Today is White Ribbon Day – a global movement to end men’s violence against women by engaging with men and boys to make a stand against violence.
The key message behind the day is for all men to fulfil the White Ribbon Promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women and to individually and collectively take action and change behaviour. Safe and Sound, Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, and Derby County Community Trust (DCCT) are holding a Bondholder event today at Pride Park which will highlight the importance of businesses and individuals signing up to be part of the White Ribbon Campaign.
Both organisations were key players in the Safe Derby initiative earlier this year alongside Derby City Council and Community Action Derby thanks to Home Office funding secured by Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner. The Safe Derby campaign incorporated many different elements ranging from self defence classes and setting up a network of Safe Places in the city centre to promoting for importance of men being allies of women and improving CCTV and lighting in public places.
The overarching objective was to prevent, tackle and challenge violence against women and girls in public places and signal Derby’s zero tolerance towards, and promotion of a city free from, gender- based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation.
Here, Simon Carnall, Head of Community at DCCT, and Tracy Harrison, CEO of Safe and Sound discuss why tackling violence against women and girls must continue to be an issue at the top of everyone’s agenda.
Tracy Harrison explains: “It is a sad reflection of society that women and girls fear and experience various types of violence in public spaces, from unwanted sexual remarks, to touching, to rape and serious violence. It happens on streets, in and around public transportation, in schools and workplaces, in public toilets and parks. Violence is just as prevalent in the home as it is in public places and a recent Derbyshire police report highlighted that one in five women in the county have been victims of sexual assault or attempted assault and 20% of women aged 16 to 24 have experienced stalking.
This is simply not acceptable and the Safe Derby campaign earlier this year was an important starting point to raising wider awareness of the issue and to empower everyone in our local communities to play their part in tackling gender-based violence. We were keen to be part of Safe Derby which had three key strands of prevention, awareness and action and be involved in the wider campaign to bring violence against women and girls to the top of the agenda. From our experience as a specialist child exploitation charity, young girls are particularly vulnerable to online grooming, sexual exploitation, trafficking, modern slavery, radicalisation and increasingly grooming by drugs gangs running County Lines.
We support more than 200 young people every year who are victims of or at risk of child exploitation as well as their wider families and see first-hand the devastating effects of both online and in person grooming and abuse. A key aspect of our grassroots work across the city and county is to raise awareness amongst local communities of the dangers facing young people regardless of their sex, age, where they live, family background or culture with a robust call to action that concerns must be reported. On this, White Ribbon Day, we specifically call on men to take on board the message of the campaign that ‘enough is enough’. All men can bring an end to violence against women by being aware and taking steps to call out abusive and harassing behaviour when they see it.
Research shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping inappropriate behaviour and even sexual assault before it happens. Individuals with problematic behaviour are more likely to think their behaviour is normal or acceptable if no one confronts it, and this can often be reinforced by cultural messages. By reinforcing messages about unacceptable behaviour, we put pressure on people to re-think their behaviour and you can do this by being an active bystander.
Campaigns such as this are an essential tool in raising awareness, however, they need to be backed up with funding for preventative work, especially in schools, so that there can be lasting culture change. As part of Safe Derby, we therefore devised a schools workshop programme entitled ‘I Can I Will’ which highlights the impact of peer on peer abuse and empowers young people to speak out if they seeing something wrong. This was piloted with year six pupils at a number of primary and junior schools in the city and we continue to deliver this with many more schools across the city and county. It is important for children and young people to be aware from an early age that emotional bullying can be just as damaging as physical harm and the need to challenge inappropriate behaviours. Peer-on-peer or child on child abuse can be motivated by perceived differences including on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other differences. It can result in significant, long lasting and traumatic isolation, intimidation or violence for the victim as well as the perpetrator who themselves can be facing violence and disruption in their lives.
These issues obviously need to be discussed in a way that is appropriate for children aged ten and 11 so the workshops very much focus on the positive elements of being active bystanders – looking after each other, speaking up when you see something wrong and reporting incidents or concerns. As a charity, we are no strangers to addressing the taboo subjects that have been hidden or ignored in the past. I recognise that talking opening about violence against women and girls is an uncomfortable discussion but it is vital that we all open our eyes to what is far too prevalent in our society.
I also want everyone to think about the way that victims are often, overtly or subliminally ‘blamed’ for what happens to them – perhaps for how they have acted, how much they had to drink or what they are wearing.
The simple fact is that no girl or women deserves to be assaulted, intimidated or harassed – whether at work, home or in a public place. I therefore implore everyone to sign up to the White Ribbon Campaign and for companies and organisations to go the step further by becoming a White Ribbon Accredited which clearly states a zero tolerance to abuse, harassment and intimidation.”
Simon Carnall, Head of Community at Derby County Football Club, added:
“In line with #TheGoal campaign, as a football club, we stand steadfastly behind the White Ribbon’s objectives, to end male violence towards women. “#TheGoal is aiming to bring men and boys together to think about how they can make a positive difference to achieve equality and safety for women and girls, in line with domestic abuse rates typically rising in line with major football tournaments. “This builds on the considerable work delivered under the Safe Derby umbrella, by organisations across the city, which we’re delighted to be a part of. “Through focusing on education we can start to incite real change, and coupling education with meaningful role models means the next generation of boys and men will ensure that perceptions and expectations are changed irrevocably.” The campaign is specifically highlighting eleven traits and characteristics that men and boys can nurture, each representing a player in a football team. It calls on the need to shift expectations that violent and abusive behaviour and attitudes are normal and cannot be changed. All men and boys can commit to equality and safety for women and girls to live the lives they want to lead without fear of violence.
“In light of the questions raised by this year’s World Cup in relation to women and girls’ rights, we are more committed than ever to keep equality, diversity and inclusion at the top of our agenda, to ensure we are encouraging important questions and conversations. “We are proud to be an affiliate White Ribbon organisation, and implore other businesses and charities to pledge their support too.”
For more information visit https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk/organisations