Take a stand against violence

White Ribbon Forum: chat with the experts

SUNDAY is White Ribbon Day which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It's a timely reminder to all of us to take a stand and do something about it.

As an ambassador for White Ribbon Day I encourage the Ballarat community to show its support for the event.

White Ribbon Day will be marked in Ballarat by a series of activities including the walk against violence, selling of white ribbons at the gates before the Ballarat Cup and projections onto the Town Hall to raise community awareness.

We cannot underestimate how big a challenge we face. In Victoria, it is an unfortunate reality that male intimate partner violence is found to be the leading contributor to death, disability and illness for women aged between 15 and 44.

The history behind WRD is equally chilling. On December 6, 1989, a young man walked into the Ecole Polytechnique University in Montreal, Canada, and massacred 14 of his female classmates. His actions traumatised a nation and highlighted the issue of violence against women around the world.

Two years later a group of men in Toronto launched Canada's White Ribbon campaign. It was to become an annual violence-against-women campaign held between November 25 and December 6, the anniversary of the massacre.

In 1999, the United Nations General Assembly declared November 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with a white ribbon as its symbol.

WRD began in Australia in 2003. It is Australia's only national, male-led, violence prevention campaign.

The Ballarat WRD committee is one of the strongest and most active groups in the country and I was honoured to be asked to become a White Ribbon ambassador in 2008.

As a White Ribbon ambassador I have sworn an oath never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

By wearing a white ribbon we are making a visible statement to the community that we will not commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women. By having men as WRD ambassadors, it invites men to stand up in their community and say no to violence against women.

The statistics will shock you.

The Personal Safety Survey is a survey of 16,400 Australians aged 18 years and over conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Findings from this survey show that from the age of 15 years:

40 per cent of women had experienced physical and/or sexual violence;

29 per cent had experienced physical assault; and

nearly one in five had experienced sexual assault.

But this is more than just a story about statistics. This is about our sisters, our wives, our mothers, our daughters and our friends.

We all have strong women in our lives, but this isn't about that. Violence against women isn't restricted by wealth, status or personality. All women can be at risk.

Violence by men against women has to stop, it is simply reprehensible. But it is men who have to stop it. We have to speak up and step in when we witness violence against women.

We have to condemn the unacceptable actions of a few men and impose the will of the greater collection of good men. To be successful we need men to speak out.

Today is an opportunity for everyone in the Ballarat community to show their support for this cause.

I urge you to make yourself aware of the issue and the local activities by visiting www.ballaratwhiteribbonday.com.au

Don't be afraid to stand up and confront this issue.

John Fitzgibbon is an ambassador for White Ribbon Day and the Liberal Party candidate for the federal seat of Ballarat.

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The Courier will today host an online forum discussing domestic violence and violence against women with three experts. Log on to this website from 12.30pm.

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