Christchurch Girls’ High School sexual abuse survey demonstrates the need for ‘primary prevention’.

 A survey of Christchurch Girls’ High School has revealed widespread sexual harassment with more than 400 students revealing they’ve been sexually assaulted and more than 20 saying they’ve been raped.

“As a country we need to support our young men to understand what Healthy Masculinity looks like,” says White Ribbon Manager Rob McCann, “and have a working comprehension of what Respectful Relationships involve, which includes understanding consent.”

“It is these concepts that can help provide a protection against the type of attitudes and behaviour, which enable young men to think it is ok to harass and harm women.

“While there has considerable focus on breaking the cycle of family violence, we need much more emphasis on combating the unhelpful messages about what it is to be a supposed ‘Real Man’.

“Our young men are still hearing unhelpful messages to ‘man up’, ‘that boys don’t cry’, ‘get pissed’ ‘be the man’, and to ‘toughen up’.

“Whether it’s societal pressures, peer pressure or learned behaviour, our young men are too often being asked to renounce the best of themselves and pretend to be something that fits the narrative of a ‘real man’.

“We need to have open and honest conversations about being a good person, and understand what healthy masculinity looks like and how that is a better option than outdated ideas. One way of achieving that is through education and inspiring our youth,” says Mr McCann.

White Ribbon offers a free programme to schools that focuses on consent, respectful relationships and encouraging healthy masculinity. The Youth Ambassador Leadership Programme (YALP) brings student leaders from schools across a region together for a full-day workshop to focus on these issues and how to intervene, respond and offer support. The Youth Ambassadors are then supported to share what they have learnt within their school community and help spark these conversations in their own schools and communities.


Healthy Masculinity looks like:

  • Healthy masculinity is rejecting unhelpful outdated stereotypes and unspoken rules about what it is to be a boy or man.
  • Healthy masculinity is about being kind, empathetic, finding peaceful resolutions to problems.
  • Healthy masculinity is about boys and men being confident in who they are without feeling pressure to be a certain type of boy/man.
  • Boys and men can still be ‘brave’, and have ‘muscles’, be assertive, tough, love rugby, enjoy time with other men and boys, enjoy a ‘pint’ with the lads (for men!). But boys and men should also be free to express sad emotions, enjoy cooking, dancing, gardening and anything else that does not fit into gender stereotypes.
  • Healthy masculinity is treating everyone with respect.
  • Healthy masculinity is recognising that people express gender and sexuality in a variety of ways.


The Man Box

  • White Ribbon calls the expectations that men must always appear dominant, tough and in charge “The Man Box”.
  • It’s a box that’s prescriptive and restrictive. Any different behaviours are dismissed as being not manly.
  • Often a boy and a man will believe he needs to appear tough and in-control in front of other men. This is from a fear, real or not, that they’ll reject him, possibly violently, if he doesn’t fit in. Being told to ‘Man Up’ is to be reminded to get back into The Man Box. A man may use violence to show his peers he is manly.
  • Suppressing individual identities and diverse emotional responses is stressful. It’s also unhealthy as these men avoid asking for help.
  • Men who break out of The Man Box to choose their own masculine identity report that they’re less stressed, more satisfied with life and have happier relationships.


Respectful relationships are based on:

  • Equality between men and women. Gender equity in personal relationships and all social spheres, reduces violence against women.
  • Flexible gender behaviour for all. Having men breaking out of the Man Box and choosing their own masculine identity prevents their use of violence.
  • Non-violent communication. Men being emotionally aware and expressive gives them alternatives to aggression.
  • Enthusiastic consent for all sexual activities. Having willing participation is crucial to preventing sexual violence.










White Ribbon also promotes adult men promoting the respectful behaviour of younger men. It also encourages men to be critical of pornography, especially the ways it promotes violence against women.

New research titled Shifting the line – Boys talk on gender, sexism and online ethics found:

Key points, findings and recommendations

• Some of our society’s key ideas for what it means to be a man give boys and young men a narrow and limiting model for how they should be and act in the world.

• Boys notice these ‘masculinity rules’ and the ways they are policed, but have few opportunities to talk about them, and few positive public models for how to sidestep narrow messages about what it means to be a man.

