CALGARY – Discovery House helps hundreds of women and children fleeing domestic violence each year, but is still forced to turn away hundreds more due to lack of space and resources. With domestic violence rates on the rise in Calgary, offering support to victims isn’t enough – we must also look to prevention.
November is Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta, and Discovery House is taking the opportunity to shine a light on the impact such trauma has on children, and how innovative programming empowers them to break the cycle of violence.
“Domestic violence rates continue to rise and that is simply unacceptable” says Monique Auffrey, CEO of Discovery House, a second-stage shelter that for nearly 40 years has provided long-term housing and programing to women and their children fleeing domestic violence. “While we are proud to help as many women and children as we do, we cannot ignore this upward trend, nor the hundreds more that do not get the support they need due to lack of funding and space.”
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 29% of women will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. In 2017, Calgary Police received more than 18,000 domestic conflict calls – a 6% increase over the five-year average – and nearly 5,000 of those calls involved some form of physical violence. Given that an estimated 70% of spousal violence is unreported to police, these numbers represent only a fraction of incidents. Last year, Discovery House helped 651 women and children but had to turn away 700 more.
“It is imperative that we do better, to approach domestic violence with a preventative lens so that we can work more effectively and can maximize our impact – not just in Calgary but beyond” says Auffrey.
To do this, Discovery House partnered with Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child and a team from the University of Calgary, led by Dr. Nicole Letourneau and Dr. Martha Hart. Their research in early brain development and healthy childhood attachment is informing the creation of new childhood interventions that could play a key role in preventing domestic violence.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the staff at Discovery House” says Dr. Letourneau. “My team is so impressed by their spirit of innovation and immense passion for preventing the intergenerational transmission of family violence. Together, we are beginning with the youngest victims and witnesses of domestic violence to stop the negative impacts now and into the future.”
Research shows that children exposed to violence at a young age are more likely to be perpetrators or victims of abuse later in life. Research also indicates that the adverse impacts of trauma caused by domestic violence can be mitigated if addressed early on.
Helping close to 500 children annually, Discovery House is in a unique position to test preventative approaches and, one day, create programming that is not only effective, but also scalable, so small and large communities alike can benefit.
“We know children are the key to breaking the cycle of abuse and decreasing the statistics,” says Auffrey. “By continuing to be innovative, we know we can bend he curve on domestic violence.”
About Discovery House
Discovery House is a social profit organization providing a continuum of care to women and their children fleeing domestic violence. We facilitate transitional housing, offering longer-term, safe places for women and children to call home while they begin rebuilding their lives. We provide mothers access to counselling, support and programs to ensure they never return to abusive partners. We work directly with children, to mitigate the effects of trauma and prevent the cycle from repeating. To learn more or donate, visit discoveryhouse.ca.
About Family Violence Prevention Month
Family Violence Prevention Month started in 1986 by the Hinton Society for the Prevention of Family Violence to draw public attention to the issue and improve local supports and services. Since then, every November is a call to action for Albertans to address family violence in their communities.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Evie Eshpeter, Director of Philanthropic Partnerships