Dec 6, 2012

Our daughters and our sons; Ourselves.

Today is December 6th. It is the anniversary of the Montreal massacre, the national day of action on violence against women. This year I had a rather unusual chance to spend some time talking and thinking about violence against women. During the summer, I made a number of road trips to New Glasgow, in Pictou County. I was there to observe New Leaf, a program that counsels abusive men and helps them deal with some of the anger and control issues that make them abusers. They work closely with a women’s transition house, and they make presentations to youth in schools too, so they cover a lot of bases.

I met a lot of people: Bob Whitman, a co-founder of New Leaf. Ron Kelly, a counsellor who began working on the issue of domestic violence after being deeply affected by the Montreal massacre. Cathy Grant, who's also a facilitator, a native woman and an elder who draws a lot of strength from her culture. And I met Sterling and Rachel Smith, who went through a terrible rough period of abuse and drinking four years ago, but have made a huge effort to sort things out.
I got to see a lot of things I wouldn’t normally have been exposed to. I sat in on a group counseling session with nine men, went to a school presentation with Bob, and sat in Sterling and Rachel’s living room listening to them tell their story together.
I’m working on a World Report segment that will feature some of their voices, but there’s so much that won’t fit in. I’d like to tell you something that Bob said to me when we were on our way back from that school presentation. I asked him how he felt about funding being cut for that part of his programming (I went with him to what may have been his last-ever school presentation). This is what he said.
 “I worry about that. I also worry about that just from my own sense of well-being…I think it's vital that organizations are able to do prevention work. This is what I see this is, as working to try to prevent situations from happening. I know for our organization and for the people that work with us on this issue, this is what gives us hope that things will change. At the end of the presentation we give out information about our organization, and there's pamplets there also for the transition house. Yeah, and I remember a few months ago, a man coming to the program. I always ask the question how it is that you know about our program, or how it was that you were referred to us. The man has two young kids, and one of them was in one of the classrooms that we had made the presentation to. And the young girl actually went home after the presentation, and gave the information to her father and said, "This is some place that you need to go to." And I give her value for having the courage to give that to her father, but also totally respect the father in terms of the fact that he took that information and in a sense took the risk that his daughter did, and said ‘Okay. I'll check this out.’

If you are in the New Glasgow area and seeking help, call New Leaf at 902-396-2440. Real people answer the phone. If they happen to be away from the office, leave a message and real people will call you back. All calls are confidential, and the people are kind. 

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