Shine a Light on Violence Prevention

20 October 2021 - 1-2 minutes read time
White Ribbon Day (25 November) sees people all over the world show their intolerance of violence towards women. We look at what you can do to support the cause, as well as steps you can take to help break the cycle.

Let’s face facts here. Violence is predominantly a male problem, especially in the home. 

New Zealand has the highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world.1 Every year, there are over 3,500 convictions recorded against men for assaults on women, with police called to investigate over 100,000 family violence incidents annually. 

In addition, an average of 14 women a year are killed by their partners or ex-partners. And one in five women will experience sexual assault or interference at some point in their lives, with New Zealand having the third highest rate of sexual assault anywhere in the world.2

While any form of violence, domestic or otherwise, is unacceptable, it is clear from these figures that change needs to happen, and fast. Which is where White Ribbon Day comes in.

White Ribbon Day
White Ribbon Day, an initiative officially adopted by the United Nations, celebrates the many men who are willing to show leadership and commitment to promoting safe, healthy relationships within families. 

As well as wearing a white ribbon to show support, men are actively encouraged to challenge each other on inherent and abusive male attitudes and behaviour towards women.

Outdated masculinity
Many of the issues start with how we raise our sons. As children, males are still taught, consciously or not, that they must always appear dominant, tough and ‘in charge’. They are told to ‘man up’, bottle up their emotions, be the breadwinner, show their dominance over women, and can often be ridiculed if they break those social norms.

The results can be catastrophic: overcompensation, frustration, mental health issues and, all too often, violence – especially towards women.

How to break the cycle of violence
While much amazing work has already been done on promoting aspects of healthy masculinity and highlighting those outdated male stereotypes, this year the spotlight turns to ‘Shine a Light’ on violence prevention by helping our communities take action.

White Ribbon supports New Zealand men to commit to taking at least one of eight different actions to change their behaviour and show respect to women. They’re a simple blueprint for helping to curb the violence that any man can apply to his own life:

1) Listen and believe women
Make a point of talking to the women in your life about their experience with men. Have they ever been a victim of male violence? Have they ever been made to feel inferior simply for being a woman, or been sexually abused? Listen to what they have to say without question, and try to understand things from a female perspective. How would this kind of treatment make you feel?

2) Reflect and change your own behaviour
Ask yourself how you’ve treated women over your lifetime. Be honest. Have you ever been condescending, patronising, dismissive, overly forceful, or worse? If so, make a point of drawing a line in the sand, and pledge to yourself to be more respectful from now on.

3) Prevent other men being disrespectful
It’s easy to be a bystander when you experience other men being disrespectful or threatening towards women. But doing nothing effectively condones that behaviour, so don’t stand for it. If you hear someone say something disrespectful to women, harass them or tell an inappropriate joke, discourage that behaviour at the time, or later, using non-violent communication. Begin to change the male perception of what is acceptable in our society, and what is certainly not.

4) Treat women as equals
Any respectful relationship is based on treating someone as an equal. And while women are achieving more than ever before – thanks in part to the #MeToo {link} movement – there is still a widespread perception (by no means unfounded) that society still favours men.3 So try to take gender out of the equation, and treat women as you yourself would want to be treated.

5) Redefine your own idea of ‘manly’
Don’t listen to those social norms about what it means to be a man, especially when they adversely affect others. Talk to other men about what they think, and whether you or they know you are acting in a way that is unacceptable, yet almost expected. Taking responsibility for your own actions as an individual is the best way to make a change.

6) Talk to a young man about masculinity
Similarly, try not to instill that toxic masculinity into the next generation. Talk to your son, nephew or another young male about what it truly means to be a man, and whether they themselves feel pressured into acting in a certain way to fit in - especially when it comes to ‘being tough’. 

7) Think about what you watch
Whether we’re aware of it or not, the media we all use and watch can have a massive impact on our social attitudes, and behaviour. So try not to get sucked into a bubble of old-school masculine thinkers. Getting an all-round view including from a female perspective will help you understand and appreciate what others are feeling, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what is being said.

8) Talk to a young man about respectful relationships
Boys especially are sponges when it comes to gender stereotypes, and the first male/female relationship they usually experience is that of their mother and father. So talk about how that relationship works, and how they perceive things within the home. Consider also broaching the subject of pornography, how it disrespects women and does not necessarily reflect a healthy relationship. It may seem a difficult conversation to have, but it could prove a gateway for talking about other emotions too.  


All these behaviours combined will help us to break the cycle of violence towards women, both here in New Zealand and around the world. So, please, do the truly manly thing this White Ribbon Day, and take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions, and those of your male friends and connections – especially the younger ones. Not only will you be doing what’s right, it will also help everyone lead a happier and healthier life.

To find out more about White Ribbon Day 2021 and how you can get involved, visit https://whiteribbon.org.nz/