Raising awareness one tune at a time

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It was a night of music and raising awareness.

Andrea Nixon has been travelling Alberta spreading the word about domestic violence and it’s many different faces through her Siren Stories Tour.

Where Nixon stops along the way is determined by one thing, whether or not the community has a shelter for those fleeing from or seeking help for domestic violence.

On Wednesday, Sept. 6 at Beantree’s Café, the spotlight was on Cold Lake’s very own shelter, the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre (DMSCC).

Nixon is a singer and songwriter from Edmonton. She is visiting shelters across the province, hearing stories, fundraising and spreading awareness through the concerts she hosts in the communities where she stops.

“We’ve been travelling around Alberta’s women shelters meeting women and children in these shelters to find out more about each shelter’s needs and stories directly from them,” Nixon said.

For the DMSCC, this funding is just what they need.

“This is how we can launch new programs that haven’t been approved for funding yet, because we’re limited as to where we can spend government funding,” said DMSCC director Susan White. “We’ve been working on expanding our work with children and youth. We recognize that it’s a cycle and children who grow up in abusive families tend to find themselves back in those situations. We’ve hired some new staff and have expanded our outreach and our training to work with the kids, as well as with the parents.”

What funds the tour does raise is collected by the Alberta Coalition for Women’s Shelters, and distributed equally to the shelters Nixon visits throughout the tour.

“Different shelters have different levels of need. Some only have emergency housing and they don’t have secondary housing. I have noticed some shelters are almost like social workers in their community. They’re not only helping women in shelters.Family violence is broader than that, and there are all kinds of violence I wasn’t aware of. This tour has really broadened my understanding of what family violence is and how prevalent it is,” Nixon explained.

But funding is not the sole purpose of the tour.

Nixon is also raising awareness about domestic violence in Alberta, more specifically in rural communities.

“In Alberta we have quite high levels of domestic violence historically. It’s something as a province we have to do better in terms of discussing and disclosing,” she said. “If we don’t talk about it, we don’t change it. Kids won’t disclose if they don’t know we’re talking about it. Through songs and through conversations, you open up. You don’t normalize the behaviour, but kids start to understand that they’re not the only one. As soon as they start to understand that, they start to talk.”

Melissa Merluys and her friends decided the event was a great opportunity for a girls night out.

“We wanted to give back,” expressed Merluys, who believes domestic violence is an issue that is not discussed nearly enough.

“I think it’s a big issue in Cold Lake, and I don’t think a lot of people talk about it,” she added.

Merluys took a moment to commemorate the DMSCC on all of the work they have been doing in the community by not only providing emergency and secondary shelters, but also for their various programs.

“There’s not as much awareness as there should be, but I think that what the DMSCC is doing is very good. I know they have a lot of programs for women and children and it’s great for the community,” Merluys said. “They give back to the community in a huge way. You might not see it, but it is huge.”

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