A Stratford-area advocacy group comprising women who have experienced intimate partner violence is ready to share important personal stories about domestic abuse, an effort its members believe will improve services for victims.
Organized in late 2020 by the Stop Violence Against Women Co-ordinating Committee of Perth County (StopVAW), the Survivors’ Advisory Group has been working for nearly two years on a training video that can help social service providers, law enforcement, and other professionals in medical and legal fields better understand the perspectives of women suffering from violent relationships. The video – Supporting Survivors: Responding to Domestic Violence in Perth County – will be screened for the first time at a pair of events in Stratford next week coinciding with Women’s Abuse Prevention Month.
“The biggest key message that we want to share is that believing survivors is essential,” said StopVAW co-ordinator Emily Schurter, a social worker with Family Services Perth-Huron. “We also really want people to know that this is something that happens in Perth County. This is happening every day and we need to be aware of it.”
The video was produced and directed by Stewart Cappie and Ann Bagley and features a number of local actors. It includes anonymous stories collected over the past several moths from women with lived experience of intimate partner violence, as well as information from experts.
“We are, as service providers, recognizing more and more that lived experience provides expertise and that expertise is valuable and important,” Schurter said. “The survivors have been so essential in creating this video. Their lived experience provides such valuable insight about what is going to reach others.”
The first screening will take place during an event for professionals and community leaders on Nov. 21. StopVAW has put together a panel for that event that will include various police, government officials and service providers.
The second screening will be open to the public. It’s scheduled for 7 pm on Nov. 23 at The Local Community Food Centre. StopVAW is inviting members of the public to learn more about intimate partner violence and what steps they can take in response.
Afterwards, “we are going to make the video entirely free and public,” Schurter said. “We hope these launches are just a start. We want to be able to have screenings all across Perth County and we hope that service providers in the community will take this on as part of their onboarding and part of their training for everyone going forward.”
Woman Abuse Prevention Month continues throughout November.
“Awareness is such an important part of abuse prevention,” Schurter said. “It is so important for every person to know and understand what violence and abuse looks like so that they can better help and support themselves, their friends and family, their neighbours, their coworkers, (and) their colleagues.”