Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the White Ribbon Campaign! The WRC London blog will be taking a break over the holidays, but wants to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Stopping Prostitution Carders on December 8

Two days ago, on December 8, the White Ribbon Campaign joined the Greater London Authority, the Metropolitan Police, and Eaves to tackle prostitution by tearing down the cards in telephone boxes advertising prostitution. This is an important step in tackling prostitution and trafficking. Prostitution is a form of violence against women. It is also an issue of child abuse as 75% of women in prostitution became involved when they were children (Women's Resource Centre, 2008). The White Ribbon Campaign is proud to be part of this campaign to end prostitution and trafficking.

From L to R: Kit Malthouse (Deputy Mayor for Policing), Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin (MPS Clubs and Vice Unit), and Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland (MPS Clubs and Vice Unit).
Part of the crowd of volunteers and police gathered before dividing up to de-card different areas of Westminster.

Hollywood Speaks Out About Domestic Violence

On Friday November 27, actor Patrick Stewart wrote an article in The Guardian about his experience with domestic violence. His father regularly beat his mother, while a young Patrick Stewart would often force himself between his parents to protect his mother:
Our house was small, and when you grow up with domestic violence in a confined space you learn to gauge, very precisely, the temperature of situations. I knew exactly when the shouting was done and a hand was about to be raised – I also knew exactly when to insert a small body between the fist and her face, a skill no child should ever have to learn. Curiously, I never felt fear for myself and he never struck me, an odd moral imposition that would not allow him to strike a child. The situation was barely tolerable: I witnessed terrible things, which I knew were wrong, but there was nowhere to go for help. Worse, there were those who condoned the abuse. I heard police or ambulancemen, standing in our house, say, "She must have provoked him," or, "Mrs Stewart, it takes two to make a fight." They had no idea. The truth is my mother did nothing to deserve the violence she endured. She did not provoke my father, and even if she had, violence is an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict. Violence is a choice a man makes and he alone is responsible for it.
Fortunately, his father never beat him, but his experience with domestic violence as a child has stayed with him his whole life:

Such experiences are destructive. In my adult life I have struggled to overcome the bad lessons of my father's behaviour, this corrosive example of male irresponsibility. But the most oppressive aspect of these experiences was the loneliness. Very recently, during a falling-out with my girlfriend, I felt again as though I were shut out and alone, not heard or understood. I was neither, but it was such a familiar isolation that it was almost a comfort and consolation.

Then on December 1, Reese Witherspoon gave a speech at the House of Commons about domestic violence (unfortunately, this aspect has been largely overshadowed by the media's attention on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's mix-up of Witherspoon witRenée Zellweger). Witherspoon is a spokesperson for Avon and Refuge's campaign against domestic violence.

Here is a video of Reese Witherspoon on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross (on December 4), talking about the campaign (it starts at 4:48).

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Canadian National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Today is Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Twenty years ago today, on December 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine entered the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and shot twenty-eight people before killing himself. Armed with a (legally obtained) semi-automatic rifle and a hunting knife, Lépine killed 14 women. His suicide note blamed feminists for ruining his life and included a hit list of 19 Quebec women who Lépine viewed to be feminists and wanted to kill.

This was obviously a gender-based crime - an attack on women simply because they were women. When Lépine entered one classroom, he separated the men from the women and then told the men to leave. He asked the remaining women if they knew why they were there; one answered "no" so Lépine said, "I am fighting feminism." He later said, "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists."

In the aftermath of this tragedy, Canadian gun control laws became much more strict. Since 1991, the anniversary of the massacre has been designated the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. That same year, the White Ribbon Campaign was launched by a group of men in London, Ontario, Canada.

The wikipedia entry regarding the Montreal massacre is a good place to start if you want to learn more about this tragic event; there are many useful links to further information.

