What Can Holiday Specials Teach us About Violence Prevention?
By Jon Farmer
It’s the time of year when holiday music is inescapable in public spaces and festive movies and TV specials are filling the broadcast channels from top to bottom. There’s a risk of it all seeming cliché and formulaic but there’s at least one message in those holiday stories that deserves to be shouted from the mountain tops: no one is too insignificant to make the world a better place.
You’ll find that theme in everything from Rudolph to Frosty, Elf, and Miracle on 34th Street. It makes for heartwarming stories around the holidays but it could also make for safer communities all year round. As we approach the end of the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence, it’s time to ask what can be done and who can do the work to make a positive difference in Grey and Bruce throughout the year. Spoiler alert: a lot can be accomplished and by every single one of us.
Too often, when presented with a challenge we respond with something to the effect of ‘not my problem’. In some cases it’s an appropriate response, like when you’re discussing how the Raptors are going to repeat their championship run. If you’re not on the court, there’s not much you can do. That response isn’t true when we’re talking about gendered-violence and safety in our communities because we’re all in the game in Grey Bruce.
Yes, there are professionals to call during crisis situations or when special care is required. When people are in immediate danger, call the police. When a family needs support to keep children safe, call Bruce Grey Child and Family Services. When someone is ready to talk about their experiences of sexual violence, call the Sexual Assault & Partner Abuse Care Centre, Women’s House Serving Bruce Grey, or the Male Survivor Program at CMHA. These services, and supports like them, are well suited to respond in the aftermath of crisis situations. Response is only one aspect of creating a safer community, though. To really improve the quality of life in our communities, we need to talk about prevention.
Violence prevention is too big of a job to leave to the professionals alone. There is no way for community agencies to be present everywhere and at all times. For one thing, that would be too expensive. For another, there are opportunities for violence prevention in every day conversations and interactions that don’t require professionals. Sometimes those opportunities are obvious: when you see someone being bullied or harassed, when someone is being threatened, when an intoxicated person is being led out of a party by a stranger. These are opportunities when bystanders with courage and preparation can make a difference. See our article from last May about bystander intervention strategies for more information.
There are also opportunities for violence prevention that are so pre-emptive you might not recognize them as prevention at all. Things like effective public education and healthcare, transportation networks, housing strategies, and poverty reduction programs help to make people less vulnerable to violence in the first place. You might recognize this as social development rather than prevention but it shares the same goal and effect of reducing our community’s exposure to violence.
It can be hard to imagine how we can reduce poverty, impact the housing market, or expose young people to deeper conversations about healthy relationships as individual members of the community. Like those holiday specials show time and time again, working together is the key to solving big problems. Every time you support a community organization with a donation of time or money, you’re helping to make peoples’ lives safer. Every time you consider the impact of government policy on the least fortunate and choose to write a letter to an elected official or show up at a public consultation to talk about it, you’re advocating for a safer community. Every time you have a compassionate conversation with a young person to explain how their actions affected others and how to be accountable, you’re equipping them with the skills to not hurt people in the future. Violence prevention take all sorts of actions and all kinds of people. How will you join in?