On Nov. 23, the Catholic Family Services (CFS) of Toronto Foundation hosted its annual benefit concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, placing its main focus this year on abuse of teenaged girls.
Denise Araiche, a committee chair member, said CFS staff was noticing that abuse cases were becoming quite common among teens. This year, CFS launched a new program to teach young girls what to look for in abusive relationships and how to steer clear from them.
“Very often you find, sometimes, people that are isolated or think that this is the only life they can get or they are loved because they have a boyfriend,” said Araiche. “Even though he’s sometimes in a tantrum or sometimes he doesn’t treat me well, it’s okay. We just want people to know that it’s not okay.”
Teens Healthy Relationships was launched in September in partnership with the Toronto Catholic School Board. CFS facilitates workshops in Toronto high schools to educate young girls on relationships and prevent the cycle of abuse at an earlier stage.
“Out of that program, I’m sure we’ll find different needs and we’ll try to evolve with the program or change the program to fit those needs,” said Araiche. “These concerts provide the necessary funds to keep these programs on going.”
Board president Mary Kennedy said about one in four women experience abuse by their husband, boyfriend or ex-partner. In Canada, seven in 10 reported cases of family violence involve women and girls.
“Abuse is not just physical, it’s emotional, it’s mental and people manipulate others,” said Araiche. “We take care of anybody. Although we are the Catholic Family Services of Toronto, we will help anybody that knocks on the door. They don’t have to be Catholic, it’s anybody who needs our help.”
On the benefit stage, Canadian saxophonist Enrico Galante started off the evening’s entertainment with the accompaniment of his friend and singer Dan Madison. Each performer, such as Lisa Simone and Danny Scott, just added to the crowd’s enthusiasm and soon everyone was on their feet, dancing and clapping to the music.
The annual benefit concerts began in 2014 and have been a great success in the fundraising efforts of the CFS, said Araiche.
CFS Toronto was established in 1922 with programs involving women abuse, as well as counselling, wellness groups and marriage preparation.
Araiche said there are volunteer opportunities for youth to become involved and bring awareness to the issue of abuse.
“We want them to be aware that we’re in the community,” said Ariache. “That we’re helping people with abusive relationships and for them to refer people to us and to donate to such a worthy cause. We want people to be aware of what we do and to be supportive of it.”
(Azevedo, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Holy Name of Mary College School in Mississauga, Ont.)