16 November 2023
The White Ribbon
Gauri Taylor-Nayar is a Local Preacher and an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate. White Ribbon Day on 25 November, also the day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, is the start of 15 days of action. Gauri shares this blog.
You can find organisations that offer support at the bottom of the page.
Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence are gendered crimes, meaning that most victims are female. The crime survey for England and Wales reveals that 1.7 million women reported domestic abuse crimes in a six-month period. A year’s data would put this figure close to 3 million. This, combined with the fact that more than 70% of domestic abuse incidents go unreported, makes this a gendered crime of pandemic proportions.
Violence towards women by men is deeply embedded within our society and stems from misogyny and sexism, which in turn create excuses for coercive and controlling behaviours. These sinister behaviours in turn, make it difficult for women to be believed and supported and hence the reason that many women do not report them.
Sadly, these behaviours are not exempt from our churches, and there is a desperate need for transparency and honesty to identify and challenge the patriarchy that still exists from pew to pulpit. There is also a need to allow bystanders to have a voice in reporting concerns, and do away with the old adage of ‘don’t get involved, its none of your business’. It is our business, in fact it is everyone’s business, for remaining silent contributes to the death of almost two women a week in the UK at the hands of a man.
Violence against women and girls comes in many forms, including harassment, rape, sexual assault, murder, honour-based abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse and coercive control and costs the country approximately £176 million in mental healthcare alone. Safelives cites the cost of domestic abuse as a government figure of £66 billion a year.
Nearly all forms of violence have coercive control as their basis.
“If we’re waiting to see acts of violence, we have missed 98% of coercive control already experienced’. Professor Evan Stark.
That means that if you are looking for a black eye or a broken rib, you are only looking for 2% of the damage from domestic abuse.
Coercive Control became a crime in 2015, despite it being exemplified in the 1944 movie ‘Gaslight’ with Ingrid Bergman (and a very young Angela Lansbury!)
The fact that it is still apparent and relevant in today’s world is indicative of flawed systems where coercive control is so deeply steeped into our societal systems that any remedy would need to go as deep.
Sadly, taboo, ignorance and that famous “stiff upper lip” all create barriers to eradication.
How many times do you use these phrases:
- ‘Boys will be boys’ - implies that there is only one way to be a male and by omission only one way to be female. It allows boys to be rough and improper. The actual Latin phrase was children will be children and will do childish things.
- ‘Rule of thumb’ – if the stick was no wider than your thumb - it was OK to beat your wife with it.
- Hysterical - The Greek word hystera means womb, which only women have and therefore it is mainly women who can be described as hysterical.
Intimate terrorism - “It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self. It is not just women’s bodily integrity which is violated but also their human rights”. Evan Stark
How many of us women have been taught that if a man shows us attention that we act coy and flirtatious, fluttering eyelashes and giggling. Whereas if any woman shows interest in a man, she is labelled as forward and other negative words that are perhaps not befitting of a church website (but its ok to label women with them)
“If you alter your behaviour because you are frightened of how your partner will react, you are being abused.” Sandra Horley
The White Ribbon is a campaign that exists to educate men about all forms of violence against women and aims to empower men to become leaders, drivers, allies, and agents of change to end men’s violence against women.
Men are just as wary of male violence as women. If you as a male were standing in a crowd whether it be at football or a concert and men started chanting obscene or incendiary insults, what would you do? Most men would turn away rather than confront male hostility.
This male aggression perpetuates a fear that resounds throughout society from all genders, and this fear silences peopled which then empowers misogynistic and coercive behaviour.
The white ribbon is a global campaign (started in 1989 in Canada) and to date has around 60 countries embracing its strategy, and here in the UK it is the leading charity engaging men and boys to end violence against women.
The white ribbon pledge is:
‘I will wear a White Ribbon as a personal pledge and I have made the White Ribbon Promise, never to use, excuse or remain silent about men's violence against women and girls.
White Ribbon Day is about raising awareness of the scale of VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) in our society and acquiring knowledge and understanding of how to end it.
The pledge is about renewing the commitment to do this.
1 John 3:18 - Let us love, not in word or speech but in truth and action!
I am a local Preacher for the Methodist Church and for the last 7 years, I have delivered a service commemorating the White Ribbon Campaign. I aim to empower the men within the Methodist church here in South Wales to take an active stand against VAWG and to show that they are taking it, for actions speak louder than words. This action goes a long way to building trust within females, that they are believed, not only by women but by men too. The action of standing and pledging tells women, that it is OK to report such crimes, that the world, on the whole is good and that the men who take this pledge are to be trusted.
I, myself am an IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advocate) or DAP (Domestic Abuse Practitioner), and consider myself a feminist, why then would I deliver such a service focussed on men? surely that would suggest that there are cracks in my feminist loyalty?
For me, this is NOT a finger pointing exercise, nor does it subscribe to any blame culture.
It is my profound belief that unless we start working together, whatever gender we are, we will never eradicate violence towards women and girls.
The emphasis is on the word ‘TOGETHER’.
This work must be done by all of us, throughout society and throughout our cultures.
This work must be done to restore the equality of the Kingdom that we believe in, where we are all called equally and in equity.
Isaiah 43:1: I have called you by your name, you are mine
During the service I encourage and empower men to stand and take the pledge.
I also ask the women to stand, to show that there is no division, that we are all working to the same hopeful outcome
Hope is one of the Theological virtues….one of the things a Christian is meant to do
C.S Lewis (Mere Christianity)
And then lastly, I ask everyone to stand in silence as we share the list of women killed this year at the hands of a man. The list is compiled by Karen Ingala Smith of the Femicide Census, the leading articulation of men’s fatal violence against women in the UK. Jess Phillips reads out this list to the MPs in Westminster every year.
So far this year, at least 78 UK women and girls aged 13 and over have been killed in circumstances in which a man or men are the primary suspect.
At every White Ribbon service I do, there is help available for those who want to find out more, or talk about any of the issues that they might have heard. Ask Me Ambassadors are trained in signposting and raising awareness and will also be in attendance.’
The White Ribbon Service in Cardiff will be hosted by St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Birchgrove at 10.45am on 26 November 2023. If you would like to watch online, you can request details by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner will be present for the service, as will representatives from Cardiff City Council and Housing Justice.
Welsh Women’s Aid helpline: 0808 80 10 800
Working in Wales to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women. www.welshwomensaid.org.uk
Support for Christian survivors of domestic abuse.