What is your job title?
Family Violence / Community Support Worker
Children's Aid Society of Oxford County
Can you tell me a little bit about what inspired you to pursue a career in this field?
I was born in Trinidad and Tobago, the only child born to my parents. My culture, society, education, and personal experiences has prepared me to be the individual that I am today. My passion was always to be in a field that cares for human life and well being. This is how I ended up in the path of being a Child and Youth Worker. I grew up in a society where youth were faced with lots of different abuse and struggles. While I was in my early teens, my dream was to make a difference in my society.
During my early academic years, I had been involved in numerous community events and program to assist in the education of healthier relationships. I enjoy interacting with people, hearing different point of views, and sharing my thoughts and opinion about what society could look like without gender-based violence. Through emancipation and overcoming poverty, I was able to assist and empower others in navigating systems that they are challenged with.
Can you explain to us what Family Violence Counselling Program is?
The Family Violence Counselling Program is a service funded by a compilation of different Ministries that address the dynamics of intimate partner violence within relationships. The program works in cooperation with the family, the community and other service providers to identify and address issues of violence within the family system. The emphasis upon service is that violence is a choice and that each person is affected by violence in the family differently. Some of the programs we offer works actively with victims of abuse by focusing on safety, recognizing the difference of abuse and healthy relationships to assist in making decisions that will allow people to live violence free in the future. In addition, the F.V.C.P. supports men to stop their abusive behaviour in their relationships and challenges them to take an active role in preventing woman abuse and becoming healthier males in society.
Is there a specific population that is most affected by family violence?
Everyone is affected by family violence in some way, shape or form. In my opinion, women and children are affected the most. In majority of the cases, men are the ones perpetrating the violence. At times, these men are unaware of the privilege they hold in society and the harm they cause because of their triggers, unhealthy actions or thoughts and destructive beliefs. Their intentions are at times harmful and unhealthy and in turn the impact of there actions cause harm to the entire family unit placing their partner and kids at risk.
What are some myths about the role that CAS plays in supporting families, and what do you most want your community to know about the program that you work in?
The biggest myth that has been shared by clients is that “CAS comes in their lives to take their kids away or destroy their families”. What we would like to share with our community is that CAS is here to assist in difficult situations or challenges. CAS is there to provide resources so that families can challenge unhealthy and destructive beliefs in order to learn healthier strategies. I acknowledge that every person’s experiences with systems are different, and that there are going to be different encounters with systems within our life span.
CAS offers many resources to families. I will encourage all clients and community members to be open to resources that CAS may provide. I understand that an agency like CAS may hold many forms of powers in society, but if we are open to accepting recommendations, there maybe a positive impact to the family unit.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The best part of my job is facilitation of programs and engaging in conversations about gender-based violence through education, prevention, and advocacy. One of my biggest goals, is working on creating allyship with men to help stop gender-based violence. In addition, hosting events has been one of my passions.
Is there anything else that you'd like to share?
I am open to learn more about the diverse cultures and experiences that individuals are a part of in Oxford County. I understand that individuals may feel overwhelmed by navigating systems such as waitlists and types of services. If you are open to learn more about healthy relationships, and or are struggling with relationships on a whole, I encourage you to reach out to us at Family Violence Counselling Program and we will be happy to chat.
Children’s Aid Society of Oxford County
712 Peel Street, Woodstock, ON N4S 0B4
Tel: 519-539-1276 ext. 322
Explain to us what inspired you to get into this work?
Early on in my ‘helping professional’ career, I was exposed to some incredible and inspiring leaders within the Violence Against Women Sector. At that time, I was working in a social justice capacity, organizing events and campaigns. This provided exposure to a variety of social issues, and the grassroots feminist movement really stood out to me. There was something that spoke to me in a very visceral way during these campaigns, events, protests, and rallies. In hindsight, it’s clear that it was because of an alignment to my values and beliefs. It was these early experiences and mentoring relationships that set the foundation for my work going forward, and I still hold true to the underlying values and beliefs that the feminist movement taught me (and continues to teach me today). I value the contributions of these inspiring mentors and the brave people who have come before me in this work. I continue to take inspiration from the clients I serve; to bear witness to their resilience, strength and courage is such a privilege.
Sexual violence is a form of violence used to exert power and control over another person. It can include the following:
Can you explain a bit more about what sexual violence is?