• The restrictive norms for masculinity, which were identified by boys across diverse social backgrounds and ethnicities, included the avoidance of anything ‘feminine’ and a very limited repertoire of emotions.

• Boys’ friendship groups, and the importance of peer group loyalty and belonging, were spoken about as powerful influences on behaviour, both in maintaining expected norms and in some cases in supporting departures from these norms.

• The powerful role of peer group norms suggests that effective strategies to promote positive change and ethical behaviour should seek to transform collective norms and action, rather than targeting individual behavioural change.

• Given the unhelpful, and in some cases dangerous, cultural baggage that traditional gender roles carry, we suggest it would be better to inspire boys and young men to be ethical people rather than ‘good men’.

• Paradoxically, it could seem, a first step in this direction requires noticing how gender structures the world and most people’s experiences and opportunities within it.

• Some boys and young men are interested in talking about these issues – and it is possible to create spaces that build on their curiosity and their commitment to fairness and equality, allowing them to critically reflect on gender norms and develop insights and skills that enhance their readiness to contribute to positive social change.


Opportunity to Contribute to New National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence

Image from Te Puni Kōkiri

We would like to encourage you to take part in the current engagement process being undertaken by the Government to help inform the development of a national strategy to eliminate family and sexual violence. White Ribbon Riders are meeting with Takurua Tawera and Sue Rudman to have a workshop and White Ribbon Ambassadors are being asked to participate in an online hui that will be facilitated by White Ribbon Campiagn Manager Rob McCann. We hope that other members of the White Ribbon community will undertake the online survey or send an email or letter offering their thoughts and experiences to help shape this strategy that will guide future activities and investment in the sector.

The Government is seeking to partner with tangata whenua and work with communities impacted by family violence and sexual violence to create a new National Strategy and Action Plans to eliminate family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand.

As the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence Marama Davidson has said, Aotearoa New Zealand needs a fresh approach: “We have had too many reports over too many years that outline family violence and sexual violence, the problem we face, and describe what we need to change to address it.

“Off the back of these mounting reports I want to now bring us into a live discussion to develop a National Strategy and Action Plans.  This will provide a mandate for change and set out actions to help us move forward, together.”

Starting on May 12, engagement will commence around Aotearoa New Zealand, where people will be asked to consider what do you think needs to be in a National Strategy and Action Plans, from your communities’ point of view?

The Interim Te Rōpū developed and published Te Hau Tangata: The sacred breath of humanity envisioned as a strategy with a Te Aō Māori perspective, to be shared with everyone.  It is available as a key resource document for engagement, along with other engagement tools.

Engagement for the development of the national strategy ends on 30 June.  If your contributions are received by then, the government will be able to ensure that what you share informs the National Strategy and Action Plans which Cabinet will consider in September.

Who is engagement for?

Anyone can contribute their voice to the kōrero about what needs to be in the National Strategy.  There are four ways for people to contribute:

1.       Community-led hui
Government is working with communities to create opportunities for targeted, invitation only hui, led by trusted members of a community.  These are will provide a safe environment in which people can speak freely, and send their views back to the Government without being identified.

2.      Online survey

Anyone with an interest in contributing to the National Strategy and Actions Plans can do so by going to the safe government website Citizen Space and filling out the questionnaire.  There is also plenty of supporting information on this site for you to read if you wish.

3.       Email your submission
Send your contribution to  It can be a written contribution, a voice-recorded contribution, or recorded on video.

4.       Write a letter

Use the Freepost address provided by the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence, and your letter will be forwarded in confidence to the Joint Venture Unit for analysis.

Minister Marama Davidson
Freepost Parliament
Private Bag 18 888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6460 

What is the Joint Venture on Family Violence and Sexual Violence?

The Joint Venture is a collaboration of 10 government agencies working to eliminate family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand in partnership with Tangata Whenua and working with the family violence and sexual violence sectors.  The Joint Venture co-ordinates policy and funding advice, and reports to the Minister for the Prevention of Family and Sexual Violence. The Joint Venture Business Unit supports the government agencies to work together. The national strategy team in the unit which services the cross-agency collaboration will receive and work with independent advisors to analyse feedback from hui and online engagement on the National Strategy and Action Plans.

