By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News
Gang-related crime and domestic abuse have more in common than the trend of violence. Thanks to a recently established partnership between the Forest City’s Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration and Chicago’s CeaseFire Project, the model to tackle both will be the same.
“At the core, there’s a lot of similarities as far as why the violence is perpetrated — people feel disrespected, people feel control, a lot of it is power-based,” said Norman Kerr, an advisor with CeaseFire, during announcement at the University of Western on Tuesday (Jan. 24).
Kerr was joined by members of the Muslim Resource centre, including Saleha Khan (vice-chair), Barb MacQuarrie (board member), Mohammed Baobaid (executive director) and Eugene Tremblay (program manager) to announce a new model to prevent domestic abuse. Also in attendance were London Mayor Joe Fontana and London Police Chief Brad Duncan.
The project’s mandate is simple: Violence is a learned behaviour that can be prevented.
Through collaboration between groups like community organizations and health units, CeaseFire’s model prevents violence using a three-pronged approach. Those include identification and detection; interruption, intervention and risk reduction; and changing behaviour and “norms.”
London’s venture, dubbed the Family Honour Project, will be a parallel to what CeaseFire does in Chicago.
Khan, vice-chair of the Muslim Resource Centre, said the American project hit on a lot of points local groups wanted to focus on.
“It’s around positive imaging, it’s about role modeling, it’s about providing options, it’s about switching the script,” she said. “You have options beyond falling into or responding to that emotional urge that you’ve got. There’s got to be something more.”
Honour-related violence occurs when a person is physically punished after engaging in actions that are seen as unacceptable by religious or social standards. Khan said she hopes how people perceive honour is changed through this project.
“There’s nothing honourable about violence,” she said. “There’s nothing honourable about domestic violence and we want to maintain that.”
Rather than putting a bandage over the problem, Kerr explained the model functions more like suturing an existing wound.
“It’s really trying to go to the origin because you’re trying to prevent other similar incidents,” he said. “You really have to understand what’s happening, what’s the trend here, what’s causing this.”
The model uses a combination of statistics and experience from various community organizations to determine where to concentrate efforts, focus resources and intervene in violence.
Duncan said the existing partnerships being used for London’s model are indicative of how London has operated for many years. From a policing perspective, Duncan said officers are often involved after violence has occurred and there’s no choice but to lay charges and invoke the legal process. He added that’s not where the police want to be.
“For us, we want to be at the front end of the continuum,” he said. “What I see coming out of this is the ability to recognize the scientific CeaseFire model we’re looking at.
“It’s worked very well with the gang activity, but the transference to domestic violence is there.”
Tuesday’s announcement marked the start of the development process of Family Honour Project. A concrete timeline and plan will be rolled out at a later date. While the current focus of the project will be the Muslim community in London, it will be shared with other communities across Ontario in the near future.