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How the demise of White Ribbon will affect domestic violence campaigning

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Anti-domestic violence group White Ribbon has been suffering financial strife due to lack of sponsorships (Screenshot via YouTube)

A charity organisation aimed at fighting domestic violence has gone, but it had been criticised as being ineffective in its aim, writes Noely Neate.

ON 3 OCTOBER 2019, so-called anti-domestic violence charity White Ribbon Australia went into voluntary administration. White Ribbon was the darling of politicians and business executives with its flashy breakfasts and lunches to “raise awareness” of respecting women and eliminating men’s violence against women. They had a pretty little white ribbon that these people could wear on their lapel and even an “oath” that could be taken.

The PR opportunities were great and, of course, all these politicians and business types could pat themselves on the back showing they cared about domestic violence.

This mob were so influential with the people that matter, that International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women ended up being rebranded “White Ribbon Day”, even though this charity talked a lot but, in reality, didn’t walk much when it came to helping domestic violence.

What is probably most galling was the politicians speaking at these White Ribbon lunches would mutter platitudes, receive a rousing round of applause, all sanctioned and approved by White Ribbon, of course. But there wouldn't be one utterance of the fact that the particular politicians they were giving gratitude to had cut millions from domestic violence organisations and the services that actually support victims of domestic violence like shelters and community/women’s legal services.

For those of us sitting at home, seeing White Ribbon enable these types was beyond galling.

Remember the Queensland abortion debate, when White Ribbon removed their support for reproductive rights from their website because “we are agnostic until our stakeholders tell us it is important to most of them”? After being reminded that their “stakeholders” should have been the actual women whom they were supposedly raising awareness of violence against, they reinstated ‘all women should have complete control over their reproductive and sexual health’ on their website.

That was not the first time they courted controversy where women were wondering what they stood for. They would have their White Ribbon Ambassadors, though if any of those men made erroneous comments on radio or the like, they were never removed as Ambassadors. In fact, White Ribbon would turn around and more likely use the scandal as a way to promote their “education” programs. If you were a celebrity who had a “woman problem”, White Ribbon was the place to go and have your brand rehabilitated.

Probably what I found most offensive about White Ribbon was how much money and air time they sucked up from this very important charity sector. Both Federal and State Governments seem to think addressing domestic violence is just too hard and most have cut funding to services and organisations who actually support DV victims. Yet, these same people could wear their white ribbon proudly.

Businesses love the old white ribbon, too. Why donate that tax refundable donation to a refuge or shelter when you could toss it to White Ribbon and get nicer photos for the glossy PR?

White Ribbon has always seemed to be more about their own brand and their place than actually ever assisting domestic violence victims and improving attitudes, they were “style over substance”.

According to Destroy The Joint, 71 women were killed in 2018 and we are up to 44 women killed so far this year.

Our Watch has some horrifying facts and figures on domestic violence, here are just a few examples:

  • On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
  • One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
  • One in six Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by current or former partner.
  • One in four Australian women has experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner.

I urge you to visit the Our Watch website for the full list of key facts; it is disturbing.

All those “awareness-raising” breakfasts really have not made a material difference in the lives of women who have been affected or killed by male violence, but several men have been able to feel good about themselves doing a White Ribbon course, pinning that ribbon on their lapel or attending a breakfast event.

Whatever will politicians, in particular, do now that maybe we can reclaim International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November and wearing a White Ribbon at breakfast will no longer be good enough PR to shield them from addressing domestic violence seriously?

I know it is out of the box, but actually funding DV services might be a good start.

If you really want to help domestic violence victims as a male, just be a decent human being yourself and call out others when they are misogynistic.

If you are in the position to donate funds, find a local shelter in your area and give accordingly. If you don’t have one, then maybe lobby for one. Or you can always find out what organisations are assisting DV victims, either support services or legal services, in your own backyard and donate to them. If you are unsure, put a call out on your favourite form of social media, you will very quickly be told what services in your area are desperate for support.

I, for one, am glad White Ribbon will cease to exist. Now, let us agitate for governments at all levels to start taking this scourge of violence against women seriously. No more “buying of indulgences”, we want action.

Read more from Noely Neate on her blog YaThink?, or follow her on Twitter @YaThinkN.

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