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Ronalda Walsh: Stop domestic violence

Ronalda Walsh.JPG Maurice Fitzgerald Photography

Ronalda Walsh is a former journalist and currently a communications professional in N.L.

This column is about domestic violence. Many of you will read on, many of you will click the browser back to the previous web page. Those that click back are part of the problem. We are not reaching them to educate them about what is happening in our society and what they can do to stop domestic violence. We need everyone to do their part to speak out against domestic violence and help someone who might be in this situation. Full disclosure - I am a board member with the Iris Kirby House Foundation.

If you turn on a radio, go online or pick up a newspaper there are numerous stories about domestic violence. For example: Man beats his wife with guitar; man convicted of brutal assault against former girlfriend; and woman shot to death in murder suicide. Those are just the headlines in the past week. This is only the end of March. What does the rest of the year have in store?

Let me dispel a few myths about domestic violence. It is more than bruises, blood, broken bones and stitches. It is also verbal, financial, emotional and psychological abuse. These are things you cannot see with your naked eye, but they too leave a scar that takes many years to fade away. It is also not a lower income societal problem. It is also not the fault of a woman for staying in the relationship. Victims of domestic violence are of all ages and wages and there are many factors influencing whether a woman stays or leaves.

Each victim of domestic violence lives through a different but yet similar experience. There is the act of violence itself and then there is, what the experts call, the 'cycle of violence' which follows three stages. The partner becomes increasingly jealous or controlling, the violence happens and then the "honeymoon" stage - where the partner shows remorse and spends time convincing the victim he will change. It's this cycle that most people have a hard time understanding. You'll often hear, "What do you mean she didn't leave? If that happened to me, I'd be gone in a heartbeat?" It is not that easy. If it were, we would hear fewer stories about women being murdered and beaten by their partners instead of a growing number.

If we can protect one more woman or child from abuse we can count that as a success. The Iris Kirby House shelter is typically full and operates on average at 89 per cent capacity. To say the shelter is a busy place would be an understatement. The staff work around the clock to support the women and children who come through the door. Empowerment groups and counselling are offered. Shelter staff speak publicly at events, schools and in offices to spread the word about how to stop domestic violence or support those who you think might be in a bad relationship. There are shelters located across the province that offer this support. Their work saves lives and gives people a second chance.

Generating awareness and enabling more people to talk about the issue is a good thing. In recent years, there have been provincial campaigns focused on respecting women. Campaigns are great at generating awareness, but more needs to be done to embed the specific way of thinking and behaviour to stop the violence. We need the discussion embedded in our schools and community groups, businesses and associations. If this column does anything, I hope it sparks your thinking toward what you can do to help. Allow yourself the opportunity to discuss the issue with your family or a co-worker. Just like the women and children need the courage you leave, you need the courage to have the conversation. It starts with one.

Links to recent media stories about domestic violence cases:

Guitar assault results in guilty plea

Bail hearing set for man suspected in brutal attack on girlfriend

Chaisson sent witness away before shooting wife: RCMP

No bail for man accused of killing N.L. woman in Alberta

Brutal attack results in 8-month sentence