What feedback is the government asking for?

The government is asking for feedback about what needs to be done about family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand, and what needs to happen first. There are questions about what the National Strategy should include and what initiatives the Action Plans should prioritise.

The questions focus on a vision:

Our vision is for the end of family violence and sexual violence in Aotearoa New Zealand – so that people are safe, well, and thriving.”

The Joint Venture has also identified four principles:

  • “Oranga whānau
  • Mauri ora
  • Healthy relationships
  • Equitable and inclusive approaches”

and seven focus areas:

  • “Recognise te ao Māori
  • Bring government responses together
  • Recognise tangata whenua leadership and community-led approaches
  • Strengthen workforces to prevent and respond to family violence and sexual violence
  • Increase the focus on prevention
  • Develop ways for government to create changes
  • Enable continuous learning and improvement.”

The Joint Venture developed these from what they have learned from previous research, reports and conversations with people affected by and working in violence.

see for further details

Rick Hepi’s Video

One of our fantastic Ambassadors and White Ribbon Riders Rick Hepi shared some of his memories of growing up with a perpetrator of violence and the impact that it had on his life. After witnessing violence as a child Rick resolved never to treat a partner that way. He recalled the fear he and his sister felt when his father was violent and the difficulty he had in communicating with his dad, who could be emotionally and physically abusive. Later in life, Rick’s dad changed and became a great grandfather. Those experiences shaped how Rick raised his own family. He wanted to ensure that he was a good father from the start and not just a good grandfather. By showing his family he loved them and listening to his kids he stopped the cycle of abuse.


Show Them Who’s Boss? You Love Them

When kids hear this outdated advice, they’re getting an idea of manhood as being in control of their partners, family, even their friends. This can lead to men mistaking fear and intimidation for love and respect. The strongest relationships are those that respect the people in our lives as their own people. Particularly, it means not assuming there are set roles or rules that give men power over women. Showing that you care creates better relationships and teaches the behaviour you want your children to learn.

Boys and men are often handed down ideas of manhood that cast them as being ‘the boss’. Healthy relationships consist of equal partners not one person being in control of the other or the wider family. Being in a family or a relationship is not like being in a business or the army. Being in a family and a relationship is about communication, compromise, and compassion. Healthy masculinity is about sharing with others, challenging yourself to change, and being brave enough to recognise you don’t need to be in control. Relationships are not competitive power grabs where one person is dominant and takes charge, they require collaboration and respect to thrive.


Kids Should Keep Quiet Be Heard

When a kid asks a question, they’re reaching out to us to learn something. When a child engages in play, they are learning important skills that teach them how to behave in the world. When a child cries, they are asking for comfort. Kids ask us for attention because they are learning how to navigate the world and build relationships – they need to be able to speak and be heard, so they can learn and grow.

Children are naturally curious, but they are very sensitive to parental criticism. Without being able to speak and be listened to we can close down their views of themselves and what the world can offer them. Good advice is to listen to your kids, ask follow up questions, and engage them in some critical thinking. Show the boys in your life that it’s okay to cry and to be silly. Help to nurture those behaviours that will let your children lead a well-rounded, fulfilling, and open life.  


Thanks to Aotea College for hosting YALP Workshop

250 participants from across the Lower North Island attended a workshop at Aotea College in Porirua on Friday as part of the White Ribbon Youth Ambassador Leadership Programme. Thirty schools sent senior high school students to take part from as far away as Whanganui, Palmerston North and the Wairarapa. It was fantastic to see the rapport developed between speakers and attendees throughout the day, which led to some really insightful and thought-provoking questions and discussion.

Talking about healthy masculinity, respectful relationships, consent and intimate partner violence is not easy and getting the information across in a way that students can relate to is a real skill so we know we are privileged to have an incredible group of speakers who took the time to share their stories and experiences.

White Ribbon Ambassadors Eteuati Ete (well-known for his years as part of the Laughing Samoans comedy duo) and Mele Wendt (MNZM) shared their story of the violence that occurred in the early years of their relationship. It takes courage to stand up and share difficult parts of your life with a large group of strangers and Ete and Mele have done so repeatedly to help people understand the drivers of violence and the work it takes to overcome it. The power of their story and the respect it engenders in those who hear it was particularly obvious on Friday with one of the students asking Ete for advice on how to control his anger. Bringing these issues out into the light is a vital part of our work and we are so grateful to Ete and Mele for their commitment to helping people break the cycle of violence.

