Today is White Ribbon Day. For those who don’t know it, White Ribbon is Australia’s only national, male-led campaign to end men’s violence against women.
It’s a cause that is very close to my heart. I’ve written in the past about my experience (which you can read on the Mamamia site here ) and I’m not going to rehash the details of it here. Instead, this post is about how, not just on this day or just for this cause but ALL THE DAMN TIME, we should be instilling in our sons respect for women and an absolute intolerance for violence if they see it displayed by their mates. My husband and I wrote this together as we feel so strongly about raising our son to be respectful of women.
White Ribbon is all about encouraging and empowering men to stand up to their mates – taking an oath to not tolerate violence against women and to actually say something about it. In my experience, if one (JUST ONE!) of my ex’s mates had taken the time to ask me if I was ok, or said something to him about it, it would have made the world of difference to me. I still get emotional just thinking about how alone I felt.
One woman dies EVERY SINGLE WEEK in Australia as a result of intimate partner violence. I thought the same as many of you are probably thinking – it won’t happen to me, I’d just leave straight away if it ever did, it’s not that hard to get away, I’m educated, strong and successful so it’ll never be me…well, it can and it did, and I’m here to tell you it usually happens to those women you least expect it to. I count myself lucky every single day that I got up the courage to leave when I did, even though I had nowhere to go and not a cent to my name.
Where I’m at now is the polar opposite to that relationship. Nearly five years on, I’ve worked hard to rebuild my career and am married with a six month old son. I couldn’t be happier. My boys are my world. My husband is a big softy – caring, genuine and intelligent with not a single violent bone in his body. I’m grateful every single day that we found each other.
But not just that, I’m also grateful for the journey I’ve been on the last five years. Rebuilding my life from scratch certainly wasn’t easy. It took a few years of soul searching and living life (sometimes acting up and, I’m sure, not being a very ‘whole’ person to be around) to be ready for another relationship. I volunteered with White Ribbon for the first time two years ago as a spokesperson and, while very nerve-wrecking, I hoped that putting my story out there like that would empower even just one woman in a similar situation to get up the courage to leave. I had women write to me saying that hearing all about my story made a huge difference to them, and I’m so happy that I could help.
I hope to be able to teach our little man that women are to be respected and not put down. That being a gentleman is the nicest thing in the world, and that kindness and caring goes a long way. To never, EVER raise his hand or fist in violence. Idealistic, yes, and I know it won’t be easy. But, as the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars,” right?
Here’s my husband’s thoughts:
I never used to be aware of the true consequences of domestic violence. When I met my wife, she shared with me her previous relationship and the pain and suffering she had been through at the hands of someone who thinks of himself as a ‘man’. No male – big, small, young or old – can ever be called a ‘man’ if he physically hurts a woman or child.
During our wedding I spoke in front of our friends and family – including some staunch men, some big ‘units’ – about my promise to my wife to never cause fear, pain or suffering in our lives. I looked around the room at the men I know and love, and tears were running down their faces. It made me certain that any man I call a friend would never condone or participate in anything that would make a woman or child fear them.
But, how do I teach my son that women need to be treated as equals, with respect and adulation? How do I show him in the home that fear is not a tool to get what you want? Can I explain properly that we should all treat others as we would like to be treated?
I am only human. I have many flaws. I argue with my wife and on occasion we shout during arguments – not loud, but to emphasise a point. That is a relationship.
But how do we minimise that in our home? We talk. We talk about our problems, our fears and our love for each other. I believe in open communication and teaching my son that being emotional is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. I want everyone he meets to know he is a man. I want the women in his life to know he is their protector. He will show them how he feels. He will say when he feels angry. He will cry when he is hurt. And he will never cause pain and fear in anyone – male, female, young or old.
I cannot sit him down and teach him these things, I can only hope that the way I conduct myself shows him what it means to be a man. I am not the definitive man – I cry, I overthink and I complain a lot. I don’t hide my emotions, but I’m not ashamed of that and, I hope, neither will he be.
I can only hope that he can learn these lessons from me, and he can pass them onto his children. I hope that the women in his life never know the pain that far too many women in Australia have experienced. I am proud to show my friends and peers where I stand on violence against women and one day my son will too.
So, from both of us, please share this post today and let people know where you stand. Say ‘no’ to violence against women and take action.
Today, on November 25th, Australians will send the biggest social media message in history, to put a stop to violence against women
Join the campaign at whiteribbon.org.au