And so today, we remember the 14 women killed:
  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Re-Launch of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence (CAADV)

On November 30, the White Ribbon Campaign attended the re-launch of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, which was sponsored by the Attorney General's Office and Comic Relief. Attorney General Baroness Scotland QC, spoke at the event, as Chair of CAADV. She said:
Enlightened employers are key partners in this endeavour. With many victims targeted in or around their workplace, it makes sense for employers to be aware of the issues and what they can do.
The White Ribbon Campaign strongly supports the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence and encourages employers to develop policies related to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women in support of their employees.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

MPs Unite in Support of White Ribbon Day

On November 25, White Ribbon Day and the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the White Ribbon Campaign arrived in Parliament to photograph MPs wearing white ribbons. Wearing a white ribbon is a pledge never to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.

We began the day with the Conservative party, taking a group photo as well as individual photos of each MP.

Theresa May, a strong supporter of the White Ribbon Campaign, issued this statement:
I strongly support White Ribbon Day and the White Ribbon campaign. Domestic violence is a horrific crime that far too many women suffer from. We need to do more to prevent domestic violence by ensuring that all of us – government, police, schools, the NHS, and voluntary sector organisations – work together to tackle the root causes of violence and to give support to the vital services that help victims. This will be an important occasion in which we can all join together to speak out against domestic violence.
We also photographed Liberal Democrat MPs throughout the day, all wearing a white ribbon.

Liberal Democrat MPs on College Green.

White Ribbon Director Chris Green and Advocacy & Policy Officer Kaitlin Bardswich with Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson stopped by as well (see previous post), as did Ikram Butt, White Ribbon ambassador and the first Asian to play rugby for England.

Ikram Butt with Labour MPs Neil Turner (R) and Ian McCartney.

The Labour Party was very supportive of the White Ribbon Campaign, gathering for a large group photo as well as individual photos. 

All in all, we photographed 77 MPs from the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties. This was almost twice the number of MPs photographed last year - let's aim to double this number again next year!

Launch of New VAW Government Strategy

On November 24, the White Ribbon Campaign attended the launch of the "Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls" strategy, prepared by the Home Office. Two paragraphs of particular interest to the White Ribbon Campaign are:
10. One under-exploited area of public education is in encouraging men to challenge other men. There is considerable room here for forming coalitions between the many men who eschew violence, but who currently fail to challenge their peers who do not.

11. Much of this work in the UK is currently undertaken by the White Ribbon Campaign, a branch of a global campaign to ensure that men take more responsibility for reducing the level of VAWG. It is an organisation that encourages men to carry out educational work in schools, workplaces and communities. We will work with the White Ribbon Campaign to promote the positive role that all men can play in ending VAWG and build this into our national communication strategy.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP attended the launch and also stopped by the Labour Office yesterday to have his photo taken wearing a white ribbon. Below is a photo of Alan Johnson MP and White Ribbon Director Chris Green.

We look forward to working with the Home Office to help implement this new strategy.

Reclaim the Night 2009 - the Good Stuff

As I said in the last post, on November 21, over 2000 women marched through the streets of London to Reclaim the Night. Led by SheBoom, an all-women drumming group, we march from Whitehall Place, along Trafalgar Square, up Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road until we reached the Camden Centre across from Kings Cross Station. It was a demonstration of female strength, as well as male fortitude in supporting the women's march. Chris Green, director of the White Ribbon Campaign UK, led several men on a separate march through London in solidarity with these 2000 women. It was a rainy night, but that did not quench the enthusiasm of any of the Reclaim the Night supporters, male and female.

After the march, we dried ourselves off inside at the Reclaim the Night Rally, which was organised by the London Feminist Network. Although the march was women-only, the rally, at the Camden Centre, was for anyone and everyone. 

Our friends at Object won the Emma Humphrey's Memorial Prize for a group!

Here you can see the four speakers, moderator, and sign-language translator on the stage.

The speakers at the rally were amazing and truly inspiring. All produced applause throughout their speeches and several invoked standing ovations. Three out of five of the speakers at the rally mentioned the work of the White Ribbon Campaign! Shamsun Nahar said:
Male violence against women and children is not inevitable. Men can take a stand against this and indeed there are examples of men who are doing just that with the White Ribbon Campaign.
Maggie Bremner, of the NASUWT (National Association of Schoomasters Union of Women Teachers) said:
We have also worked to promote and support the work of the White Ribbon Campaign, which is a male led campaign against domestic violence towards women and produces resources for teachers. And a big thank you to the men here tonight supporting us.

