Family Violence Prevention and
Curriculum Development

by Suzanne Mulligan and Dr. Donna Mitchell

The end result of any prevention program is empowerment to break the cycle.

We know that child abuse and violence against adolescent and adult women is a serious societal problem. If we are ever going to effectively address this problem, it must be through prevention, and there are several key components which any successful prevention program must incorporate.

Firstly, awareness of the issue of child abuse and woman abuse must be raised. Many children think that what is happening to them is "normal" and happens to all of their friends. We have heard numerous examples from adults who were abused as children and from children who witness violence in their home that they needed someone else to confirm that the abusive behavior was, in fact, not "normal." Secondly, it must be possible to talk about the issue in an atmosphere that values the self-worth of the victim and does not blame her or him. Examples and models of constructive and positive ways of handling conflict must be available, thereby enabling the student to change, and band in band with these models must come information about resources for both victims and potential helpers. Finally, a prevention program must also pass on the encouragement to know that we as individuals have the right and ability to make choices about how we act, who we choose as friends, and what we do with our lives. The end result of any successful prevention program is empowerment to break the cycle.

The Community Child Abuse Council has been working for over 15 years to deal with these issues. The Council has broad community representation from over twenty agencies and organizations including hospitals, government, child and adolescent services, women's shelters, public health services, and local school boards. The mandate of the Council is to reduce the incidence of child abuse and the impact on children of wife assault and other forms of family violence by developing and implementing prevention programs, increasing public awareness with regard to child abuse and family violence, and advocating on behalf of the victims of abuse.

Violence Prevention in the Curriculum
In 1986, the Council initiated a study of a variety of prevention efforts throughout Canada and the U.S. to determine the most effective method of prevention for our community. After a year of research, the Task Force concluded "that the most comprehensive approach to prevention programming would appear to be through curriculum development." Apart from the family, school is the one institution that influences nearly all children in our society. The time children spend in school is recognized by experts such as Dr. Pat Kincaid from the Ministry of Education and Dr. Peter Jaffe from the London Court Clinic as that which needs to be spent on violence prevention curriculum and experiences.

Dr. Jaffe notes, "It would be a challenge to find any book written on the topic of family violence that does not end with an appeal to school systems for prevention programs." He suggests three specific areas as a basis for such programs: "These areas relate to teacher training, curriculum development and student involvement in addressing family violence" (1). In a recent report to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, Dr. Jaffe recommended that the federal government work with the provinces to promote strong and consistent violence prevention education in schools.

Prévention de la violence familiale : élaboration d'un programme d'études

par Suzanne Mulligan et Donna Mitchell

En 1986, une étude, effectuée par le Conseil communautaire sur les enfants maltraités de Hamilton-Wentworth, concluait que le meilleur moyen de prévenir la violence était d'élaborer un programme d'études. Le Programme de prévention de la violence familiale qu'a mis sur pied le Conseil est d'inspiration populaire, modelé en permanence en fonction des besoins véritables des élèves, du corps enseignant, des parents et de l'administration. L'objectif: intégrer un programme de prévention de la violence familiale dans le programme d'études des enseignantes et enseignants et dans la structure de l'école. En s'appuyant sur leur domaine de spécialisation pour s'instruire sur la violence familiale, les enseignantes et enseignants acquièrent un sentiment de sécurité et de compétence et font comprendre aux élèves qu'il ne s'agit pas d'un sujet séparé ou "spécial". L'éducation joue un rôle clé pour prévenir la violence faite aux femmes et aux enfants, et les écoles doivent servir d'outils pédagogiques, car c'est ce qu'elles sont après tout.

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