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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?
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
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
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.
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
Promoting Effective Parenting Skills
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.
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.
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.
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
Reducing Media Violence
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
also currently developing English as a Second Language materials
for new immigrant parents concerning child abuse prevention
and effective child discipline.
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.