By Kailee Mears
The central Alberta region has many amenities and attractions that draw people to settle in our communities. People from all walks of life choose to settle in our unique towns and neighbourhoods which offer a wide range of services, work, play and opportunities to connect.
Connecting with other people has benefits for our sense of belonging, self esteem, physical and mental health and even violence prevention.
When we feel we know our neighbours, we develop a sense of trust and friendship with them that allows us to better look after each other and our neighbourhoods.
When we connect with our close friends and family, we can better sense their appreciation and companionship, which increases our self-esteem and makes us feel better overall.
When we connect with others through sports, book clubs, walking groups, or working together to complete a neighbourhood task, we can make strides towards improving and maintaining our physical and mental health.
All these parts can contribute to a healthier sense of self and community. An additional bonus is that it can create safer communities that protect against various forms of violence and abuse.
When we are aware of our neighbours, friends and loved ones, we may be better able to spot situations or behaviours that seem “off” or unsafe.
Someone could be using their words or actions to put another person down or make that person feel afraid or controlled. Verbal put downs or social exclusion can make both adults and children feel small and isolated. Physical actions like pushing, slapping or harsh force can be used to punish a person or gain control over them.
Unwanted touching and not respecting a person’s “no” can break their consent and make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe in their relationships or friendships with others.
These behaviours can harm people and make them feel isolated from sources of support like family, neighbours and organizations. These behaviours can lead to bullying, dating violence or family abuse which have no place in our communities.
Connecting with others can create a stronger community that can lean on and look out for each other. We may be better able to recognize behaviours that lead to unsafe relationships.
We can offer our support to those who are impacted by these behaviours with a listening ear, affirming that we believe them and referring to professional support as needed. Saying “hi” to our neighbours, inviting them over for a barbeque, or spending time with those who mean the most to us can go a long way.
Together, we can create a culture free of violence, stronger neighbourhoods and enjoy a fun and safe summer.
CASASC offers a 24 hour help line for those dealing with sexual violence impacts in our community. Call or text 1-866-956-1099, or webchat at www.casasc.ca for confidential support, information and referrals.
Kailee Mears is a prevention educator at the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre.
Article as published in the Red Deer Advocate.