Do you know that one in three Albertans (two in five Canadians) will experience domestic violence in their lifetime? And the number is likely higher as most cases aren’t reported? Shocking, right?
My own marriage ended at the hands of domestic violence in 2016. Unfortunately, at that time support resources weren’t readily available, or at least my knowledge of them was non-existent. And sadly, the systems through which I was processed didn’t provide me with guidance on where to find them.
A few years later I was introduced to Sagesse Domestic Violence Prevention Society, a non-profit providing peer support, education, and workshops striving to eradicate domestic and sexual violence in Alberta.
One such workshop is REAL Talk, a guide that helps people understand and talk openly about domestic abuse. By knowing how to Recognize, Empathize, Ask and Listen, we can disrupt structures of abuse with just a few simple words.
Since 80 percent of people experiencing domestic violence tell someone in their social networks first, anyone taking this workshop can potentially alter the trajectory of an abusive relationship just by having one REAL positive conversation.
Domestic violence is often misunderstood and stigmatized; talking about it can be uncomfortable. My hope is that by having these conversations, it becomes as open and mainstream as that of mental health today.
Perhaps if I had taken the workshop prior, I would’ve recognized the signs of domestic violence and coercive control in my own relationship. And maybe if friends and family had taken the workshop, they could’ve recognized the red flags that often appear so subtly, asked questions, listened, and suggested supportive resources like Sagesse.
Attending a REAL Talk Workshop
This spring the Osborne team attended the REAL Talk workshop. It lasted about 1.25 hours, complete with questions and conversation. The facilitator was thoughtful and inclusive, and it was surprising for me to hear how many people on our team have been impacted by domestic violence, either directly or indirectly.
I am grateful to my colleagues for attending the workshop and for their open and vulnerable participation; this is how we can begin real conversations and destigmatize the topic.
Over 50,000 people interact with the REAL Talk campaign on an annual basis with over 2,000 attending a workshop. Other organizations are recognizing the importance of providing this valuable training for their employees too, especially those that deal with the public. For example, Direct Energy has trained its Customer Support Team in the program and promotes the campaign on the back of its bills, and all Alberta registered massage therapists are required to take the training.
And while Sagesse is in Alberta, the online workshop’s accessible to anyone across the country.
How You Can Make a Difference
Until everyone acknowledges, understands, and supports domestic abuse education the epidemic will continue to escalate. You will likely be affected, either directly or indirectly, at some point. Consider taking the workshop as an individual, with your family or friends, or arrange a session for your organization as part of your company’s enrichment learning. By doing so you can learn to disrupt structures of abuse with just a few simple words.
Managing Partner & Principal