help to them in changing their behaviors, through a referral phone number.) The second audience is much larger; it includes all the rest of us – men and women of all ages who live here. Each of us can play a role in helping to stop familial violence, in a number of ways. (Last month, in observance of “World Elder Abuse Awareness Day”, this paper printed an article that spelled out several specific suggestions. We’ll review them again, in another article.)
The posters will be present throughout the summer. They are not meant to cloud our sunny days of easy living. Their purpose is to raise our awareness that livin’ is not so easy for everyone, and that we can all play a part in changing that fact. Enjoy your summer. Take it easy. And if you have some spare time, call PVPP and see what you can do to help stop violence in our homes and communities. Being aware is a first, and important, step.
– Ron Shonk