Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Preventing violence against woman by supporting White Ribbon night

Help raise money by having friends over to discuss how to prevent family violence.

LIBBY PRICE July 17, 2014 3:00am

Supporters of White Ribbon fund raising for prevention of violence against women. Back row - Mick Gaine (community support worker), John O'Loughlin (Support worker Benalla Health), Robert Barber (General Manager Corporate and Community Benalla Rural City Council), Alan Marshal (Senior Constable Benalla Police), Mark Staley (Leading Senior Constable Benalla Police), Front row - Kyohei Fujiie (Home care Odyssey House), Robert Berry (Community member), Neil Stott (Director Community Health), Barbara Alexander (Benalla Mayor), Harry Verbaken (Family violence coordinator Benalla Police), Chris Thorne (Aboriginal Community Development Worker).

With just 10 days to go until White Ribbon Night, the Benalla Family Violence Prevention Network is encouraging more people to register to join the fundraising event on Friday, July 25 to support White Ribbon’s work to prevent violence against women and help drive social change. It’s a night at home with friends to show support for White Ribbon and raise awareness and funds.

White Ribbon ambassador, Benalla Family Violence Prevention Network chairman and Benalla Community Health director Neil Stott said the White Ribbon movement was really starting to make a difference in what he saw as a ‘man’ problem.

‘‘It’s particularly important we have a male providing a lead because men need to talk to men,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s often seen as a ‘woman’ problem — (for example) why didn’t she leave? — but family violence is about power and control ... men behaving very badly towards women to have power in the relationship.’’

Mr Stott is proud he now has 23 people involved in the group, with most of them turning up to every meeting; passionate people responding to a cause.

Since Benalla embraced White Ribbon International Day in 2009, the annual march has grown from about 45 people in the first year to last year’s huge success with more than 200 people gathering in the rose gardens to hear Angela Barker speak. She was left with brain damage after being severely beaten by her then boyfriend in the Benalla Botanic Gardens and left for dead when she was just 16 years old.

‘‘More than a decade after this brutal assault in Benalla, there was a whole generation of kids who’d never heard the story,’’ Mr Stott said.

‘‘She talked about how she just fundamentally failed to understand how he was manipulating her.’’

Benalla has the fourth highest rate of family violence per capita in Victoria, but Mr Stott believes that is due to a steep climb in reports to police.

‘‘We know the message is getting across, that women understand how they’re being manipulated in a relationship and feel empowered to report ... and having confidence in the system. Police have fundamentally changed their approach.’’

Mr Stott believes it’s not just changes to the law, but also the leadership shown within the community that can make a difference.

‘‘Police can’t solve the problem, hence we need a community-led response.’’

The majority of family violence is perpetrated by males aged from 16 to 28.

‘‘They’re growing up without leaders, without male role models, without fathers. There are no boundaries and they don’t know what’s right and wrong,’’ Mr Stott said.

‘‘Something has been lost. How do we get it back?’’

Mr Stott believes the first step is to hold men accountable and to focus on young men at risk who are starting to show violent behaviour.

‘‘It’s about early intervention. Saying to your mate, to your father, to your son, to your uncle, that you’re behaving badly to her and you need to stop and do something about it.

‘‘Collectively we as a community need to speak up, to challenge the behaviour — as silence equals consent.’’

Mr Stott is calling for volunteers to help prepare for this year’s White Ribbon Day which is on November 25 each year.

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