White Ribbon Day 2013 – Dr Jackie Blue

Jackie Blue

Jackie Blue is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, former MP and mother of two girls

From the outside I had everything going for me. I was a young GP. I had great friends and a loving family. My boyfriend had just moved in with me.

But the reality was far from fairy tale. I will never forget the day that finally spurred me to call the Police. We’d been at a friend’s barbecue. It was something as small as people asking me about my job. That set him off. As we drove into our carport, he started hitting me as hard as he could. That was the last time.

For two years I was in a violent relationship. It wasn’t every week or every day. It was random and unpredictable. He’d belittle me and put me down. I felt too ashamed to ask for help. That was the great irony of my life. As a doctor, I was there to help people with their problems, but I couldn’t even help myself.

That’s the sad and brutal reality for too many women. Just over a week ago I joined with thousands of others to march against sexual violence in the wake of the Roast Busters scandal. Unfortunately, that case is not an isolated incident. As I was write this media are reporting that a woman was stabbed in Lower Hutt and a Northland man was convicted of 39 sex and violence charges spanning two decades.

One in three women will experience partner violence at some point in their lives. Only 20 per cent ever report it. This should not be tolerated. We have all the evidence and research. We know what works. We need action.

We have some excellent initiatives like the violence intervention programmes running in hospitals across the country. It is helping to reduce violence by aiming to screen all women aged 16 years and over for family violence and making sure those who disclose get the support they need.

Dr Kim McGregor and Rape Prevention Education are doing excellent work in our schools to educate our young people. It would be great to see more resources made available to roll out their programmes to a wide group of young people.

But what is urgently needed is a strategy to ensure that there is a coordinated approach. The National Sexual Violence Prevention Plan that was scuppered in 2009 needs to be urgently re-instated.

But this isn’t something we can simply leave to Parliament and the Police and hope they solve the problem for us. It comes down to what we do as individuals, families and communities. That is where the change needs to take place. Fundamentally, it’s about each of us taking responsibility for the problem.

When someone is in a violent relationship, or they’re the victim of sexual violence there will always be a bystander. Someone who sees the warning signs. Someone who knows what’s going on. We need them to speak up. We need them to tell someone.

Most men are not violent, but most violence against women is perpetrated by men. That’s why we need to support our men, because they’re the role models for our children. We need them to be part of the solution.

Today is White Ribbon Day. It’s a fantastic campaign raising awareness of violence against women. This year we’re asking men to take a pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women. Whether you are a husband, father, son, brother, uncle or granddad you all have women in your life that you wouldn’t want to see subjected to violence. Make a stand and take the pledge.

Women in violent relationships are waiting to be asked. No one asked me. So I kept it to myself. Make sure the women you know no longer have to stay silent.

Jackie Blue is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, former MP and mother of two girls.

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