Simon Drumm, the man steering Violence Free Waipā in Te Awamutu since March, says the White Ribbon initiative is mainly about transforming men.
“It is about raising awareness … directing people away from violence, showing them another way,” he said. “A big part of what we see in terms of violence comes from men who feel they have lost their identity. They have lost their sense of purpose and take it out on those closest to them … that is hard to deal with.”
Messages spread through White Ribbon helped raise awareness around these and other issues, he added, and helped empower people to make better decisions. It also helped show the importance of others speaking out when they witness abuse or violence.
The annual White Ribbon campaign aimed at combating domestic violence is set to take place throughout New Zealand at the end of November. The 2020 campaign theme is #outdated. It focuses on how stereotypes often handed down from male role models may appear harmless, but can carry messages with a potentially negative impact. Messages like ‘show them who’s boss’, ‘kids should keep quiet’, or treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ have long been heard, say organisers, but can cause unhealthy attitudes and behaviours. The campaign this year is seeking to promote respectful relationships as an alternative.
The message is spread locally through Violence Free Waipā, a network aimed at combating violence and abuse through education and awareness.
November 25 is White Ribbon Day, an international day when people wear a white ribbon to demonstrate their support for initiatives to reduce domestic violence. It began in Canada in 1991 and was introduced to New Zealand in 2004.
Simon has worked in several industries, including 17 years spent deep-sea fishing. He has been running the Man Up programme locally for several years – a national programme supporting men to be better husbands, fathers and role models. “It’s a brotherhood as much as a group … rather than being about rules, it is about values
He is also involved in various other programmes, some focusing on marriage and parenting and delivered with his wife Audrey.
All have elements that he brings to his role with Violence Free Waipā, particularly as needs increase. “The workload has certainly increased this year, with Covid-19. There has been an increase in violence … people have lost their jobs, there is a lot of stress, and many lack the tools to deal with it.”
Ruth Nicholls, Violence Free Waipa’s anti-violence co-ordinator for Cambridge, said police data for the year to August shows that women make up 90 percent of those violently assaulted by a partner or ex, and 98.6 percent of those sexually assaulted by a partner or ex. “We have the highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world,” she said. “Violence in our communities remains appallingly high. If we are to tackle it, we need to focus on the attitudes that enable young men to think violence is OK.”