Another Week Beyond – 2248

Dear friends,

The youth were surprised when a mother revealed that when she was violated as a child, the adults she confided in did not believe her. It was an experience the other three mothers present resonated with and they added that such was their reality when they were young. After a brief pause, one of the youth responded, “I am feeling rather sad because the trauma you experienced as a child has remained with you all these years.”

These mothers and youth are neighbours who are working together to keep their neighbourhood safe from sexual and domestic/dating violence (AWB – 2206) and on Tuesday, they discussed how one could intervene or respond in unsafe situations. A key learning from the session was that intervention starts upon spotting signs of abuse, a harmful situation, or a harmful attitude. The earlier the problem is confronted the better because the more intense it becomes, the more dangerous it can be for all concerned.

Together, everyone discussed how to assess for safety if they saw someone in trouble. They recognised that personal safety mattered and as far as possible to only intervene as a group. Safety was an important discussion, and everyone was very concerned when two girls shared how they confronted a man whom they suspected was taking up-skirt photos and photos of women around him. They explained that it was a crowded place and they had judged that that the man would not retaliate. Still, everyone emphasised the importance of safety first, as they complimented the youth for their courage.

Another young person shared how she spent quite a bit of effort persuading a friend to approach a social worker for help after learning that she was being abused at home. She felt a sense of relief when her friend eventually did so. As the conversation progressed, people realised that acting safely and responsibility did not necessarily mean confronting a perpetrator directly. They could distract by starting a conversation with him to allow his target to move away or to create a reason for the target to move to safety.

Most importantly, they all agreed that caring well for a victim was paramount – always listening to acknowledge their pain and to never pass judgement. To support their choices, and respect that everyone responds to violence and pain differently.

The group then reviewed different scenarios presented and discussed helpful and safe responses. People were engaged because they cared about the issue but what was really just as important if not more was that people cared for each other. In rounding off the session, the mothers made an impassioned plea to the youth: “Please never hesitate to reach out to us if ever you feel unsafe or troubled. Only when we really care for each other can we create a safe neighbourhood.”

For peace, community, and courage,

Gerard

All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished. – Marshall B. Rosenburg

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