*image taken from LearnRidge2022 supporting survivors of sexual violence Nova Scotia (learnridge.com)
What populations does it typically impact?
Sexual violence can happen to any person, any age, and of any gender. We do know, however, that women, trans folks and girls still continue to experience sexual violence disproportionately compared to that of other genders, with men disproportionately being the perpetrators of that violence. This means it is a gendered problem. We also know that Indigenous, Black, Brown, and racialized populations, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ folks are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence, with their experiences often being ignored and/or omitted.
The most common ages of those who experience sexual violence are those between the ages of 15-25, with 1 in 3 women experiencing sexual assault in their lifetime. Most sexual assaults are premeditated, involving planning, coercion, or threats, and are often facilitated by alcohol or drugs. Often perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim.
What are some myths that exist?
There are many myths surrounding sexual violence that are pervasive in society. It is important that we all take responsibility for this, and actively challenge the broader social climate and messaging about sexual violence. It is very much rooted in how we view women and girls in society.
The biggest myth, in my opinion, is that sexual violence is experienced equally across all genders. We really need to challenge this, as we can’t fix a problem if we can’t name it.
There are plenty of myths surrounding consent. For example, if someone dressed a certain way, acted a certain way, etc. ‘they asked for it’. Or, if someone was intoxicated, they just don’t remember that they ‘actually did consent’. Consent can only take place when someone is not intoxicated. It must be enthusiastic, ongoing, clear, and explicit.
Someone’s prior sexual history is often used to dismiss sexual assault disclosures. A person’s sexual history cannot be used as a factor to determine whether sexual violence took place.
There are myths that are used to dismiss disclosures of sexual violence, for example to state that the victim is lying or fabricating their disclosure. According to the research, we know that sexual assault is the most under-reported of all violent crimes. False reports are extremely rare, and they are no more common than false reports for any other type of crime (less than approx. 2%).
There are many reasons why a victim may choose not to disclose, including shame, self-blame, fear, questioning whether it was sexual violence, fear of not being believed, or to avoid having to talk about it.
It is important that we recognize that victims’ responses to sexual assault will vary. All responses are adaptive attempts to survive the trauma- both physically and emotionally. There is no ‘right way’ to experience trauma.
What supports and/or resources are available for those who have experienced violence in the Oxford Community?
Oxford Sexual Assault Services, located at the Oxford County Community Health Centre, is a good place to start. Counselling and psychotherapy is available, as well as wrap-around services. This program can be accessed directly, no referral necessary.
Domestic Abuse Services Oxford offers a 24/7 crisis and information helpline.
If someone has experienced a recent sexual assault and would like to explore evidence collection (with or without police involvement), medical follow-up (testing for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy testing, etc.), the Regional Treatment Centre for Sexual and Domestic Violence at St. Joseph’s Hospital serves Oxford County.
What is one thing you’d want a survivor/victim to know?
You are believed, and what happened to you is not ok. It is not your fault.
Nancy Komsa, the Domestic Violence Crown Attorney in Oxford County and member of the Domestic Assault Resource Team was asked to provide some information about how the courts frame violence in a relationship.
Intimate partner (or domestic) violence involves the use of physical, psychological or sexual force, actual or threatened as well as criminal harassment, in an intimate relationship.
An “intimate partner” includes both current and former spouses, common-law partners and dating partners. Victims of intimate partner violence may also be under considerable pressure because of financial considerations, the need for child care, disapproval of family members, immigration consequences, or fear of being ostracized by their community. In many cases, victims of intimate partner violence feel an emotional bond to the perpetrator.
Intimate partner offences are often committed in an environment where there is a pattern of assaultive and /or controlling behavior. A victim of intimate partner violence may fear for her personal safety or for the safety of her children or other family members. Violence may go beyond a physical assault and may include emotional, psychological and sexual abuse that is intended to induce fear, humiliation and powerlessness. Intimate partner violence is not a private matter but a serious criminal act.
Many young persons who are dating can fall victim to intimate partner violence. It can take many forms such as isolating the partner from friends and family members, controlling who they can talk to or what they can wear, and even controlling how they spend their money. These are some examples of tactics designed to dominate and gain power over an intimate partner, and is often rooted in gaining control rather than losing it.
Yes, children can suffer lasting emotional and psychological harm when exposed to intimate partner violence. This could include taking on the traits of the person using coercive control, depression, anxiety and depending what the child has observed, post-traumatic stress symptoms.