Judge Boshier, Chief Ombudsman and White Ribbon Patron, shared his experiences dealing with violence on the bench as the Principal Family Court Judge highlighting for students the harmful patterns he observed and the need for men to learn how to express their emotions healthily and manage rejection.

White Ribbon Manager Rob McCann helped students to understand the prevalence of family harm and the many different forms of abuse that are occurring throughout our communities.

We are really lucky to have White Ribbon Trustee Richie Hardcore who immediately connects with young people using popular culture to explore attitudes to sex and consent and highlight the stereotypical one-dimensional images of men and women perpetuated in music videos, song lyrics and pornography. After an hour with Richie students are better able to step back and critically assess the messages that bombard them daily in social media and pop culture. At the end of the day school groups were invited to think about how they could spread the kaupapa and improve things in their communities and one group mentioned talking to their school about the sex education being provided as one of the actions they could take, which was clearly as result of Richie’s session.

It was great to have two student leaders Rachel Zhou and Angie del Favero speak about the organization they founded when they were 14 years old ‘Find your Fire’ and the process they went through producing a print magazine on the issue of family harm that they distributed to every secondary school in New Zealand. Their practical suggestions about how to take an idea, develop it and find the support required to make it a reality will be invaluable to the Youth Ambassadors as they take what they learnt back to their schools and work to get those messages out into their school and wider community.

White Ribbon Ambassador David Cournane is Acting Assistant Principal – Pastoral at Aotea College and has been an essential part of the team working to develop and refine the programme to ensure students have a positive experience and gain the skills required to be effective leaders in their communities.

If you’d like to discuss the possibility of running a Youth Ambassador Leadership Programme in your region please get in touch.

The next YALP is scheduled for the 24th September and will be held at Christ’s College in Chirstchurch. For details please contact White Ribbon or

White Ribbon Ambassador Richie Hardcore delivering Hawkins Toolbox Talk

Late last year we were thrilled to be contacted by construction firm Hawkins with a request to partner with them in providing onsite “toolbox talks” to their teams as they work through a large three-year project at the University of Auckland. The first of this series of talks was delivered by White Ribbon Ambassador and Trustee Richie Hardcore, who is well known for his work as an educator, keynote speaker and activist, working in violence prevention, masculinities, mental health and wellness.
Richie took a casual conversational approach in the session sharing his experiences growing up with an abusive father and what he has learned since. He now understands what leads to someone being abusive, and part of that is the inability to express emotions healthily. When we push our emotions down, in a society that tells us to man up all the time, those emotions will inevitably come out sideways. That is all too often in violence and substance abuse. Richie is committed to doing this work “to help little kids to have better experiences than he did”. He spoke about “the need for us to take the masks off”, noting: “a lot of us grew up thinking we had to be tough, covering ourselves with tattoos, looking tough and buying into those constructs, and we end up punching walls, or people, but that only makes our lives smaller. We often recreate what we grew up with.”
Richie focused on the need to broaden our ideas about what being a real man is. “Being a man is not about being tough, sleeping with lots of women, drinking booze. Being a man is just being a good person.” He offered some strategies for dealing with challenges in a relationship, highlighting the need to de-escalate and walk away.  
Richie’s approach clearly resonated with the people on the Hawkins site and he had a queue of men reaching out for help at the end. Hawkins Quality Assurance Manager Gail Woodside commented: “I don’t think any toolbox in my time at Hawkins (4 yrs) has been as engaging and everyone has taken something away from it.
We are really grateful to Richie for sharing the kaupapa with the Hawkins team in such an engaging way and making time at the end to talk to all those who needed advice or wanted to share their experiences. We also want to thank Hawkins for inviting us. It is fantastic to see businesses reaching out for support to ensure their staff think about masculinity and reassess some of the unhelpful outdated stereotypes that often limit men and harm the women in their lives. If your organization is interested in raising these issues, please contact us to see how we can assist.
For information about White Ribbon’s Workplace Accreditation please email or click the link

Youth Ambassador Leadership Programme 2021


The Youth Ambassador Leadership Programme (YALP) is being held on Friday 21 May at Aotea College from 9:30 am to 2:50 pm and aims to give students the information about family violence and respectful relationships, and encourage students to find their own way of communicating this information to their peers. It is so important that young people get these messages not only from the adults in their lives, but also that they take some ownership of this issue if we want to see real change in Aotearoa.

