It Affects Us All: Community Organizing | Your Role

Your Role: Community Readiness

Many different people make up a community. It may include leaders such as Chief and Council, extended family and friends, front line workers, traditional people, Elders, children and youth. A community may be part of a larger urban setting or may reside in a remote or rural area.

These materials have been designed so they may be adapted to meet your unique community needs. The degree to which individual, family and community healing has taken hold and influenced community norms and behaviours will determine your starting point for Kanawayhitowin. It is important to educate yourself about the level of community wellness you may be facing before you engage in this campaign.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation (AHF) has said there is a “direct correlation between the strength of a community’s spiritual and moral fibre… and the community’s capacity to effectively address core healing issues, including family violence and abuse.”

The AHF identified the following 12 key community determinants, which not only enable family violence and abuse to continue, but also make it extremely difficult to stop.

1. Absence of consequences and personal immunity – It has been reported that abusive men who have the least to lose are the most likely to re-offend. The extent to which abusers are held accountable and punished, in part, will determine the extent to which violence and abuse continues.

2. Prevailing male beliefs and attitudes regarding women – Attitudes and beliefs on male privilege, the treatment of women and children, and the degree to which violence against women and children has been normalized and taken for granted can all help create a space in which woman abuse is acceptable.

3. Past history of domestic abuse – Although it does not mean future abuse is inevitable, a past history does create a much higher susceptibility, especially when combined with other determining factors.

4. Levels of personal and community wellness – Within Aboriginal communities, woman abuse will almost always appear within a larger pattern of wellness issues, and the overall state of community wellness may have an effect on the levels of abuse.

5. Professional support services – If a community has a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence and abuse, coupled with a coordinated response system and focused support for when abuse occurs, the result will be a higher incidence of abuse being reported, and an eventual decline in the incidence of abuse.

6. Community leadership – The disposition of community leadership towards taking action to end family violence and woman abuse can be a strong factor in determining whether or not these issues can be dealt with effectively.

7. Public policy – Effective public policy within a community will have a clear statement of intent and dedication of resources to a plan to end woman abuse.

8. Policing and the justice system – A comprehensive justice approach that is integrated within a larger community response to woman abuse and the need for healing.

9. Poverty and unemployment – Generally, when poverty and unemployment rates rise, the level of wellness drops and the incidence of family violence and abuse goes up.

10. Community awareness and vigilance – The level at which a community is educated and aware of the signs and impacts of woman abuse affect the overall willingness to intervene. Once the awareness is in place, a culture of vigilance is needed, where each person’s safety is sacred.

11. Geographical and social isolation – In a community that is geographically isolated, where there are few professionals or services to which an abused woman can turn, and where the political and social environment are controlled by a network of abusers and reinforced by codes of secrecy within extended families, a “devil’s island” syndrome occurs. This is extremely difficult for anyone to escape from, and is a frequent occurrence within Aboriginal Canada.

12. Spiritual and moral climate – A community’s capacity to deal with the issues of violence and abuse are often directly correlated to the strength of the spiritual and moral fibre of the community.

Engaging Your Community

To engage and work with your community it is important to consistently reach out, share information and renew your commitment to ending woman abuse. Strategies are created by integrating lessons learned working with your community and continually access their needs. It is important to inspire and organize members of your community to join together in the struggle to end violence in our communities. We also remember the women who have died as victims of abuse and violence and move forward toward healing.

Communities that are interested in organizing a local Kanawahitowin campaign can receive concrete support in getting started. You are able to receive free campaign products (brochures, campaign manual, training documentary, TV public service announcements).

Download: Community Healing Prevention Strategy (fold-out chart) This is a strategy to assist you in mapping out your vision. Overcoming hesitation to help (pdf) .

Organizing a Gathering

The following information can be useful for individuals who will be facilitating a community gathering.

  • Reach out to members of your community who are familiar with the issues.
  • Make the process as inclusive as possible. Groups such as teachers, local business owners, nurses, Elders, traditional people, First Nations’ police officers, youth and women’s advocates have different experiences and knowledge about woman abuse that can assist you in this campaign.
  • Offer tobacco when asking Elders or traditional people to share their wisdom and knowledge. Be clear about what you are asking of them.

Obtain information about other groups also working on the issue of violence prevention (i.e. Friendship Centres, Métis organizations)

Aboriginal Health Access Centres, Head Start programs, Aboriginal children’s aid societies, etc.) Consider inviting members from these groups to join you for an organizing meeting.

Who to invite
Outline the positive impact participating in Kanawayhitowin can have for the community and victims of woman abuse. Suggested contacts include:

  • Elders/traditional people
  • Local women’s shelter staff
  • First Nation’s police and/or police services
  • Sexual assault/rape crisis centre staff
  • Public health staff
  • Children’s aid society, or your local Aboriginal child protection service staff
  • Native Child and Family Services
  • Partner assault response program staff
  • Local and/or regional domestic violence/woman abuse coordinating committees
  • Indian Friendship Centre staff
  • Aboriginal shelter staff
  • University/college researchers and faculty specializing in woman abuse
  • Victim/witness assistance program staff
  • Alcohol and drug workers
  • Aboriginal Healing and Wellness Strategy workers
  • Chief and Council
  • Urban Aboriginal housing providers
  • Aboriginal Health Access Centres

The goals of your gathering

1. To provide a historical perspective on the issues of violence and abuse against Aboriginal women.
2. To bring family, community members and Elders together in a safe and supportive environment.
3. To learn about woman abuse and what communities can do to prevent it.