Affordable counselling and effective role models for men are just two things being considered for a South Okanagan intervention program aimed at curbing domestic violence that has received provincial funding.
The South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society has been granted $20,000 from the B.C. government to research and develop an intervention program for abusive partners who are not in the criminal justice system.
The society received the funds on behalf of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Violence in Relationships Committee — comprised of 30 health, justice and social service organizations, including the Penticton and Summerland RCMP detachments and victim services — which is devoted to increasing the community’s response to domestic violence.
“The project … is looking at having men involved in ending the violence against women. This is not a women’s issue. It’s a social issue,” said Eleanor Summer, the executive director of the South Okanagan Women in Need Society and a VIR committee member.
She said the “multi-faceted” project will first address the service gap facing men who recognize they need help.
“One of the areas that has been identified as needed already is access to free or low-cost counselling services for men who want to change their behaviour before it gets out of hand,” Summer explained. “That doesn’t exist right now. If you’ve got money, you can pay for it. But if you don’t, there’s little available for men who feel themselves getting out of control.”
Secondly, the committee wants to tap “emotionally healthy men” in the community to model positive behaviour to others to learn how to resolve conflict peacefully.
“If no one tells you you’re doing something wrong, you don’t know you’re doing something wrong,” Summer said. “We’re asking our brothers, uncles, partners to get involved in helping solve this social problem.”
The committee will also strive to compile the reasons why men use violence as a way of solving conflict and find ways to address those, she added.
A VIR subcommittee will begin researching existing program models for proactive outreach on how best to support and educate abusive partners. A survey will also be developed to give to service providers and clients to understand the needs of those in Penticton, Summerland, Princeton, Keremeos, Oliver and Osoyoos.