Reader’s request: White Ribbon Day
In 2006, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team was on a road trip to Boston when pitcher Brett Myers was arrested on domestic violence charges.
There were witnesses who saw Myers hit his wife in the face. But Myers was chosen to play just one day later because, as the team’s general manager Pat Gillick explained: “He’s our best pitcher.”
Nine years on, can we say things have improved that much?
ESPN continues to indulge sports commentator Stephen A. Smith who, among many foot in mouth moments, has advised women: “Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions”.
Celebrities only stopped going to Floyd Mayweather’s fights when he retired from the ring. The turnout for his bout against Manny Pacquiao earlier this year looked more like an Oscars party.
Just by being there, they confirmed for Mayweather that, in or out of the ring, no one can touch him.
And we wonder why women keep getting beaten.
Here in Australia, the economic cost of violence against women and their children is estimated at $15.6 billion a year. That’s more than the nation’s dairy industry is worth. Think about that when you’re whitening your coffee.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children. It causes more preventable ill health and premature death in women under the age of 45 than any other risk factor, including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.
Then there are the costs beyond measure, the lives of 78 women extinguished by the men supposed to love them. Here in Australia, this year, so far.
How do we as a society tolerate this?
Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, whose abusive ex-husband killed their son Luke, launched White Ribbon Week in Blacktown this week. It’s a Sydney suburb with a higher rate of domestic violence than most. Batty lamented the lack of men at the function.
She’s got a point. It’s enough that so many women have to endure the violence, risk being discredited in court or take the most dangerous step of all, and leave.
Surely the rest of us can take the time to stand beside them, to assure them it’s not their fault, to take the blame and shame they have internalised and place it back on the perpetrators.
That’s what happens when you bring domestic violence out from behind closed doors. You break down the four walls abusers build around it. You bring another voice into the equation, hopefully enough of them to drown out that one voice that has convinced a woman she’s worthless.
Fortunately, those voices are being heard, in increasing volume, right around the world.
Today is White Ribbon Day.
There’s an oath you can take at this website, a simple pledge that you will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.
It’s strangely empowering to take this simple step.
It would be great if we could simply tell men to stop beating women. We can start by modelling the kind of behaviour we expect in a civil society and calling out that which is unacceptable.
We can start by ending the silence around domestic violence.
This is how we stop enabling men who beat women.