Dignity 2016 offers lessons about domestic violence

Dignity 2016 offers lessons about domestic violence A dozen employees from Yukon women's organizations recently attended the conference Dignity 2016. It was an opportunity to look at violence from a response-based approach and how social responses affect

A dozen employees from Yukon women’s organizations recently attended the conference Dignity 2016. It was an opportunity to look at violence from a response-based approach and how social responses affect a person’s ability to heal from violence.

Many people see a woman and her children as passive victims and ask “Why isn’t she leaving?” or “Why is she allowing him to hurt her?”

Rarely people ask “Why is he doing that to her?” or “What are the circumstances in her life that make her choose to stay?” like housing, custody, fear for her and her children’s lives. Rarely will she be asked how she is responding to and resisting violence. Asking about response and resistance helps show the perpetrators’ responsibility and the deliberateness of their actions.

Many presenters at Dignity 2016 spoke of how women and their children are responding to violence at all times and trying to keep themselves safe. You may wonder how a child can resist violence. If you look at the little boy covering his sister’s ears or going into the bathroom and locking the door, you see he is not only witnessing, but also experiencing and responding to his father abusing his mother. Working with people to identify resistance is changing how we interact with women and children.

The main take-away from Dignity 2016 is that violence is always deliberate. You can see this by looking at people who choose not to use violence in similar situations as those who choose to use violence.

We also see that violence is deliberate when identifying how victims of violence respond to and resist violence. It enhances understanding of the nature of violence and how perpetrators actively try to suppress resistance.

Many tactics are used to suppress resistance such as isolating a person from friends and family, controlling finances and using verbal and physical violence. Victims of violence are constantly trying to maintain their dignity when responding to violence. As workers trying to support them and their family, one of our most important jobs is to uphold their dignity while responding to their needs for safety, housing and support.

Dignity 2016 gathered social workers, shelter workers, counsellors, students, and activists from Australia, New-Zealand, Sweden and all over Canada. We heard how agencies are integrating the response-based approach into their practice working with women fleeing violence and working with men to change their behavior to stop choosing to use violence. We hope other social responders such as RCMP, Family and Children Services and counsellors will also incorporate response-based practice into their work with women and children experiencing and responding to violence.

The staff from Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society who attended this amazing conference would like to thank Air North for sponsoring tickets, the Canada Job Grant and the women’s directorate, all of the businesses that donated items for our silent auction and everyone who donated items or came to our garage sale.

Ketsia Houde

Yukon Women’s Transition Home Society

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