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Advocates always available in Jasper

Jasper victim advocates, names have been omitted for their safety. | E. Matthews photo

by Evan Matthews | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

November is domestic violence awareness month in Canada, and a group of Jasper locals are making their presence known as advocates for those affected.

Once a month, a group of advocates meets at Jasper’s RCMP detachment to discuss the realities of domestic violence, and how the group can provide supports to those affected here in Jasper.

Like most violent crime in Canada, rates of police-reported domestic violence have fallen over time, according to to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. However in Alberta the rates have remained consistent.

During its meetings, the group of advocates emphasize the importance of sharing feelings, communicating, boundaries associated with intimacy and sex, while also contrasting what healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships look like in comparison.

Often victims of domestic violence will return to unhealthy relationships before making a final decision to leave, according to the advocacy group, meaning the group’s role is often just providing a safe space, and promoting it, so people know it’s there.

“I let people know what their options are, what they can do and how to do it,” says Paul Schmidt, Jasper’s Victim Services coordinator. “I always want to make people aware of all their options, such as shelters that are available, and that a person doesn’t have to stay in a relationship. Though I also don’t try to convince people otherwise.”

Whether it be a safe space, healthy conversation or counselling, or simply friendly faces, the Victim Services Unit and its advocates are reiterating their presence.

One of the main “initiatives” in combating domestic violence — for lack of a better term — is empowering men to become better supports for women, according to the group.

“We need to shift focus, so that men become part of the solution… And so the focus isn’t on women,” said an advocate, who asked to remain anonymous.

“If we can get people to shift their ideology around why people abuse… most typically men abusing women… it quickly becomes a perpetuating cycle,” she said.

Which means advocacy starts with an individual’s accountability, according to the group. If a man hears another man saying something inappropriate, cat calling, etc., men need to stand up to other men.

“Men need to look at each other and say, ‘That’s not funny… It’s not okay… Don’t yell to her about her ass… That’s where I think it needs to start,” said one advocate. “You should be calling out your friends… It’s just common sense.”

The Jasper Victim Services Unit provides services to victims of crime or trauma in Jasper National Park, while advocates provide immediate support, practical information and needed referrals to victims of crime or trauma 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact Victim Services by calling 780-852-2275.

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