It has been acknowledged for quite some time that violence against women and children is the most pervasive and damaging behaviour occurring in society today. During the past three decades there has been increasing concern from service providers and the general public about the far reaching effects of family violence. In July 1979, Cape Breton answered the immediate need by opening its first short term crisis shelter for battered women and their children. During the next 12 years Cape Breton Transition House served the needs of over 1,200 women and over 3,000 children. During that period, services were provided in the form of advocacy, support counselling, crisis lines, referral services, therapeutic childcare programs, public education, and support groups. Two major research projects were conducted, “Speaking Out- Voices of Battered Women in Cape Breton” and “Getting the Message Out.” Both of these projects identified that services were desperately lacking and that existing services for victims were fragmented and uncoordinated.
In spite of all the direct service work being done by Transition House, it was realized that the issue of family violence is one that required a complete community approach. This need for an integrated response led to twenty-one agencies coming together under the umbrella of the Cape Breton Interagency on Family Violence. In 1989, this organization formed with the mandate of improving services to victims of family violence including women, children, and the elderly. Programs established in the early years of the Interagency included a “Treatment Program for Abusive Men” and the building of a “Second Stage Housing” complex for women and children who had left abusive relationships. Soon after the formation of the Interagency, it was realized that much work could be done for victims through this organization if funding were made available to hire a coordinator to help carry out identified activities. Cape Breton Transition House successfully made application to Victims’ Service, Nova Scotia Department of Justice, on behalf of the Cape Breton Interagency on Family Violence for a two-year project entitled, “A Community Approach to Family Violence.”
Over the next two years, the Interagency met on a bi-monthly basis, and its four sub-committees met monthly. Great inroads were made in creating a dedicated and cohesive committee consisting of community leaders from all organizations related to the issue of family violence. The tasks accomplished by this committee are remarkable.
The Interagency registered with Nova Scotia Joint Stocks in 1996 and became an official society. During 1996 we applied and were successful in obtaining funding through the Department of Justice to carry out a Police Based Intervention Program for Victims of Family Violence. The Cape Breton Regional Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police cooperated by ensuring all domestic disputes were recorded on a form and faxed to our coordinator. The coordinator and fieldworker telephoned victims within twenty-four hours. This project was extremely successful. In order to keep the project running, we received money from the Minister of Justice and HRDC. We continued working the project until April 2002. At that time we no longer had funding to continue.
Today, The Cape Breton Inter-Agency consists of a volunteer Board of Directors and members (General Membership) representing thirty-five organizations and agencies.
The purpose of our Interagency is:
The Board of Directors (Executive Committee) usually has six members including two Co-chairpersons, a Secretary and a Treasurer. Our Interagency Executive Committee is made up of people from various agencies/organizations. One of the co-chairpersons is the executive director of our local transition house. They meet before each of the General meetings to review the agenda, the financial report and other business which are brought back to the General Committee.
Our Interagency General membership is made up of agencies and organizations. Each of the agencies/organizations decides which person will represent them. Each member agency can decide to send more than one person. When their designate cannot attend meetings, we recommend that they ask someone else from their organization/agency to attend.
Each organization/agency is asked to pay membership dues. The membership dues are used to pay for our Board liability insurance, conferences and other minor office expenses.
Having been awarded a two-year project from Provincial Department of Justice, Victims Services Division, the committee accomplished a tremendous number of tasks through its four subcommittees including:
SECOND STAGE HOUSING:
REHABILITATION OF ABUSERS:
We developed a presentation for “high official” government personnel and leaders. The web was made up of a client dialog, over-heads and “the web” exercise. This presentation has been used throughout our province.
Throughout the years we have organized and carried out several conferences.
The first Family Violence Prevention Week was held in 1994. It was a provincial campaign sponsored by the Family Violence Prevention Initiative (FVPI) to raise awareness about the problem of family violence and to encourage action to respond. FVPI was a multi departmental government/community partnership created in 1992 to coordinate efforts to prevent and respond to the problem of family violence. Family Violence Prevention Week Committee (a committee of the Cape Breton Interagency on Family Violence) was sponsored by the FVPI to promote the Week in Cape Breton and Victoria Counties. The FVPI was cut from the provincial budget in April, 2000 and no longer exists.
Increasing public awareness of family violence is a critically important endeavor. The impact of family violence is extensive — from human suffering, to loss of workplace productivity, to increasing demands on government and community agencies. In addition to the human suffering, the economic, social and legal costs of family violence in Canada have been estimated at $4.2 billion annually (Greaves, 1995), or $1.5 billion specifically for cost to the health sector (Day, 1995). Each of us is likely to live with, work with, or know someone who has experienced, or is experiencing the trauma of abuse and neglect. Family violence affects us all: we all share a responsibility to do something about it!! It is the hope that community groups and all levels of government use this time to help increase public awareness of family violence issues, and all Nova Scotians are encouraged to become involved.
Although education about family violence is a year-round process, the FVPI believed there was a need to designate a specific time of year to allow for a coordinated effort and greater public attention. Annually, the Week includes Valentine’s Day, a special time when we are called to nurture and cherish our loved ones and treat them with the respect that every person deserves, fittingly, the FVPI logo and Valentine’s Day share as a symbol, the heart.
