White Ribbon New Zealand

Breaking silence and records: Conquering New Zealand for domestic violence survivors

50 ultra marathons in 50 days – that’s what one woman is about to embark on to open the dialogue and change the story around domestic violence.

On January 18th, Finnish researcher Emilia Lahti will begin a 2,400-kilometer ultra-run from Bluff all the way to Cape Reinga, to highlight the strength of individuals who’ve experienced emotional, physical or sexual hurt. Her run, if completed, will break a world record for the most consecutive ultra-runs run by a woman.

Along her route, Lahti will be stopping off in 15 Kiwi towns to open the conversation and encourage story sharing about this all too common reality.

Domestic violence is one of the most pervasive yet under-recognised human rights issues in the world, affecting hundreds of millions of individuals across the globe each year from every social class, income group, race and culture.

It is common knowledge that New Zealand has the worst rate of domestic violence in the world – a shocking statistic that was one part of the reason Lahti chose New Zealand to undergo this epic challenge.Sisu Not Silence

As an overcomer of domestic violence herself, Lahti found it hard to understand why people held other survival stories in such high esteem, but not those that have survived violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

“It frustrated me that the narrative was why did you stay? Rather than why did someone do this to you?” she explains.

“I wondered why there was no space for a mature, open conversation around interpersonal violence and why overcomers felt such shame – it just shouldn’t be the case.”

In the aftermath of her own trauma, Lahti quit her job and embarked on a PhD in applied psychology at the Aalto University in Helsinki, centering on the concept of ‘Sisu’. Sisu is an ancient Finish construct denoting courage and determination in the face of adversity.

It was then that she founded the global project and not-for-profit Sisu Not Silence which aims to generate a global-scale cultural shift that removes the stigma and shame imposed on individuals who have experienced interpersonal violence and hurt.

“Much like running a thousand miles, healing from past trauma and impacting social change are also trials of endurance that begin by taking one step at a time,” says Lahti.

“Choosing sisu over silence is about creating a world where communities hold compassion and justice in high value and take collective responsibility to build futures that allow people everywhere live free from fear – including the place that should be the heart of all safety: our homes. The issue of violence is global, but when we join our hands and hearts, we can make a change,” says Lahti.

Sisu Not Silence is looking to serve and work with communities. Nonprofits and organisations working in nonviolence and social impact are encouraged to connect with Lahti and her team to inquire about an event.

The schedule:
Queenstown – 21st Jan
Wanaka – 23rd Jan
Hokitika – 31st Jan
Westport – 3rd Feb
Nelson – 7th Feb
Palmerston North/Massey Uni – 11th Feb
Whanganui – 13th Feb
Taupo – 17th Feb
Hamilton – 21st Feb
Kaitaia – 26th Feb
Whangarei – 2nd March
Auckland – 10th March

For more information and media enquiries:
Amanda Vaisigano
027 375 5542
amanda@theflourishcollective.co.nz
Social media hashtags: #sisunotsilence #overcomers
Website: sisunotsilence.com
Fundraiser: bit.ly/sisunotsilence
Instagram: instagram.com/sisu_lab
Facebook Global: facebook.com/sisunotsilence
Twitter: twitter.com/EmiliaLahti
Blogs: sisulab.com and medium.com/@EmiliaLahti

Video 1 – Sisu not Silence Ultra Run:
Video 2 – Upworthy:
Video 3Mini documentary: