News from Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence

Monday, 9 November 2015

How to become a White Ribbon Campaign Ambassador

With the international 16 Days of Action campaign – also known as The White Ribbon Campaign – fast approaching, here we take a look at how two Worcestershire men are making a difference and taking a stand against violence against women and girls.

Name : Michael Conroy-Harris, White Ribbon Ambassador and a Coach for A Call to Men UK.

“Sometimes things happen that seem to wrap what you thought were separate threads of your life together in a way that makes perfect sense afterwards, but which you never saw coming.

“Until barely three twelve months ago I did nothing that wasn't about just getting through the day, working, eating, wishing I could sleep better and moaning about needing more satisfaction out of my days life. Another frustrated middle-aged man. Ideal company.

“I'd kind of lost the plot. A plot in which the opening chapters, the unreliable rear-view mirror told me, were full of fervent beliefs, risk-taking, challenge to what seemed wrong and a sense that the future was up for grabs. Mid-life crisis was in the post and I was a jaded ex-everything. Ex-optimist, ex-questioner, ex-believer in causes.

“Then, somehow, I started to feel the ravelling of threads - if ravelling is the opposite of unravelling. 

“At work - I organise collaborative programmes between groups of schools in the Midlands - two of the many things with which I was involved started, more than usual, to take centre-stage and demand that I made a particular effort, did them 'right'.

“One was promoting the White Ribbon Campaign which encourages men to take a public stand in the fight against violence against women and girls and one was helping get a 'Coaching Healthy and Respectful Masculinity' Programme, run by A Call To Men UK, off the ground.

“At work I spin plates, find grants, link people, and am well used to balancing loads of strands and just being glad that they happen and then moving on to the next. But these two projects just seemed to 'matter' more.

“With a great network of local partners - teachers in schools - The ContinU Trust consortium of Wyre Forest and Hagley - Wyre Forest District Council’s Safer Wyre Forest Partnership and our Community Ambassadors – Year 10 students - we made the White Ribbon - the symbol of the movement that has spread from Canada across the Anglophone world - appear on the lapels of whole bus queues of teenage students, on the aprons of catering staff, the lanyards of cleaners and the suits of school governors and head teachers. We commissioned plays tackling the themes of domestic abuse and controlling relationships and we gathered two thousand pledges from students never to 'commit, condone or remain silent' about violence and abuse. It felt like the right thing to be doing.
“The White Ribbon Campaign's big push – The 16 Days of Action - runs from Wednesday 25 November to Thursday 10 December this year. Normally - for me, if not for them - the day after it ends our materials are packed away, the displays cleared and the next project is under way. On the 11 December last year, instead, I rang the White Ribbon Campaign offices and said 'I want to be a WRC ambassador, year-round'. Simple. In schools we urge students to volunteer and make a contribution to the wider community. I have done years of talking exactly that talk without ever actually walking the walk.

“Before Christmas I was on board and at the end of January I got my first ambassadorial 'posting' - to a fundraising comedy night in Swansea. Rocking up at The Liberty Stadium to see nearly 300 people sporting the ribbons, sticking their hands deep in their pockets and shining a light on the grimly routine annual murder of 120 British women, gave me, strangely, a long-forgotten sense of purpose - this was what I should be doing with my Saturday nights, 100 miles from home! I should be standing up and being counted, connected to other people, struggling for something better. Of course.

“Around the same time A Call To Men UK started to train me and colleagues from schools in the 'Coaching Healthy & Respectful Masculinity' programme. CH & RM is the fruit of collaboration between Kay Clarke, founder of Midlands Domestic Abuse Survivors' group 'Supportworks Foundation' and Tony Porter, inspirational US speaker and Co-founder of A Call To Men (US). Their perseverance and inspirational presentations have won me over to their cause, too, and I am happy to do what I can, within and beyond my day-job, to promote their work. I currently manage their twitter feed which has been a steep and rapid learning curve for a twitter ingĂ©nue. I also deliver the CH & RM programme to some fantastic students that seem to enjoy the discussions – they keep coming back to the voluntary sessions, at least! It’s a privilege to work with these young men and I’m sure they will be ‘change-makers’ of the near future.