Speakers include:

Judge Peter Boshier, former Chief Family Court Judge and current Chief Ombudsman

Born and educated in Gisborne, Peter attended Victoria University of Wellington, obtaining a Bachelor of Laws with Honours Degree in 1975. After a period of practice in Wellington he was appointed as a District Court Judge with a specialist Family Court warrant in 1988. In 2004 he was appointed as the Principal Family Court Judge of New Zealand and held that position until December 2012 when he was appointed a Law Commissioner, a position he held until his appointment as Chief Ombudsman. He has served on the government’s Family Violence Taskforce. He is patron of the White Ribbon Trust and patron of the Dwell Community Housing Trust in Wellington. In 2009 he was made a distinguished alumnus of the Victoria University of Wellington for his contribution to the law.

Richie Hardcore, educator, keynote speaker and activist, working in violence prevention, masculinities, mental health and wellness.

Richie is also a retired multiple New Zealand Muay Thai champion, and now works as a coach and personal trainer, having helped some of New Zealand’s most successful fighters achieve their goals. With a fighting career that spanned more than 20 years, he was paid to punch people in the face. These days, that energy is channelled towards Richie’s big mission – to help make the world better by supporting people to live their best lives. He’s spent time as a community worker in drug and alcohol harm reduction, is a campaigner against domestic and sexual violence, and a sexual consent educator. Richie is passionate about helping to overturn this country’s mental health statistics. An excellent public speaker, he’s also an experienced radio host and MC, using his skills to help educate, inspire and challenge.

Eteuati Ete (formerly of the Laughing Samoans)

Eteuati Ete is a comedian, actor, writer and theatre producer who has decided to use his profile and influence particularly amongst Maori and Pasefika to raise awareness of family harm by sharing his own story of family violence as a victim and a perpetrator. He and his wife Mele Wendt have over the last few years been sharing their lived experience of family violence, as presenters in the Nga Vaka Family Violence programme. They believe that “violence thrives in silence” and by speaking out they will encourage and embolden victims to find their own voice. They also provide practical advice on how they were able to eliminate the violence in their marriage. While Ete has been an actor for almost forty years who’s appeared in film, tv and theatre, having been one of the first Pasefika people to attend the New Zealand Drama School, he’s perhaps best known as one half of the highly successful Laughing Samoans comedy duo.

Mele Wendt MNZM, White Ribbon Ambassador

Mele Wendt has a past lived experience of family harm which she and her husband, Eteuati Ete, publicly speak about. Having survived a turbulent period over 20 years ago, they share the particular factors that enabled their marriage to become violence-free and to thrive. Professionally, Mele worked for 24 years in education – first as a secondary school teacher and then at Victoria University of Wellington as the founding Pacific Liaison Officer and the manager of the domestic student recruitment office. She then served ten years as the Executive Director of Fulbright New Zealand. In the past few years Mele has been serving on a number of boards (including Chair of the Pasifika Education Centre in Auckland) and providing consultancies in several areas. Mele is involved in a number of women’s organisations and Pacific community groups, including P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A., the national organisation for Pacific women. She is a strong advocate for and mentor to women and girls, especially in the Pacific community. Mele is Samoan and pakeha/palagi, and has lived in Wellington for over 30 years. With four grown children, she and Ete are doting grandparents of three grandchildren and recently Mele was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to governance, the Pacific community and women.

Rob McCann, White Ribbon Manager

Graduating from Otago University with a double degree majoring in law and drama, Rob has worked for both community organisations and commercial businesses as a manager, coordinator and leader and currently manages the White Ribbon anti-violence campaign. He’s also a first time councillor at the Kapiti Coast District Council. Rob has extensive experience as a speaker and presenter.

