N.W.T. campaign aims to help everyone tackle family violence

Mira Hall remembers how her ex-boyfriend assaulted her in a restauant half full of people she knew. 'Nobody looked up,' she says. A new campaign to be released today aims to educate people on how to respond to family violence.

‘He was screaming all kinds of things at me ... and nobody looked up,' Mira Hall recalls

Mira Hall remembers when her ex-boyfriend came to her work and assaulted her. 'He was… screaming all kinds of things at me and that restaurant was more than half full of people that I would sometimes see three times a day and nobody looked up.' (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)

“He punched the wall right beside my head and at that point I knew that the next one was gonna be coming for my face.”

Mira Hall remembers the terrifying moments when her ex-boyfriend came to her work and assaulted her. She barricaded herself in the kitchen until he eventually left.

“And he was shoulder checking the door over and over again… screaming all kinds of things at me and that restaurant was more than half full of people that I would sometimes see three times a day and nobody looked up.”

Hall says the experience left her feeling embarrassed and alone, even though family violence rates in the Northwest Territories are among the worst in the country.

“The situation is quite bleak,” says Lorraine Phaneuf, who chairs the N.W.T. Family Violence Coalition.

“We have nine to 12 times the national average reported cases of spousal assault. When we speak to women in the communities we do get a sense that it is very prevalent in their lives.”

Phaneuf says the impact is far-reaching.

“When children witness abuse you know it effects them for their entire life so not to say that it's not repairable, but it just affects society so greatly that if we could find a way just not to hurt each other and to move forward for healthy families in the N.W.T. I think you'll see other things improve.”

New campaign helps bystanders stop the violence

Phaneuf says anyone being abused or witnessing it should call the police, reach out to one of the five shelters across the territory, or seek out various government services such as the N.W.T. Help Line.

That message will soon be reinforced by a campaign that will be launched today called “What it takes.”

The program, created by the territorial government and the NWT Coalition Against Family Violence, aims to teach people how they can respond to situations involving family violence.

“Often when you witness violence, most people have no idea what to do,” says Yellowknife singer/songwriter Leela Gilday, who’s promoting the campaign. “Most people in the Northwest Territories have encountered that.”

The goal is not to encourage people to intervene during a crisis or altercation, Gilday says. Rather, it teaches them how to offer support to those involved and direct them to the assistance that is available in the territory.

The Department of Health and Social Services has created a one-hour and a three-hour workshop outlining steps people can take to stop violence.

Gilday says they could make a big difference.

“If they catch on — like if people start attending them and talking about this, that’s the greatest empowerment you can give, is to name things and to bring them out into the light.”

Hall agrees.

“We as people living in a place who have relationships with our neighbours and with our family members, we need to do our part and do something,” she says.

More details will be announced at the campaign launch Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Northern United Place in Yellowknife.


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