Another White Ribbon Day, but will we heed the messages?

“Police got called to 102,000 domestic violence incidents in 2015. 2/3 of which involved children” – Mark Solomon, former Kaiwhakahaere (Chairperson) Ngai Tahu 

Every White Ribbon Day I find myself in two minds about efforts to deal with domestic violence. It stems from a prolonged period of having heard the statistics and the speeches; heard the pledges to take action and been to the rallies against domestic violence.

Let me be clear. All are good and help to put things in perspective. I attend the rally such as the one in Cathedral Square yesterday. I go away, pleased that I had made the effort to show my support and pleased with the turnout and the array of speeches that get made. Dignitaries, the Police and White Ribbon bikers are all there and are acknowledged. All made good speeches.

But at the end of the day I cannot help but wonder whether the current approach is working. Generally speaking the domestic violence figures in New Zealand have not dropped significantly. Other social pressures such as unemployment, earthquake events and living costs have not helped either. And finally, a high rate of immigration that is not being properly planned for means additional pressures will be put on social welfare and support networks, without adequate resourcing and appropriate structuring being done.

I looked around today and I saw that there were organizations who were not there, but should have been. Sport clubs and high schools, where a lot of socializing through the act of having a social gathering after a match or other event, are vastly overlooked parts to a complex jig saw puzzle missing many pieces. So are workplaces – I wondered as I watched people walking through Cathedral Square on their way home how many knew at work that today is White Ribbon Day, and of those that did know, how many cared.

In the end my thoughts about White Ribbon Day in 2016 are dominated by two cases, one in New Zealand and another in Australia (both completely separate). Tony Veitch, a former sports broadcaster in New Zealand admitted one of six charges against him of domestic violence causing injury to his partner, who suffered two ruptured discs in her spine from being thrown down the stairs at their property. Mr Veitch paid his former partner $100,000 in return for not bringing the case to court. Despite paying the fine, doing the nine months supervision and the 300 hours of community service served on him, he has made unfortunate appearances in the media complaining about how his relations with women keep failing and apparently making light of his domestic violence history.

Contrast this totally with the case of Emma Husar (not least because she is the victim), an Australian Labor Member of Parliament who stood before the Australian Federal Parliament and gave a five minute speech about her own brushes with domestic violence. I normally try to be completely dispassionate when judging poltiicians speeches, but this was impossible not to be moved by. She told how her home became a place she was not not safe, how her mother would go back to her abusive husband time and again. She mentioned how she lived above a hotel where things got loud at night and reminded her of the foreign bed she slept in. She said that the last final incident of domestic violence in her life involved 13 police cars turning up. As Ms Husar spoke her hands were trembling. Her voice was breaking, but she stood there and managed to deliver one of the most unforgettable speeches I have seen from a politician of any stripe and certainly the most raw.

Emma Husar was my inspiration in 2016 to continue taking a stand against domestic violence.

Who is yours?

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