After six years of planning, the Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence was established last December. The chair was made possible by donations from the Barrie Strafford Foundation, an anonymous donor and others, including the University of Calgary dean of social work Gayla Rogers.
Dr. Leslie M. Tutty from the faculty of social work was introduced as the first chair Sept. 26.
Tutty has been involved in both research and teaching in the faculty of social work at the U of C since 1989. She is currently involved in a national project looking at four of the best programs to educate youth about dating violence in Canada as well as a research project at the University of Western Ontario focusing on the prevention of domestic violence.
During her five years as the Brenda Strafford Chair, Tutty will remain in the faculty and continue teaching. In her new position, she will focus her research on the prevention of domestic violence within Calgary and aims to expand to include the whole province of Alberta.
"It's so easy to be reactive," said Tutty. "For prevention to occur, you really need to have a kind of champion that's going to say, 'We can't just react every time there's a death.' "
She will be conducting research and partnering with Calgary's community agencies. The majority of these agencies work with women after the incidents occur, not with prevention. The agencies have some great ideas geared toward prevention and access to funds researchers cannot generally obtain, Tutty explained.
Domestic violence is a difficult term to define and Tutty hopes that through education the difference between dysfunctional relationships and abusive relationships will be clarified. There are currently no programs available to students regarding domestic violence or healthy relationships at Mount Royal College or the U of C.
"Every student in every high school in the city should have a healthy relationships program," said Tutty. "I ask my students how many of them remember a healthy relationships program in high school and it is about one in 20."
Tutty hopes more courses dealing with domestic abuse will be created at the U of C. She also mentioned that with advances in technology, new opportunities for abuse and power control arise. The Internet and cell phones have made people more vulnerable to abuse.
"Youth have more challenges because there are more ways for power to be used against you," said Tutty.
Students can become involved with the Brenda Strafford Chair through graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships. They will have the opportunity to research domestic violence with a group of professionals with years of experience in the area. Tutty believes the chair is not only important to those interested in social work, but to every student studying at the U of C. Domestic abuse affects everyone in a community and students need to be made aware of this, she said.
"We certainly know more about how [domestic abuse] affects family members," she explained. "We're learning more about how it affects the workplace. Irrespective of whatever faculty you're in, just having a colleague who, say, is being abused by her partner can have a real effect on the workplace. It goes beyond, 'Am I myself going to be abused?' "