“A CALL TO MEN UK’s programme is nationally ground-breaking - a 10 week curriculum for teenage lads, delivered in school, in how to unpick language, media images, historical beliefs and their own attitudes towards women and girls and themselves as developing men.

“A CALL TO MEN UK’s key concept is the Man-box, a mental structure that keeps men and boys trapped in rigidly defined and self-policed versions of masculinity that lead them to disconnect from the experience of women, to undervalue them and to see them as objects. Although most men are well-meaning and not abusive, the shared codes of the man-box transmit a kind of collective nod and wink to abusers. Getting out of the man-box is therefore a key to safer lives for women - and perhaps happier lives for men, into the bargain.

“So here I am - in the space of a year I've gone from moaning about being a little directionless and unsatisfied to volunteering for two organisations that I believe in and which give me energy. In the process I feel like I've rediscovered, in a small way, how I felt as a young man, ready for an uphill slog. I look at my kids when we talk about the man-box or as they help me get the stall ready at a White Ribbon event and I wonder only one thing - why didn't I do any of this before?
Name: Martin Lakeman – Strategic coordinator for domestic abuse and sexual violence, White Ribbon Ambassador.

I have an amazing job and the privilege to work with a range of passionate professionals that strive every day to make a difference to support those suffering abuse, to make a better life and move from being victims to survivors. 

I have held this position for the past three years, a dream job after having completed 32 years with West Mercia Police. I look back at my time in the police with pride and a real sense of achievement. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have loved every day. I ended my career as Detective Superintendent, Head of Public Protection for the force, enabling me to work in partnership to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. An extremely challenging, yet rewarding role. For the past 15 years, I have championed the issue of domestic abuse. It's erosive and destroys families. We all know someone that’s been affected to a lessor or greater degree. The statistics are staggering, and what we know about is only the tip of the iceberg.

Worcestershire has much to be proud of. We have just been awarded National White Ribbon status as a county for our collective work in this area, a significant achievement. The White Ribbon campaign draws attention to abuse in many forms, a subject that we don't want to think or talk about. It makes us feel uncomfortable, but one we need to confront. When I was presenting to White Ribbon, I discovered that Worcestershire makes up 20 per cent of all the national pledges; that’s some statement and recognition of our efforts to raise awareness! But, we need to do more to change attitudes and behaviours. As a father, I want my kids to grow up in a world where people respect each other and value relationships. 

It's strange but extremely rewarding being a man working in an area that is traditionally dominated by women. Recently, I gave a presentation to a group from the Women's Institute and was met with the remark, ‘Oh, we were expecting a woman not a man!’; however, we soon overcame that perception! It’s a privilege to be able to work with women's groups and to make a difference as a man. Every time I listen to the stories of survivors of abuse, it makes me more determined to make that difference, however small. To raise awareness of a crime that destroys lives.
In my spare time I play rugby for Bromsgrove, and have done so for the past 30 years. Once again this year I will be inviting my team mates to join in the campaign and stand together against violence and wear the white ribbon with pride. I have been impressed with the involvement of sporting teams across Worcestershire, from professional basketball players to semi-professional footballers, all young men, who’s attitude has impressed me with reactions such as, ‘A campaign against domestic abuse, I want to get behind that, what can I do?’

Martin Lakeman
Domestic abuse affects both men and women - but is disproportionately committed against women - and as men we need to do something about that. No one should have to suffer in silence, whether you're a man or a woman. The helpline in Worcestershire provides help and support to both men and women. I will wear my ribbon with pride during the forthcoming campaign, as I do throughout the year and encourage others, particularly men, to get involved.  

If you are interested in becoming a Worcestershire White Ribbon Ambassador, call Martin Lakeman on 01905 822 357.

For further information about The Worcestershire Forum Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence please contact Martin Lakeman on 01905 822 357. 

If you're in need of help and support either call the Worcestershire 24 hour domestic abuse helpline on 0800 980 3331 (for both men and women) or Worcestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre's Helpline on 01905 724514. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

New Domestic Abuse Poster

Worcestershire Forum Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence release new domestic abuse poster.  The poster seeks to reach out to those suffering in silence and to re-enforce what domestic abuse is. It is not restricted to physical violence and now includes controlling behaviour. If you need help call the helpline on 0800 913 3331.