Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a day created by the United Nations in order to end ongoing brutality and discrimination against women.
The UN describes it as one of “the most devastating human rights violations”, a statement confirmed by data taken from 87 countries between 2005 – 2016 that found 19% of women between 15 and 49 years of age had experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
White Ribbon provides support for victims around the world, including in Australia and New Zealand. The campaign was initially created in Canada 26 years ago in response to a massacre of 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.
Earlier this year, a local White Ribbon advocate shared her story of abuse with MiNDFOOD. “At no time did I ever think I’d be involved in a domestic violence situation,” says Penelope Twemlow. “I was a member of the defence force and a trained police officer. I was trained in military self-defence, I hunted the bad guys down, but the minute the situation became personal, I lost all ability to defend myself. I was also embarrassed because I did not see it coming.”
Twemlow now helps individuals, organisations and workplaces better understand gender equality, which has long been thought to have a direct connection to violence against women.
Simon Earle, a White Ribbon ambassador, says we all need to get on board. “It’s easy to dismiss men’s violence against women as “not my problem” if you’re not personally affected, but in New Zealand, a quarter to a third of women will experience physical violence at the hands of a partner or sexual violence – “It’s everyone’s problem,” he says.
If you are experiencing domestic violence and need assistance, call It’s Not OK on 0800 456 450 or visit areyouok.org.nz.