BARRHEAD - Family violence is subject that people often do not want to talk about, but it needs to be brought into the light and discussed openly.
That is according to Barrhead Community Family Support Services (FCSS) Thrive outreach worker Cheri Jantz.
In Alberta, November is Family Violence Prevention Month and is also Canadian Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Thrive is FCSS's family violence and relationship abuse prevention initiative. It gets its name because that is what they hope clients will do after accessing its services. The program is part of the FCSS' community programming. FCSS is looking for a new funding source for the initiative as its funding will end on Dec. 30.
About a month ago, Jantz said she was working with 22 "Thrive" or domestic abuse victim clients and 26 outreach (or extended family of victims) clients.
However, she said it seems that number is on the rise, adding that last week she received three new referrals alone.
Many people Jantz talks to have been referred to Thrive by the VSU are self-referrals, partially by accident while they are looking for other government support agencies.
"Often they have come to Barrhead, fleeing domestic abuse in other areas," Jantz said.
The majority of Thrive's clients live in the county, something Jantz doesn't see changing anytime soon.
Jantz said sometimes people are surprised to learn that Thrive's numbers are higher than the RCMP's when it comes to domestic or family violence.
At the County of Barrhead Nov. 2 meeting, Barrhead RCMP Sgt Bob Dodds said that according to 'K' Division statistics from January to September, Barrhead RCMP responded to 17 reports of spousal abuse complaints.
"That is because when people decide to call the RCMP, the situation has escalated to physical assaults, financial abuse, tangible criminal acts," Jantz said. "I see even more because I deal with people who are dealing with psychological and emotional abuse, manipulation, which are much more prevalent."
Jantz added people are also reluctant to contact the police even if the abuse has escalated to a more criminal nature.
"One of the assessments abuse victims have to make, is if it is going to be worse for me if I go to the cops," she said. "I still share kids with this person. If I press charges and he is convicted, loses his job ... if I thought he was treating me bad before, how much worse is it going to be now?"
On the flip side, Jantz said abuse victims also face the dilemma if they choose not to report their abuser to authorities and something untoward happens, in which the police get involved.
"Then people will say to them, 'you didn't report it the last time and this time it is worse,'" she said. "Unfortunately, there often is no right answer. All they can do is the best they can."
Because abuse victims often find themselves in precarious, chaotic situations, one of the first steps Jantz goes through with her abuse clients is the creation of a safety plan.
"For some people, that is how do you stay physically safe. For financial abuse, it is finding out what protocols need to be put in place to limit exposure, the same goes with psychological and emotional abuse," she said.
Jantz also encouraged people who are experiencing difficulties to reach out for help, whether that be Thrive or other supports such as the Family Violence Information Line (310-1818) which is staffed by trained counsellors from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, or the Alberta provincial abuse helpline (1-855-443-5722) which is staffed Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.