Angie Delfavero and Rachel Zhou

Students Angie Delfavero and Rachel Zhou are year 13 students studying at Queen Margaret College. In 2018, they established a non-profit social enterprise called ‘Find Your Fire’ with the aim of empowering youth and encouraging students to make a change in their community. The students absolutely loved the sound of our programme, and reached out saying it’s such an amazing opportunity for youth to get involved, educated, and inspired to make a change. Thanks to ACC and Zerox, they are supplying everyone with a copy of their magazine to have as a resource and to act as a source of inspiration.

David Cournane, White Ribbon Ambassador

David Cournane is our School Liaison for this programme. David is Acting Assistant Principal – Pastoral, at Aotea College and has been instrumental in reinvigorating the programme and ensuring it offers real value to schools. If you would like further information about the programme from a school perspective, please feel free to contact David


9:00am students arrive between 9am and 9:20am
9:30am Mihi whakatau
10:10am Session 1 Judge Boshier
10:30am Rob McCann
11:10am Session 2 Richie Hardcore
12.20pm Dave Cournane
12:30pm Lunch
1:10pm Session 3 Mele and Ete
1:50pm Session 4 Leadership Angie and Rachel
2:30pm Session 5 School Groups report back
2:50pm Farewell and thankyou

* Breakout sessions occur after each speaker.

Pre COVID, 30 schools and 240 students and staff attended the first full-day workshop with students reporting the event was ‘very engaging’, ‘should continue each year’, ‘thoroughly enjoyed the experience’, ‘would definitely attend in the future’ and ‘really enjoyed the day and learned a lot from it’.

• 86% felt the speakers helped them understand the causes of family violence
• 91% felt speakers helped them understand what a healthy relationship looks like
• 69% strongly agreed the speakers were engaging with a further 31% agreeing
• The workshop at the end of the day helped me come up with ideas of how to create change in my school or community (25% strongly agreed, 60% agreed, 13% neither agreed nor disagreed, and 2% disagreed).










The students also made some helpful suggestions which have been acted upon, such as more time for collaboration between students. This is now built into the programme with a reduced number of speakers and more post-session discussions. Three of these discussion sessions mix students from different schools together, while the final session is in school groups to brainstorm ideas that students can undertake to raise awareness, and highlight healthy relationships in their communities.
For more information on this year’s Youth Ambassador Leadership Programme click here.

  • Notes:
    The programme supports key messages from the Mates and Dates and Loves Me Not Programmes as evidence suggests that peer communication and multiple connections with anti-violence messages increase the chance of change.
  • Students will have the opportunity to learn about violence prevention and take a leadership role on the issue within their schools. As in previous years, we would prefer to focus on Year 12 and Year 13 students as they already have leadership roles within schools.
  • Schools that would like ongoing support will be assigned an adult White Ribbon Ambassador or staff member, to provide support for students and teachers involved in the programme.
  • David Cournane is our School Liaison for this programme. David is Acting Assistant Principal – Pastoral, at Aotea College and has been instrumental in reinvigorating the programme and ensuring it offers real value to schools. If you would like further information about the programme from a school perspective, please feel free to contact David
  • The dress code is up to schools. Predominantly schools chose to send students in formal attire, however, this year the event falls on Pink Ribbon Day, so schools may wish to promote the wearing of pink. Messages about stopping bullying and Upstander actions will be built into the day.
  • Schools that sent a teacher or support person found that this assisted their students, especially when it came to supporting the students to organise their activities when back at school.
  • Following the workshops, students have spread the kaupapa in their schools via a range of impressive activities including a spoken word competition.

How to Register

If you would like to register to be part of this programme in 2021 or would like further information, please contact White Ribbon’s Administrator Rachel Woodrow at and we will send out the registration forms.  There is no cost to participate in this programme as we do not want to create any barriers to participation, but we are very happy when schools allocate mufti days etc. to raising funds for our charity!

It is so important that young people get these messages not only from the adults in their lives but also that they take ownership of this issue and message if we want to see real change in the future.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Rachel or David at any time. Please ensure you have registered by Wednesday the 5th of May. We look forward to working with you to help prevent violence in our community.

