Incredible volunteer – Roseanne Sheridan

With White Ribbon Day only a couple of days away we wanted to take the opportunity to thank our volunteers for the incredible work they do spreading the kaupapa and highlight the journey of one of our longest-standing volunteers Roseanne Sheridan.

Roseanne is based in Oamaru and has been involved in spreading the kaupapa since before White Ribbon was officially established in New Zealand. In the late 1990s she gave out White Ribbons with Women’s Refuge who had come up from Dunedin. Since then she has witnessed the establishment of organisations that support victims, events to raise awareness of the issue and an increase in the groups advocating for change. She has seen the impact of awareness campaigns on society as a whole and notes they have given victims/survivors a voice. These campaigns have also given men opportunities to change and be accountable for their past actions so they can grow and be proud of the men they have become. Roseanne came up with a fantastic rewrite of a negative statement to create a positive one to add to this year’s Challenge the #Outdated campaign: Putting them down Lifting Them Up.

Roseanne dressed in Victorian costume ready to hand out White Ribbons at Oamaru’s Victorian Heritage Celebrations

Roseanne is a survivor of an abusive relationship, who suffered physical and psychological violence from her husband. When she took a stand on his behaviour, he then left, but she sustained a serious physical injury from an assault during that time. She said that it is now recognised that this is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. A time when many women are injured or killed. In dealing with more escalating threats, Roseanne spent time in Dunedin Women’s refuge. She then got a protection order that meant her husband was required to complete a Stopping Violence Course. Roseanne decided not to press charges against him, since at that time no restorative justice processes existed. She learned of these principles of restoration through the initial meetings in Oamaru that eventually led to their implementation in our current legal system. In applying this to her own life, she found it brought restoration to herself and to her family, including her husband. Her children attended the first course at Dunedin Women’s Refuge, pioneered to support children who had been exposed to family violence. While the marriage ended, this restoration process has allowed them to heal and grow and they now join together for significant family events. Roseanne is immensely proud of the courage shown by her, now adult, children.

Her involvement with White Ribbon comes from her own personal experience and she has used that to empower others. “I wanted to raise awareness of what domestic violence really is: from how society perceives it to how people see the women who suffer abuse. I wanted to change people’s lives, to take away the silence, the shame and the fear. To bring healing to families and to communities. It is heartening to see the work now being done by White Ribbon on a large scale. I still continue the community contact in bringing White Ribbon into the main street of Oamaru – the shops, hotels and taverns, restaurants and businesses, the hospital and doctor’s surgeries, but mainly just person to person. Reaching out to the people is what White Ribbon is all about.”

We asked Roseanne about an empowering encounter she had had as a volunteer and she responded –

“I always think about this whenever I give out the white ribbons. An elderly woman, she held my hand for a brief moment and just said, ‘I am so pleased they have this now, dear. There was nothing when I was going through it.’ Our eyes met in a touching of hearts and she was gone again.

I think of people whose lives have been touched by violence who stay silent. The giving of a ribbon can give them the courage they need to stand up and speak out. It can bring comfort, recognition, healing and peace to their hearts. There are those who are scep

tical and may make negative comments, but very few these days fortunately. I am greatly encouraged by the men, young and old, who accept a ribbon and enthusiastically pin it onto themselves immediately; the women who see me and ask for a ribbon before I can even say anything and the businesses who want a poster to display.”

We are extremely grateful to Roseanne for the dedication she has shown to spreading the kaupapa. For over twenty years she has been helping to heal hurt, giving people the chance to open up about the challenges they have faced and ensuring people hear about the importance of healthy respectful relationships. We are incredibly lucky to have people like Roseanne who look for ways to make society better. If you want to help give out White Ribbons this November please get in touch at

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