The facts dif­fer from Mother’s Day greet­ing card re­al­ity

It is up to all of us to cre­ate the best cir­cle of in­flu­ence and pos­i­tive sup­port for fam­i­lies

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - NANCY SMITH Nancy Smith is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of In­ter­val House of Hamil­ton

May and June are months to cel­e­brate the ar­rival of Spring, at­tend to the home and gar­den, and a time to cel­e­brate and thank Moms and Dads.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey, Mother’s Day ex­pen­di­tures far ex­ceed those of Fa­ther’s Day. It is es­ti­mated that Cana­di­ans spend some $492 mil­lion on Mother’s Day gifts. With about 10 mil­lion moth­ers in Canada, that means about $50 in gifts for each mother (Me­dia­brands 2015). Yet, the same sur­vey in­di­cated that 6 in 10 moms said what they want most on their day is to spend time with their im­me­di­ate fam­ily (47 per cent) or ex­tended fam­ily (12 per cent). Only four per cent said get­ting gifts and treats is what they look for­ward to most.

It would be log­i­cal to think, then, that women in our coun­try live in safe, se­cure and har­mo­nious fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, but cur­rent data in­di­cates a dif­fer­ent re­al­ity.

Half of all women in Canada have ex­pe­ri­enced at least one in­ci­dent of phys­i­cal or sex­ual vi­o­lence since the age of 16.

Ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her in­ti­mate part­ner

Abo­rig­i­nal women are killed at six times the rate of non-Abo­rig­i­nal women.

Women are at greater risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing el­der abuse from a fam­ily mem­ber.

Seven in 10 peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence fam­ily vi­o­lence are women and girls.

Chil­dren who wit­ness 10 or more in­ci­dents of parental do­mes­tic vi­o­lence be­fore the age of 16 are at least twice as likely to at­tempt sui­cide.

The pain, suf­fer­ing and an­guish (of­ten life­long) caused by do­mes­tic abuse comes with a large price tag. It’s es­ti­mated that each year, Cana­di­ans col­lec­tively spend $7.4 bil­lion to deal with the af­ter­math of spousal vi­o­lence alone. This fig­ure in­cludes med­i­cal costs (de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, post­trau­matic stress) and loss of in­come from not be­ing able to work due to the pain and suf­fer­ing.

If we truly want to im­pact end­ing gen­der­based vi­o­lence, then why not put the $492 mil­lion spent on Mother’s Day gifts to di­rectly sup­port­ing women’s safe and eq­ui­table in­clu­sion in our so­ci­ety?

Staff at In­ter­val House of Hamil­ton hear women’s ex­pe­ri­ences of abuse and vi­o­lence ev­ery day.

Ad­di­tion­ally, our team of pro­fes­sion­als hears the im­pact of th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences on the chil­dren. Count­less times, women talk about hav­ing to com­pro­mise their par­ent­ing style to en­sure their chil­dren re­main out of harm’s way.

Re­search shows that chil­dren who wit­ness abuse are just as im­pacted as if they were di­rectly abused (Dr. Linda Baker, learn­ing di­rec­tor at the Cen­tre for Re­search and Ed­u­ca­tion on Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren at Western Univer­sity in Lon­don).

They say it takes a vil­lage to raise a child. It is not the in­flu­ence of just you as a par­ent that has an im­pact on your child but the in­flu­ence of the com­mu­nity at large. It is up to all of us to cre­ate the best pos­si­ble cir­cle of in­flu­ence and pos­i­tive sup­port for fam­i­lies: moth­ers, fa­thers, and chil­dren.

Our chil­dren are our legacy, need­ing to be taught, men­tored, pro­tected and guided to grow up to be healthy and pro­duc­tive adults. How you par­ent your child is watched and in­ter­nal­ized ev­ery day through the eyes of your child. Who they evolve to be­come … is a re­flec­tion of your work. Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Baker, “A child who lives with vi­o­lence is for­ever changed, but not for­ever dam­aged. There’s a lot we can do to make to­mor­row bet­ter.”

As we cel­e­brate the months of Mother’s Day and Fa­ther’s Day, In­ter­val House of Hamil­ton would like to thank all our staff, vol­un­teers and, most im­por­tantly, women who have had the courage to start the con­ver­sa­tion and share their story.

We would also like to thank our male al­lies at Men­torAc­tion and the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs who are work­ing with us on the Be More Than a By­s­tander cam­paign and are stand­ing up with us on end­ing vi­o­lence against women and their chil­dren.

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