Lewisham marks White Ribbon Day


Jeremy Burton. Photo: Joanna Lowy

Boroughs along the East London line this week joined a worldwide campaign to end violence by men against women.

Information stalls were set up in Lewisham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and Croydon, to mark White Ribbon Day, which happens annually on 25 November.

Police, local politicians and domestic violence services offered advice and support. Organisers also offered information and advice to men who are violent towards women.

Councillor Alan Laing, Hackney cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: “Domestic violence is a crime that often remains behind closed doors, unseen and under-reported.”

Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “I think it is incredibly important for people to show their support for the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC), especially men. We need to show that violence against women is unacceptable.”

White Ribbon Day was started in 1991 to mark the second anniversary of one man’s massacre of 14 women in Montreal. In 1999 the United Nations declared it the “international day for the elimination of violence against women,” and the UK branch of the WRC was started in 2004. The white ribbon has become a symbol for this, and it now remains the largest effort in the world by men working to end violence against women.

Each year boys and men wear a white ribbon for one or two weeks, starting on White Ribbon Day. It is a personal pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.

Frank Mullane, founder of Advocacy after Fatal Domestic Abuse, believes the campaign makes a real difference. His sister, Julie Pemberton, was killed along with her son by her husband in 2003.

“Campaigns like this raise awareness and help people see how many vulnerable people are around us,” he said. “It can also raise the consciousness in a community so that others step in and help.”

According to Met police figures released this year, domestic violence in Lewisham, Hackney, and Tower Hamlets, has decreased. However, the four boroughs combined have had a reported 8,921 domestic crime incidents over the last year. Overall, domestic crime has increased across London by 2.7 per cent.

Lewisham borough police commander, Jeremy Burton, suggested the increase is partly down to campaigns like this, because it encourages more people to report incidents they might not have felt comfortable doing before. “Campaigns like this raise awareness and seek to reduce crimes and protect the vulnerable,” he said.

Despite the campaign’s emphasis on male-dominated violence, David Eggins, manager of Temper! Domestic Violence, believes more should be done to include men and children when trying to prevent domestic violence.

“I wouldn’t want to knock anything which attempts to stop violence,” he said, adding that research suggests “the focus needs to be on children rather than just women.”

Kellie Williams, community safety officer for Lewisham, said that despite the main emphasis of the day being on female victims, they run lots of other campaigns that deal with both male victims and children. Mr Burton agreed, saying “sadly, women are statistically the biggest victims, but it doesn’t mean we take our eyes off the ball in other areas.”

Mahad Addullahi, 35, a resident from Lewisham, said: “I think it gets people to know about it – they will support it and make a difference.”

A resident in her fifties, who wanted to remain anonymous, is pleased with the changing times: “It’s a bit late for people like us, but it will make a difference for younger generations,” she said. “There will be no more hiding under the stairs. It used to be a taboo subject, but now it’s out in the open.”

To find out more about helping put an end to male violence against women go to www.whiteribboncampaign.co.uk.

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