Sad but true: Alberta continues to lead the pack when it comes to domestic violence figures.
A new study by the Canadian Women's Foundation reports that 74 per cent of Albertans know a woman who had experienced physical or sexual abuse - compared to 67 per cent of Canadians, in general.
The study was released earlier this week on the final day of a 16-day national campaign to raise awareness for ending violence against women.
On November 25, Minister for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose, launched the campaign and urged Canadians to keep fighting for the end to family violence and violence against women.
"Our Government recognizes that all Canadians — women and girls, men and boys — must be part of the solution to ending violence against women and girls," said Ambrose.
Sandra Diaz, vice-president of communications and marketing for the Canadian Women's Foundation, points to a bright spot in the otherwise discouraging numbers released in the study.
“That there are so many people that know a woman who is experiencing violence means that more women are breaking the silence and they’re telling people,” Diaz said in an interview with the Calgary Herald. “It’s not being kept behind closed doors as much as it was 10 years ago, when violence in the family was seen as a taboo subject.
November marked Family Violence Prevention Month in Alberta, and the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta announced it would receive $162,300 in federal funding for a project targeting students of Northern Lakes College in north-central Alberta. The money will help engage students in identifying and addressing gender-based violence on the campus, including dating violence.
"Most people have difficulty finding accurate information about the law, and for abused women in remote communities, it is even harder," said Dr. Diane Rhyason, Executive Director for Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta, in a press release.
However, it appears such efforts have done little to curb abusive behaviours provincially. Year after year Statistics Canada reports that Alberta has the highest rate of spousal abuse in the country and a survey released earlier this year from Leger Marketing found that nearly one in 10 Alberta men believes it's OK to physically assault a woman if she does something to make him mad.
As well, a 2011 study by Statistics Canada, "Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile," found that victims of abuse were less likely to report the abuse to police than in 2004. Only 22 per cent of victims contacted police for help.
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If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the emergency number in your community right away. Also, make sure you are aware of listed community numbers and helplines and save them in your contact list.
Put Her Safety First
"Never talk to anyone about abuse in front of their suspected abuser. Unless she specifically asks for it, never give her materials about domestic abuse or leave information through voice messages or emails that might be discovered by her abuser," according to the Foundation.
Make Sure You Listen
If she wants to talk, listen. If she doesn't want to talk, simply tell her that you are concerned about her safety. Offer help, but don't offer to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Do Not Judge
If she stays in the relationship, try not to judge her. Remember, she has to make her own decisions and leaving an abuser can be extremely dangerous.
Jan Reimer, executive director of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, told the Edmonton Journal last month "every hour of every day, a woman in Alberta will undergo some form of interpersonal violence."
Diaz told 660 News that the high provincial figures highlight the need for education programs designed to teach pre-teens about what is acceptable in a romantic relationship. She also said women need to continue to speak out and advocate for programs to help women escape abuse.
“We need to have men and women standing shoulder-to-shoulder saying ‘We won’t stand for this,’” Diaz said to the Herald. “The real question we need to be asking is why is this still happening in 2012?”
The Women's Foundation study also found that 74 per cent of women were more likely to have known another female who has experienced types of physical or sexual abuse, compared to 59 per cent of men.
For more information, please contact the Family Violence Information Line at 403-310-1818 or visit the Government of Alberta website for more resources.
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