Experts, community partners and survivors from across Canada will come together May 17 to share their knowledge and lived experience during the Abuse Hurts HOPE Conference Series.
Three free, virtual conferences make up the series dedicated to the exploration and prevention of interpersonal and intimate partner violence.
The series' theme is Breaking Silence, Building Communities and each conference will deal with an aspect relating to intimate partner violence, said Kim Slade, project manager.
The first conference, entitled Learn, focuses on lived experiences from survivors, first responders, health care or education workers, as well as the exploration of fear, stigma and shame.
"What gets in the way of (survivors) having a voice and what gets in the way of us being able to talk about intimate partner violence as a community," said Slade.
The conference starts at 8 a.m. and concludes at 4:30 p.m. with Abuse Hurts CEO and founder Ellen Campbell delivering opening remarks.
Laura Norwood, internal communications and technology support for the program, said registration for the first conference has steadily increased over the past few weeks, and she would like to see 250 to 500 attend.
Individuals can register and come back for future conferences, she said, so hopefully even more will attend the next two.
"We'd always like to see more because knowledge is power and empowering people and knowledge sharing is what this is all about."
Jackson Katz, founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention, and Tamara Cherry, journalist, author and victim/survivor advocate are the keynote speakers for the first conference.
The second conference, Leverage, will take place Oct. 18 and will focus on how to collaborate, break down stereotypes and build bridges in the community. It will also look at joint problem-solving and how to build a culture of hope.
How to implement the ideas and break down inequality barriers, as well as identifying leading practices for prevention, detection and intervention, will be the focus of the final conference March 28, 2023.
According to Slade, the education obtained by communities like first responders, health-care workers and advocacy agencies, differ with respect to dealing with survivors. Instead, they should share the same knowledge.
Funding for the series and a three-year program was provided to Abuse Hurts by Women and Gender Equality Canada as a result of an increase in domestic violence cases during the pandemic.
There were "severe incidences and fatalities mainly as a result of COVID," said Norwood, and cases of intimate partner violence in communities, both rural and urban, were "skyrocketing" with individuals ending up in emergency rooms.
Many organizations reported domestic abuse nearly doubling during the height of the pandemic with the Assaulted Women's Helpline receiving 20,334 calls between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020 compared to 12,352 during the same time the previous year.
"(Women and Gender Equality Canada) really felt it was necessary to reach out to not-for-profits that were already working in the field who were well-versed in this that could provide additional support specifically to that area because that was seen as an extreme pain point for Canadian women," said Norwood.
Tools and resources detailing the gaps identified during the conference series will be made available to first responders and health and education workers during the three-year program, said Slade.
"We're really trying to share knowledge."
The series is being held virtually so anyone across Canada can attend and Slade said she hopes survivors and community partners, as well as first responders, health-care workers and educators attend because they are the first to interact with survivors. In the case of educators, the first to recognize signs of abuse, she added.
Visit the Abuse Hurts website to learn more or register.