Be the one who listens to a victim of family violence

Guests at the recent Riseup Society “Dancing with the Stars” evening Nov. 19 spent a few minutes listening to a presentation...

“Dancing with the Stars” keynote speaker Elena Esina spoke for a few minutes about how family violence touches virtually every person in Alberta

Guests at the recent Riseup Society “Dancing with the Stars” evening Nov. 19 spent a few minutes listening to a presentation about why such organizations are needed across this region.

While the evening was intended as a fun night of dancing, keynote speaker Elena Esina spoke for a few minutes about how family violence touches virtually every person in Alberta, and everyone can be ready to help.

Esina, who is part of the SHIFT project, a University of Calgary effort to end domestic violence, is also a social worker who’s spent the last four years researching domestic violence and has had friends approach her for help as they live in a violent environment.

She said family violence is pervasive in Alberta, and the majority of victims are women, while the majority of abusers are men. Family violence is expensive to society and doesn’t have to occur. “It is fully preventable,” she said to the audience.

The keynote speaker said every person in the ballroom knows a victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence. She also pointed out the vast majority of women living in a violent situation go to their friends, family and confidents and only about 15 per cent go to the police.

She related an experience while living in Europe some years ago when a friend of hers came to her for help. The friend arrived in the early hours of the morning, and was bruised and obviously assaulted. However, the friend would not leave the relationship.

After moving to Canada, Esina said she was herself taking a class for newcomers to Canada. While there, another woman taking the class confided to Esina she was living in danger; Esina said she barely knew this woman, illustrating how those in abusive relationships may seek out or confide in someone they trust or someone they think cares about their problem.

“You’re the number one resource for them,” said Esina. “They go to you.”

Riseup Society executive director Jacqueline Biollo noted the society’s resources serve women in the Wetaskiwin County, Millet and Leduc County areas. She said Esina’s message was a powerful addition to the evening. “Again, there is a serious message to any event,” said Biollo by phone Nov. 21.

“Don’t be afraid to be that person who is there for friends and colleagues.”

The keynote speaker pointed out abuse can take many forms: psychological, emotional, verbal, medical, economic and many others.

A positive response can prevent domestic violence from happening. “I hope you’re asking yourself…how do I do it?”

Esina said if you’re that trusted confidant that an abused woman comes to, be non-judgmental, be open, use a soft voice, listen and be empathetic.

“Finally, believe her,” said Esina. “Tell her abuse is wrong and not her fault.”

Video clip: http://blackpress.tv/video.php?id=19169