The next YALP is scheduled for the 24th November and will be held at Christ’s College in Chirstchurch. For details please contact White Ribbon or

Striding Ahead

Written by Kate Jordan

In early March 2020, I walked away from a two-year abusive relationship. On reflection, I knew things weren’t right from very early on, but I persevered. Because that’s what I do. I’m a people pleaser and an empath, but I fell in love with someone who could never be happy. I was stuck on a rollercoaster of walking on eggshells and groveling back to maintain our relationship when things blew up, which they inevitably did.

Emotional abuse is insidious. It’s a grey zone. It’s just enough discomfort that you don’t question it. If you put a frog in boiling water, it jumps out. If you put a frog in water and slowly heat it up, it never notices the danger it’s in. Emotional abuse isn’t discussed often enough and people can confuse it with domestic abuse, the two are often linked. In my experience, physical violence would have been the big wake-up call I needed, a black and white reason to leave: “he hit me”. Emotional abuse is so much harder to describe: “he made me feel worthless” “he made me blame myself” “he cut me off from my friends” “he made me so physically ill with stress that I couldn’t eat or sleep”. But in that grey zone, he planted just enough doubt in myself that I stayed. He manipulated my mind to believe I was the cause of my own suffering. If I had said it differently, or been on time, or made more of an effort, or done it his way, then he would be happy. I wasted two years of my life chasing a happiness that didn’t exist. A friend of mine reminded me that it wasn’t a waste of time, because I’ve learned valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Emotional abuse leaves deep internal scars that I am still healing. The work I commit to myself to grow and learn from my experience is the hardest challenge I have ever taken on. Journaling, meditating, counseling, ironing out the creases and crevices in my brain where I still blame myself. I didn’t believe people could be so… horrible. I didn’t believe that someone I loved would make me feel so terrible about myself. So I did just that, I didn’t believe it and continued on as best I could. Until I couldn’t. In the end it took three episodes of infidelity for me to stand up for myself and say “I don’t deserve this.”

When I walked away from my abuser, I rediscovered my energy. I suddenly had a full cup of Kate to give to anything I wanted. I had also lost my job and travel plans due to Covid-19, but I was happier than I had been in such a long time. I worked through a lot of painful memories in those following months, but I knew in my core that every day away from him was a step in the right direction. With all my newfound energy, I fixed my attention on the Kepler Ultramarathon, a 60km trail run in Fiordland in December 2020. I also took a brave step in creating the Striding Ahead Instagram page, a place where I could share my training and talk openly about my experience of emotional abuse. On reflection, I knew nothing about emotional abuse until I took the Positive Relationship Quiz at I realised that if I had known the signs of an unhealthy relationship, I may have left much earlier than I did. As part of my recovery, I researched emotional abuse, narcissism, gaslighting, and manipulation so that I could share my newfound knowledge and spread awareness. I am educating people to make informed decisions, so they don’t have to go through what I went through. Striding Ahead sheds light on what happens behind closed doors so that people don’t feel alone in their experiences. It also celebrates what can be achieved when we reclaim our energy and use it how we want to.

A few months after I started Striding Ahead, a former colleague posted about the negative experiences she was going through in her relationship. I reached out to her and shared my story, we found so much support in knowing we weren’t alone. Admitting the abuse I had put up with for so long made me feel weak, but here was another strong and determined woman who had been through a similar experience. I realised it can happen to anyone; emotional abuse does not discriminate. She had an existing entry for the two-person relay in the Coast to Coast 2021, a multi-sport event where competitors race from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to New Brighton Beach on the East Coast of the South Island. She needed a teammate for the cycle and kayak legs of the race, of course I said yes! The kayak leg really tested my bravery and resilience after tipping out of my boat twice. Sitting on the river bank cold, tired and scared, I thought about why I was doing this. I thought about the purpose behind Striding Ahead, I thought about my amazing teammate waiting for me to tag her at the end!  We placed third in the Women’s Two Day Two Person category, supported by our amazing partners, friends, and family.

