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BCIFV home > Newsletter > 2002 Archives > Winter 2002 articles

Prevention of Family Violence in BC: A Brief Overview of Current Strategies

By Penny Bain, LLM

The vision of the BC Institute Against Family Violence is of a province and a society without family violence where individuals, families and communities are caring, respectful and supportive. Everyone has a right to be safe in body, mind and spirit. Stopping violence is everyone’s job. In BC, how do we work together to prevent family violence and to restore those affected to safety and good health?

We at the Institute believe that a society can achieve non-violence by: (1) educating partners in relationships and parents regarding the skills required for strong, respectful, nurturing relationships; (2) providing effective deterrents to the use of violence in families by holding offenders accountable; and (3) putting co-ordinated services in place to ensure the safety of those who experience violence to address its impact. This article will highlight some creative, local education programs designed to build healthy relationships, support effective parenting skills, and reduce media violence.


Building Healthy Relationships

The use of violence in relationships is a learned behaviour. So, too, are effective relationship skills. Healthy relationship education teaches non-violent methods of communication and problem solving, and helps to develop empathy and positive regard for others. The goal of education programs is to make participants aware of the dynamics and impact of violence in relationships, and teach how to prevent interpersonal violence from occurring.

Elsewhere in this newsletter, you will learn about the Canadian Red Cross "RespectEd" program that teaches youth to identify the characteristics of healthy relationships, understand the forms of abuse within relationships, identify clues of assaultive behaviour, develop prevention plans, and know where and how to get help.

In British Columbia, men who are convicted of assaulting their partners are sometimes ordered by the court to attend assaultive men’s treatment programs.The goal of treatment programs is to make the men aware of the nature and impact of their violence, to encourage them to accept responsibility for their behaviour and provide them with the skills to use alternative means to manage relationships in the future. Elsewhere in this newsletter, Dale Trimble discusses counselling approaches to working with assaultive partners ( see "Preventing Violence Against Women Through Effective Men’s Counselling...", on page 12).


Promoting Effective Parenting Skills

Children learn by responding to and modeling adults’ behavior. If parents model the use of violence, children learn to use violence. Effective parenting steers children away from such negative behaviors and instead teaches children about respect – for themselves, others, and society and its rules. This is achieved when the caregiver-child relationship is warm and open, but not permissive, and when consistent and explicitly stated limits on the child’s behavior are in place. Parents who communicate their positive expectations of their children and are involved in their children’s lives provide opportunities to acquire social skills and self-esteem. Armed with these tools, children are better equipped to deal with violence when it threatens, and less likely to threaten and use violence themselves.

The impact of effective parenting cannot be overstated. While serious mental illness frequently has a biological component, poor parenting is implicated in many youth health problems such as depression, substance abuse and violence perpetrated on oneself or others. Parenting programs are necessary to prevent child abuse and neglect by educating parents about child development and the disciplinary (discipline means "to guide") options available to them.Typically, parents parent their children in the same manner in which they were raised, passing on violent or inappropriate methods from one generation to the next. They have poor understanding of child development and age-appropriate disciplinary techniques. As a result, they may have unrealistic expectations of children’s capacities and resort to harsh disciplinary methods to control what they perceive to be their child’s errant or willful behavior. Parent support groups can be terrific resources for parents who are feeling challenged by their children’s behavior, or who simply wish to learn from other parents how they tackle the demands of modern life.

Parenting education also helps children learn to be effective future caregivers. School parenting education programs for teens are good examples of such programs, which have the added benefit of reducing the incidence of early pregnancy (a risk condition for child abuse), and avoiding unprepared parenthood.

Other necessary and successful school-based programs include bullying prevention curricula, such as the BC Ministry of Education’s "Focus on Bullying" program. The objective of this worthy program is to provide young people with the means to resolve conflict without feeling it necessary to resort to violence.


Reducing Media Violence

Media studies indicate that American children view 8,000 murders on television by the time they reach their teens. Many avid video game players witness and "participate" in even greater amounts of violence in computer and video games (more than 215 million of these were sold in the US during the last year alone). Children and teenagers are the primary consumers of these products, which portray in graphic, pseudo-realistic detail the wounding and killing of human beings.

Whereas in real life violence hurts, in the simulated violence that occurs in many forms of popular entertainment, neither the pain nor consequences of violence are appreciated. Instead, dangerous forms of "conflict resolution" are modeled, which children astutely learn.

Certainly, not all children who play violent video games or watch violent movies become violent. Nevertheless, a growing body of research supports a correlation between media violence and aggressive behaviour by many children and youth, particularly among those already vulnerable to violent acting out. But among many youth, exposure to media violence makes them less sensitive to violence in general, which can lead to greater acceptance of the use of violent behavior in their own lives.


The Institute’s Role

In fulfilling our mandate to work toward the elimination of family violence, we provide information to BC residents about the programs available in their communities aimed at preventing family violence. We also take an active role in developing original resources and delivering educational programs to inform the public of issues concerning violence.

For example, as part of "The Person Within" campaign, a multi-media public education project developed to teach caregivers of young people with disabilities about abuse and neglect, we’ve distributed materials and presented workshops to hundreds of professionals, family members and other interested persons across the province.

We have also lobbied for the repeal of the provision of the Criminal Code that makes use of corporal punishment a defense to physical assault of a child (Section 43).

In addition, in tandem with COVE (The Coalition Opposing Violent Entertainment–website located at www.covecanada.org), we’ve supported recent BC legislation to regulate youth access to violent video games. Unfortunately, the government recently announced it will not proclaim this legislation. Thus, more than ever, we encourage parents to educate themselves about the content of video games and regulate their children’s access to violent movies, television shows and video games.

We’re also currently developing English as a Second Language materials for new immigrant parents concerning child abuse prevention and effective child discipline.

And among the 2,000 items archived in our specialized Resource Centre collection are curriculum materials and videos designed for use in educational workshops. Members of the public, as well as Resource Centre members, are eligible to view and borrow these resources. You’ll find a listing of resources related to family violence prevention on page 26 of this newsletter.