Helping to Break the Intergenerational Cycle of Violence

As Mother’s Day approaches, many of us will start to think about how we will honour the mothers and mother-like figures who have supported us in our lives. While some may reflect on healthy family relationships and memories of safe and enriching upbringings, for others, this may be a reminder of painful experiences.

What My Mother Didn’t Tell Me: Helping to Break the Intergenerational Cycle of Violence

As a young teenager, Annie* once witnessed her uncle slap her aunt. She remembers feeling powerless and scared. No one told Annie that abuse was unacceptable. Violence and abuse was something all of her aunts and mother were surviving. As a female, Annie often wondered if she would have to accept abuse too.

Before age 15, one in ten Canadians will witness violence in the home. Children who witness abuse have a higher risk of emulating abuse later in life–either as victims or abusers. So what can be done to help break the cycle of intergenerational violence, and how can we empower generations to raise awareness and stand against the abuse we may experience, hear about or witness as children, youth, and adults?

“For years, my mother endured abuse in her relationships. Recently, with continued support and encouragement from trusted loved ones, she decided to reach out to local community supports,” shared Annie.

“With the help of a safety plan, she was able to leave her abusive partner, overcome her trauma, heal and move forward. In so many ways, this has helped me and my siblings, too.”

Talking about violence and abuse in a judgement-free way can help to erode the stigma that often surrounds these topics. Although it may be difficult, normalizing discussion about abuse can also help reduce the isolation people in abusive relationships may experience. Not talking about abuse fuels the shame survivors may feel. Abuse is never the survivors’ fault.

Sharing stories of surviving and escaping abuse can also help people recognize signs of abusive behaviour and encourage children and women to speak to loved ones and ask for help. This can also help survivors learn about resources and access community-based services. Organizations like VWTH offer trauma-informed counselling services that help survivors process their experiences and emotions and understand personal rights to safety. Reflecting, Annie shared

“Growing up, the women in my life didn’t tell me that abuse was unacceptable. Perhaps because they weren’t told that either. But now we know.”

As mothers and mother-like figures, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends, mentors, role models and supportive groups of people, having difficult conversations and supporting and empowering each other will help us address and break the cycle of intergenerational violence and abuse—for ourselves and future generations.

* Name of interviewee has been changed for confidentiality

This Mother’s Day, consider donating to Victoria Women’s Transition House as a Tribute to a mother or mother-like figure. When you make this Tribute Gift, Transition House will send a digital greeting card to the Honouree on your behalf. You will receive a tax receipt for the full amount of the gift with our sincere thanks. Click here to make a tribute. Support is always available. VWTH’s Crisis & Information Line (250.385.6611) provides judgment-free support for women who are experiencing or have survived intimate partner violence and abuse. Concerned family and friends can also call for support and information.


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