Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, domestic abuse rates in Alberta were the highest in a decade, with one in every three Albertans facing intimate partner abuse in their lifetime. With COVID-19 on the rise, experts warn that isolation, coupled with the stress of an economic downturn can worsen abusive relationships and may expose Albertans to an increased risk of violence. Direct Energy and Direct Energy Regulated Services recognize this, and today announced their partnership with Sagesse to help promote the organization’s REAL Talk campaign.
The REAL Talk campaign is focused on helping Albertans recognize signs of domestic violence, empathize around the issue, ask questions, listen to what people need and connect people to services and supports within their communities. The campaign includes a free, custom two-hour workshop and online guide and is available to all Albertans and Alberta-based workplaces.
“80 percent of people experiencing domestic violence tell someone in their social networks first, and a positive conversation is likely to lead to that person seeking further help,” said Andrea Silverstone, Executive Director, Sagesse. “Our aim is to lessen the stigma surrounding domestic violence so that it’s safe for people experiencing it to share their story, and to empower Albertans to help break the cycle of domestic violence through providing the understanding and skills needed to have those conversations.”
“Direct Energy and Direct Energy Regulated Services are dedicated to supporting Alberta families, and that begins with an emotionally and physically safe home,” said Tanis Kozak, Vice President & General Manager, Direct Energy. “We have seen the positive impact of REAL Talk training firsthand with our Customer Experience Team and are proud to be expanding REAL Talk training to be available to all of our Alberta staff. We have hosted five REAL Talk training sessions in 2020, training more than one-third of our staff to date and encourage all organizations in Alberta to do the same.”
REAL Talk represents Direct Energy and Direct Energy Regulated Services’ second partnership with Sagesse. The Safer Spaces Utility Pilot Program, supported by the Government of Alberta, was launched in December 2018 to help eliminate financial barriers and provide specialized support for survivors of domestic violence as they work to build a safe, new home. Through this program, people experiencing domestic violence can have their utility deposit waived, be exempt from any set-up or reconnect fees, and
can work directly with Direct Energy’s Alberta-based Customer Experience Team, which has received REAL Talk training. The team protects the identity of the user while assisting them in setting up and managing their account. Recognizing that short-term financial stability may be a challenge for many survivors of domestic violence, flexible payment arrangements are provided, and accounts are protected from disconnection for a minimum of one year.
Sagesse has adapted its REAL Talk workshops to be available online in order to respect social distancing. These webinars are available to anyone interested in learning how to recognize domestic violence, understand its impact, and develop comfort in responding to domestic violence disclosures.