White Ribbon Day is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is the largest effort in the world of men working to end men’s violence against women and it is celebrated internationally on 25 November every year.
Until a few months ago I didn’t realise how deeply this particular issue plagues our communities. It’s just something we don’t talk about. When was the last time you spoke about domestic violence over coffee or dinner with your friends? Funnily enough, it’s something I’ve been talking about more and more. The thing that’s blowing my mind is that pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to it about has a story to share…
Domestic violence is a silent epidemic affecting people in all areas of our society—young and old, rich and poor, all races and cultures—women you know and care about.
Every day, 1 000 women are violently assaulted across Australia—that’s nearly half a million women in any given year. Almost one in five Australian women will be sexually assaulted. Almost one in three will be physically assaulted. Almost one in four children in Australia will witness violence against their mother or stepmother.
If you think you don’t know a woman who has experienced domestic violence, it’s probably because she hasn’t told you—less than one-third of victims will report it.
I’ve been hit by a boyfriend. I was with him for nearly five years before he hit me. It has to have been one of the most humiliating and trust-destroying experiences of my life. And I didn’t report it. I remember calling my best friend, in hysterics, and went and hid at their place for a day until my parents were back home from the weekend and I wouldn’t be alone in the house. I remember fresh tears welling up as my best friend explained to my dad what had happened. And watching my dad and mum look at me in helpless horror at my swollen face. I was lucky–I didn’t really bruise. It could have (physically) been so much worse.
In hindsight there was a lot of violent behaviour–mostly long standing emotional abuse. For a long time I thought I’d brought it on myself. I’m pretty mouthy and out-spoken about most things. I figured the emotional lashings I got from my then boyfriend was a sort of justified retribution. I thought I deserved it.
Until recently, I don’t think I’ve put a great deal of thought into the impact of being hit had on me. If I’m being really honest with myself, it has had a big impact on my later romantic relationships, how I handle aggression and other aspects of my life. My default position, up until recently, has been of one of mistrust and suspicion. I can’t tell you how fabulous it feels to have been able to let go of and clear that emotional baggage :).
I’ve never really talked about it. I don’t know if that’s been because shame or humiliation or because on some level I still feel like I deserved it. That said, I’ve never not talked about it either.
Since I’ve started to talk about my story with my peer groups, so many stories come to the surface. For some people this has been the first time they’ve shared their experience with someone. That isn’t so surprising when you look at the statistics. That hasn’t made it any less disturbing for me but it’s been beautiful at the same time.
I’ve become really present to the fact that around me, my friends and colleagues have gone through or are possibly going through the same trauma. I was catching up with a girlfriend who shared the horrific emotional (and physical) abuse they suffered at the hands of their long-term partner. They hadn’t spoken about it before. She has the same stable family life I have and grew up with, no violence at home, we both went to private schools and are now both professionals working in corporate…domestic violence does not discriminate age or culture or social class.
The fact that I can talk about, and that I am talking about it, is a start to bringing this issue into general conversation! It is not ok for domestic violence to happen behind closed doors and it’s not ok that we don’t talk about it because it’s uncomfortable! By starting to talk about domestic violence, the emotional violence and the physical violence, and saying “no” to it, we can do our part in preventing violence happening against another woman (or a man; because that happens too!).
I’m sharing this with you because White Ribbon Day is an opportunity for all of us to take a stand for the elimination of violence against women (and children). Here are a few ways you can make a stand this White Ribbon Day!
- Wear a white ribbon or wristband during November through to early December.
- Encourage the men you know to wear a white ribbon and swear the White Ribbon Oath.
- Order ribbons and wristbands to sell at your business, clubs and other forums.
- Organise an event in your workplace or local community.
I can organise for posters, pamphlets and other information to be sent to you.
- Contact your local professional associations or community organisations and encourage them to get involved as well.
- Submit articles in your company or professional association, community publications, newsletters and encourage men to swear the oath.
- Put information in your company’s lunch room and/or pay slips.
I can organise for different types of material that will suit your needs.
- Tweet or Facebook this article.
- Write about White Ribbon Day on your blogs!
Check out more information about White Ribbon Day at www.whiteribbondayqueensland.com.au (or the national site www.whiteribbonday.org.au) or give me a call, I’m more than happy to chat about more ways to be involved in the campaign :)