On the 6th of March 2021, it will be one year since I stood up for myself and decided to take back control of my life. On the 6th of March 2021, I will compete in one of the most grueling competitions on earth: the Ironman New Zealand triathlon in Taupo. A 3.8km swim in Lake Taupo, 180km bike to Reporoa and back twice, rounded out with a 42.2km run along the lakefront. (note this was written prior to lockdown so the date may change)

If you would like to join me on my journey and on race day, you can follow @StridingAhead on Instagram and @StridingAheadNZ on Facebook. You can show your support for Striding Ahead by donating to, all proceeds go to White Ribbon NZ. Leave a supportive message in the comments and our supporters will write it on a sign to inspire me during the run leg!

This is how I’ve chosen to use my energy; how will you use yours?

Winners of the White Ribbon Morning Tea Competition

It was heartening to see so many events and activities throughout the country to draw attention to the issue of violence against women and encourage people to challenge the #outdated. We wish we could give all the hard-working community groups around the country morning tea so it was a tough decision for the campaign team.

White Ribbon Ambassador Dane Haskell

The North Island morning tea goes to Dane Haskell and the team at Taranaki Safe Families Trust (TSFT). They did an extraordinary job promoting the kaupapa in their region. In addition to their work on the ground they provided an inspirational example in the social media space. They ran three online events that really got local people involved. They asked people to share messages and photos online that have been shared widely and really resonated with people throughout the country. TSFT created innovative solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Presbyterian Support Southland

The South Island morning tea goes to Presbyterian Support Southland. The team at Presbyterian Support invited White Ribbon Ambassador the Very Rev Ray Coster to spend a week in Invercargill and arranged multiple events for Ray to connect with the local community and promote the kaupapa. They collaborated with other community groups to organize a breakfast (co-hosted with the Otago Southland Employers Association, a special Rotary club meeting, a Community Awareness Day and a church service.

In the North Island our runners up, who receive a large cake, are Te Whare Ruruhau o Meri and Te Iwi o Ngati Kahu – who decorated their office space and made a great tik tok video.

Our South Island runners up are the Te Rito Collaboration in Timaru, who organized a BBQ that encouraged 200 people to come along and engage with first responders and South Canterbury White Ribbon Ambassador Craig Calder from SCRFU. The food was provided by Rapid Relief.

It was wonderful to see so much collaboration and innovation in the events and activities for White Ribbon Day this year. If you haven’t already, please share photos of your events with us at or tag us with #WhiteRibbonNZ or #Outdated.

Be a Better Man Day with Radio Hauraki

Radio Hauraki Nights Host Chris Key chats with White Ribbon Campaign Manager Rob McCann about healthy masculinity and the Challenge the #Outdated Campaign in a two part interview on their Be a Better Man Day.


To Challenge the #Outdated we need to know how to Raise Our Men

Raise Our Men features interviews with New Zealand men about their experience of growing up and conforming to male stereotypes (the man box).RaiseOurMen Movie

It’s been developed by White Ribbon NZ because how we encourage and expect men to behave, directly affects the high level of domestic violence and sexual harm in this country.

There’s a considerable amount of research that has moved family violence prevention towards targeting the drivers of that violence – men’s masculinity. For example, recent research suggests that rigid beliefs in gender roles and glorifying aggression and control are strong predictors of negative outcomes, especially in the case of violence against women and other men.

The drivers behind family violence are the attitudes men have towards women, and their role within a relationship and family. That’s why we are Challenging the #Outdated so we can promote and support healthy masculinity.

The film picks up on the four key links:

  • Men learn they have more power than women and so feel they are entitled to use violence against women.
  • Men hold to a rigid division of what men do and what women do (gender roles), and use violence to enforce this.
  • Men tend to express anger through aggression and are not encouraged to express all the other feelings they have.
  • Men take their traditional masculinity identity from peers and the media, rather than developing their own more healthy identity.

The film features interviews with nine kiwi men, and in telling their stories, it shows that change is possible – when men are shown and supported to choose a different respectful path. Download the discussion guide on ‘How to effectively use White Ribbon’s Raise Our Men film

White Ribbon hopes the film will prompt discussion about how we raise our boys and male behaviour, and encourage men to use the White Ribbon Toolboxes that outline how to have respectful relationships and respectful sexual relationships.

The film is a free resource for anyone working with men, and young men, to promote positive, respectful behaviour.

Download the discussion guide for the film.