Efforts to end domestic and gender-based violence will spill into downtown Grande Prairie Friday night. The 2nd annual Take Back the Night march will leave from City on 99 at 6 p.m. following an hour of sign making, snacks, and speeches.
Take Back the Night marches and events have been held in different parts of the world since the 1970s with a mission of ending family violence. Grande Prairie Prevention of Family Violence Network Chair Natasha Streeter says it’s an issue people may not realize impacts the city.
“The unique thing about family violence is that it exists in all communities and Grande Prairie is not immune to that. We have high rates of family violence in our community in comparison with, perhaps, centres of the same size across Canada.”
Streeter says the Odyssey House Women’s Shelter is regularly full and she’s heard calls to the shelter have almost doubled over the last year.
At the same time, Streeter believes the city is in a good position to be able to help victims of domestic violence. She points to the RCMP’s Integrated Family Violence Unit, which is a committee of people who work together when an incident is reported, as well as the Prevention of Family Violence Network itself.
“Because we are a coalition and a collective, essentially, of 30 plus social services agencies, we get to liaise and connect with each other and ensure that these service users are getting access to the best service that they need to mitigate whatever the presenting problem might be.”
Similar coalitions can be found in Calgary, Fort McMurray, and Westlock, but nowhere else in northwestern Alberta.
Friday night’s event is considered family-friendly and residents are encouraged to take the opportunity to have a conversation with their children about the prevention of family violence. Depending on their age, it could be as simple as talking about positive self-esteem and healthy relationships.
“Some of that boils down to examining gender roles,” explains Streeter. “Having that conversation around what’s the expectation of you as a boy, what’s the expectation of you as a man and what does that mean and why are you supposed to be these things and does that make sense for you.”
For people looking for other ways to make a positive impact, Streeter says marching or volunteering at a local organization doesn’t have to be the only way. She stresses that change starts at home and in relationships with partners, peers, and coworkers.