Reclaim the Night 2009 - the Bad Stuff

On November 21, over 2000 women marched through the streets of central London to Reclaim the Night. When I arrived at Whithall Place, I was initially surprised to see so many police officers there. I thought, "Do they think we're going to get violent at an anti-violence against women march?"

It didn't take me very long to realize that they were there to protect US. That was scary.

We saw many men (usually in groups) laughing at us as we marched through downtown London, bringing traffic to a standstill. One man stood at the edge of the sidewalk, frowning and staunchly thumbs-downing our march. One lad ran up to us and stuck his behind out, saying something like "don't you want to get some of this?" Another man, more aggressive, started running toward us and yelling "I've been on the other side of that!!" until a police officer stopped him. Of course, there are male victims of violence, but how does that fact make protesting violence against women any less valid or important?

Still, what we saw was nothing compared to what happened to the blogger Noble Savage, who was sexually assaulted during the march:

Last night, I marched through the streets of central London with 2,000 other women and dozens of police escorts, holding a sign that said “End violence against women.”

Last night, I used my voice to chant and shout about sexual violence, unsafe streets and women’s rights.

Last night, when I should have felt at my most powerful, most inspired and safest, I was sexually assaulted.

I had to stop typing there for a minute and make sure I’d written that right and that it wasn’t just a strange dream. But yes, I was sexually assaulted at a march protesting sexual assault. How’s that for irony?

As we came through Leicester Square, a man pushed his way abruptly past the barrier and with one swift movement of his outstretched arm, managed to push me backwards and roughly grab my breasts at the same time. I swung at him with my right hand but he’s already stormed past so I only made contact with the back of his shoulder before he disappeared out the other side and down a side street. My friend Jen and I looked at each other in disbelief and shock. I hadn’t seen him coming until he was centimetres away and before I noticed the arm coming at me, what I undeniably saw was a face riddled with disgust and anger.

He, along with the man who had spit towards us earlier, and the one who had stood on the side shouting “Boo! Boo!” with his thumbs and his mouth turned downwards, and the significant number of men I saw mocking us — laughing, rolling their eyes and grabbing their crotches — were obviously disturbed by our presence. Perhaps we were reminders of violence they had perpetrated themselves, or a catalyst for the potential violence bubbling within them, just beneath the surface, like a nearly-boiled kettle. Maybe they felt threatened by our numbers and our voices and our demands. Maybe they were scared.

But whatever the reasons for their animosity, they will never know what it’s like to be scared of being humiliated and violated, in public, by people who feel they have a right to our bodies, our smiles, our time and our compliance. They will never know what it’s like to trade stories, with friends of the harrassment, abuse, assault and violence nearly each and every one of us has experienced, some of us in many different ways. They will never understand that we call these ‘war stories’ because every day is a battle and we are tired of feeling like soldiers, fighting off an enemy that has the better, more powerful weapons. They will never experience life and humanity the way we experience life and humanity because their view is unobstructed. They stand on the shoulders and backs of so many people, so many women, to survey their kingdom and claim rights to us, its spoils, with indifference and greed.

The London Office has arrived!

White Ribbon supporters,

We have officially started our London office! We are located at the Hub, Islington, a supportive environment of like-minded activists. This is an exciting time for the White Ribbon Campaign as we expand our organisation and therefore our impact across England and Wales. This blog is written by the London office to highlight its achievements; please visit for information and news of our work across the country.

This is the first day in the office and we have already achieved a lot. We've attended the Reclaim the Night Rally, taken photos of 80 MPs in Parliament on White Ribbon Day (November 25), and attended the launch of the Young Muslim Offenders Mentoring Programme. We also attended the re-launch of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence with Comic Relief and the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland. On November 24, we were present for the Government's launch of the new Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy at the Home Office. In this strategy, the Home Office pledges to work with the White Ribbon Campaign "to promote the positive role that all men can play in ending VAWG (violence against women and girls) and build this into our national communication strategy."

With all of this already happening, it's going to be an exciting new year for the White Ribbon Campaign!