Break the cycle

A cycle that affects an entire family. 

A cycle that turns children into tomorrow’s bullies, young offenders and abusers. 

A vicious cycle that has to be broken. 

In the past, domestic violence was  a behind-closed-doors issue: whispered about by neighbours who may have been suspicious, although the consensus was no one really had the right to intervene. 

Unfortunately, this attitude of not wanting to get involved often allowed a bad situation to worsen, resulting in a spouse or children being carried away in an ambulance to the hospital. 

What needs to be realized is that physical wounds can heal, but mental scars 

always bear witness to the deep pain that domestic violence brings to its victims. 

People who allow violence to occur in their midst refuse  to acknowledge that they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

What has emerged in recent years is a realization that domestic violence also has a detrimental impact on society. That was the message brought to the first Breakfast with the Boys held on November 1 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre and sponsored by the Prairieaction Foundation, which works to ensure solutions to 

violence and abuse are found. 

Established in 1997, the prairie-based organization provides a research network called RESOLVE (Research and Education for Solutions to Violence and Abuse) and supports other partners who pursue the same goal.

Among those who recognize the importance of breaking the cycle of domestic violence is the Manitoba Real Estate Association, which has added its support to the foundation  (WinnipegREALTORS® has also lent its support).

“It was a good fit in terms of our Quality of Life program,” said Deborah Goodfellow, chair of MREA’s REALTORS®Care Foundation. 

The MREA program works to improve quality of life through five principles: ensuring economic vitality, providing housing opportunities, preserving the environment, protecting property owners and building better communities. The last principle has within its initiatives safe neighbourhoods, under which domestic violence falls.

“Helping provide a solution to domestic violence is something we can do to make homes and neighbourhoods safer,” said Goodfellow. “We want communities to be free of domestic violence.”

For those who still consider domestic 

violence a behind-closed-doors issue, consider these facts.

In Canada, domestic violence annually costs taxpayers $4.2 billion, which is 

further broken down to $76 million for labour/employment, criminal justice $2.369 billion, social services/education $872 million and health/medical $408 million.

In 2006, Winnipeg Police attended 16,639 domestic violence calls, the greatest number of calls to the department; Manitoba Justice received 1,317 applications for domestic violence protection orders in Winnipeg; 3,200 family violence cases were heard in the Winnipeg Family Violence Court, 56 per cent of  cases involved children who were either the primary or secondary victim or witnesses to the offense; and 41,129 contacts were made by women and children seeking assistance from family violence.

Between 1973 and 1993 Manitoba had one of the highest  rates of female domestic violence homicide in Canada, but the implementation of the Family Violence Court and other measures has seen the numbers dramatically drop to the point that the province now has the lowest rate in the West and third lowest in Canada.

“The drop is the consequence of actions we are doing better ... It only reminds us that action leads to progress,” said 

Manitoba Family Services Minister Gord MacKintosh at the breakfast. 

“To quote (18th-century English parliamentarian) Edmund Burke, ‘It is necessary only for good men to do nothing for evil to triumph.’

“While these numbers are encouraging, they provide no solace for families that have suffered the trauma of domestic violence,” the minister added. “We must continue to strengthen our supports for victims and reduce the likelihood of the next generation perpetuating domestic violence.”

Across Manitoba there are now 37 agencies that work to intervene, provide outreach resources and house survivors of domestic violence.

Recently, the province contributed $2.6 million for shelter security for people fleeing family violence, children exposed to family violence and workforce stability and training.

While family violence is not limited to the male genre, men by far make up the majority of abusers.

“It’s our mess guys, so it’s up to us to clean it up,” commented Ben Atherton-Zeman, of, the American guest speaker at the breakfast.

“We agree that ending family violence is a society issue,” said Dr. Raymond Currie, chair of the Breakfast with the Boys, “and we all have a role to play. After all, the most dangerous place for women and children is their very homes.”

Prairieaction research provides police, paramedics and fire departments as well as other organizations with the raw data — compiled at the University of Manitoba — needed to show the impact of family violence on society. So far, Prairieaction has raised $6 million out of a goal of $7.5 million.

The growing public outcry against family violence has had the good effect of making “women less willing to put up with it,” said Currie.

“Nothing is more fundamental than the respect we have for one another,” he added. “The creation of a respectful community begins at home.”

John Mohan, CEO of Siloam Mission in Winnipeg’s inner city, told the over 300 people — the vast majority men — at the breakfast that his staff each day sees the “graphic side of family violence ... I too am a victim of family violence, but I wanted to break the cycle and that’s why we’re all here today ... there’s hope that the cycle can be broken.”