Sexuality, Marriage, and Family studies event aims to bring awareness to domestic violence

A small group of women representing St. Jerome’s Sexuality, Marriage and Family department (SMF) greeted shoppers at Central Fresh Market in Kitchener, offering them information regarding intimate domestic violence Nov. 25. They taught those in attendance the effects domestic violence can have on everyone.

“We’re trying to raise awareness against intimate partner violence specifically,” said Caitlin Copland, one of the event’s co-ordinators.

Officially, Nov. 25 was the International Day to End Violence against Women. However, the SMF department decided to broaden their focus to include all victims of domestic trauma.

The group was consistent as they made sure to place emphasis not only on violence against women, but also violence against men and violence within LGBTQ+ relationships.

“We wanted to be as approachable as possible,”said Naomi Wilkes, another co-ordinator and T.A. at St. Jerome’s SMF department. “By opening up the topic and being non-confrontational, we’re hoping to raise awareness and hopefully do some harm-prevention as well.”

Efforts by SMF to end local domestic violence have received notice and appreciation from the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS).

Staff Sgt. Greg Fiss, the officer in charge of the domestic investigation branch for the WRPS, said, “About 6,000 occurrences of domestic violence are reported to us every year. That works out to about one incident occurring every hour and 27 minutes, so it’s a significant problem for us, not only to our own resources but to the well being of the community especially.”

Fiss hopes the information shared by the SMF activists will help to lower those figures in the community at large.  

The number of SMF volunteers who came out to support and bring awareness to the issue of intimate domestic violence proved their commitment to the community as they work to take the lessons taught to them in class and turn them into action.

“Ethically, it’s really important not only to provide information, but also to provide resources and support so people know what they can do and how to get help,” said Toni Serafini, head organizer and chair of the SMF department. “The main reason we’re doing this is to take a stand, to say that we don’t support violence in relationships, as it isn’t a healthy way to live.”

Serafini believes that the prevention of domestic violence of any nature is a human rights issue, one that goes significantly deeper than the simple portrayal of a man beating a woman.

“Abuse is not just taking a fist to the body, abuse happens psychologically, verbally, and in many other different ways,” Serafini said. “What we’re doing is expanding people’s understanding so that in their own lives, or the lives of people they love, they can recognize the signs of and perhaps share support to victims of domestic abuse.”