Each year, the Cape Breton Interagency on Family Violence plans numerous activities in our community.
The Cape Breton Inter Agency on Family Violence through it’s Education / Conference Committee strives to provide opportunities to educate each other about our agencies and the services they provide, a time for sharing ideas and resources with one another as well as opportunities to educate the public such as the Family Violence sign on Kings Road in Sydney.
During each regular meeting an education component is included. A presentation is given by either one of our own members or an outside agency. During each meeting the members are provided with an opportunity to share information with one another. Special guest speakers are sometimes invited to speak at our Annual General Meeting as well as special meetings.
Each year the Education / Conference Committee hosts a two day workshop or conference on a topic that is relevant to our membership. These conferences are sometimes offered through partnerships with other organizations such as Cape Breton University and the Inter Agency Association for Professional Development (IAAPD).
2003 – 2004 Coordination Conference – Committee on Family Violence in
Through a grant from HRDC our members were able to participate in a conference that was held on three separate days at the Canadian Coast Guard College responding to the increase in family violence in our community. Jacqueline Pelletier, conference facilitator, lead us on a journey to help us examine our roles in developing a community response strategy.
2004 A Case of Sexual Assault – Workshop
The Sexual Assault Response Committee offered our community a very powerful three day workshops on what a case of sexual assault looks like from the time of the assault, investigation and trial. The response to this workshop was overwhelming.
2005 Sexual Assault Response – Train The Trainer Workshop
In the spring of 2005 a Train the Trainer workshop was held for those service providers who may come in contact with victims of sexual assault.
2006 Youth At Risk – a Conference For Service Providers
In February 2006 a two day workshop was held addressing the needs of Youth at Risk. Several different agencies presented on the programs and services that are available for the youth in our community as well as identifying some of the gaps.
2007 Drugs In Our Community Conference
In partnership with the BACS program at Cape Breton University we presented a two day workshop in February 2007 on Drugs In Our Community. Various presentations were done by community groups.
2008 Collaboration – Working Towards A Healthy Community
A two day workshop on the importance of communication in regards to collaboration. This workshop was a collaboration between the Cape Breton Inter Agency on Family Violence and the Inter Agency Association for Professional Development (IAAPD).
A one day workshop looking at the hypersexualization of women and girls by the media. This workshop was a collaboration with Health and Wellness.
2013 Trauma and Victims of Domestic Violence
Dr. Lori Haskell presented a 2 day workshop on trauma informed counseling and therapeutic approaches when working with victims of abuse.
The Department of Justice conducted a study “The Dean Russell Report”. One of the recommendations included a “High Risk Case Coordination” Program. The Department gave money to Police throughout the Province. The Cape Breton Regional Police Services asked our Interagency to manage the program. On April 1, 2003, we hired a half time Coordinator which later became a full time position. (see Terms of Reference for more information.)
The Sexual Assault Response Committee (SARC) advises and makes recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive sexual assault response program.
The Committee members share ideas and expertise about planning, delivery and evaluation of services to victims of sexual assault. Their vision is to have an effective, accessible and compassionate care for victims of sexual assault.
At our AGM in 2006, the Cape Breton Interagency on Family Violence asked members of Silent Witness Nova Scotia to be our Keynote speaker. Our Interagency formed a committee to look at the possibility of beginning a project. We have been meeting since the summer of 2006. On January 8, 2008 we officially became “Silent Witness Cape Breton”
The Silent Witness Project began in the U.S.A. as a national initiative to honor women killed by their partners in acts of domestic violence. Its origins can be traced to Minnesota where in 1990 an ad hoc group of women artists and writers, upset about the growing number of women being murdered by their partners, joined with other women’s organizations to take action. They decided to commemorate and honor the lives of the 26 women murdered in Minnesota in 1990 as a result of domestic violence. In our Regional Municipality, 11 women have been murdered by their partners since 1990.
The Silent Witness Project is a traveling display of life-size red wooden silhouettes. Each of our silhouettes will represent a Cape Breton woman who was killed by a husband, or partner. Each figure will bear the name of a woman who once lived and worked among us in our community. Through research and information sharing we eventually hope to craft a silhouette to honor every Cape Breton woman who has died tragically as a result of domestic violence. Because these women no longer have a voice, the silhouettes are called the Silent Witnesses. The silhouette display will be available to travel to conferences and public awareness events hosted by organizations, groups and businesses around the Island.
Some of the Goals of the Silent Witness Project is:
Our first silhouette was truly “a community effort”:
Our first silhouette is named “Remember Me”. Her silhouette is in remembrance of all women who have been murdered by their partners. The Remember Me silhouette was unveiled at our Family Violence Prevention Week ceremonies on February 10, 2008.
Our second silhouette is for Shelly Smith, who was murdered by her partner in 2006. This silhouette was done by the Smith Family and the Every Woman’s Centre and was unveiled at a ceremony at the Every Woman’s Centre in June of 2011. Shelly’s family and friends and the staff of the Every Woman;s Centre all spoke of what a moving and amazing experience it was to create this silhouette for Shelly’s memory as a daughter, sister, and friend.
902-562-2186 ext. 205