Male students and community members stepped up to become White Ribbon Day ambassadors last week .
Male students and community members stepped up to become White Ribbon Day ambassadors last week — promising never to commit or remain silent about violence against women.
In a ceremony organised by the Goulburn Valley Family Violence Prevention Network, Academy of Sport Health and Education students and six selected community members took the anti-violence oath at Shepparton’s Senior Citizens’ Hall on Wednesday ahead of White Ribbon day, which was yesterday.
GV Family Care men’s program leader Wayne Harris, who hosted Wednesday’s ceremony, said it sent an important signal to create positive attitudes and behaviours towards women.
‘‘It’s a problem in our community and it is rising,’’ Mr Harris said.
‘‘We are aware of it — and we are reporting it more, but it is still happening,’’ he said.
His views were backed up by Shepparton police Sergeant Ross Fifoot, a member of the newly-formed Designated Family Violence Unit, and one of the new White Ribbon ambassadors who took the oath on Wednesday.
‘‘We need to create awareness and change people’s attitudes and culture,’’ Sgt Fifoot said. He said police now had a ‘‘zero tolerance’’ policy towards family violence.
‘‘An assault at home is the same as an assault in the street,’’ he said.
He said Shepparton police’s family violence unit would concentrate on repeat offenders.
‘‘We find we are continually going to the same addresses — we are going after the recidivist perpetrators of violence,’’ he said.
Sgt Fifoot said reports of family violence in Shepparton doubled from 55 in October last year to 101 in the same month this year.
‘‘This is probably because of a rise in awareness and reporting, but also unfortunately there is also a rise in violence, too,’’ he said.
He said his unit was heading into the traditionally busy holiday period.
‘‘January is the peak month of the year for family violence — people spend more time at home and there are financial pressures after Christmas,’’ he said.
He said during the calendar year until January 2012 there were 551 reports of family violence in Shepparton.
‘‘But we know that 80 per cent is unreported, so you can work out how much is actually happening,’’ he said.
Other community members who took the White Ribbon oath on Wednesday were: City of Greater Shepparton councillor Michael Polan, solicitor Luke Slater, ASHE manager Phil Guthrie, UnitingCare Cutting Edge’s Diversity Project worker Damien Stevens and News journalist John Lewis.
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