White Ribbon Day 2017

Imagine for a moment you’re in your car, stopped at the traffic lights, with your two sons in the back seat.


The music is playing softly, the three of you are enjoying a laugh about the day’s activities.

Out of the corner of your eye, you see a man verbally abusing a woman, who appears to be his partner.

The traffic light remains red.

The verbal abuse quickly escalates and suddenly, he is pushing the lady.

You hope your sons don’t see what’s going on - but children, well, they see everything.

Your four-year-old son pipes up from the backseat, “Daddy, why is that man hurting that lady?”

“Because he is a horrible man. What he is doing is wrong.”

As the words leave your mouth and you begin to drive off, your son interjects with another question.

Only this one is harder to answer.

“But Daddy, why didn’t you stop it?”

That conversation I’ve recounted recently happened between a friend and his sons as they went about their business at The Junction.

And it leads me to ask: What should my friend have done to stop it? And what should any of us do, when we know - or suspect - domestic violence is occurring?

I’ve been a proud member of the Hunter White Ribbon Day Committee for the past five years. I’ve also worked at CatholicCare Social Services Hunter Manning in a marketing capacity for two years. Yet I wasn’t entirely sure myself.

And that’s part of the problem.

We know that if someone has a heart attack to call 000.

We know if someone is having suicidal thoughts we should try to put them in touch with a counsellor.

And yet when we walk past someone who is being hit in the street we wonder, “If I intervene will I risk getting hurt myself?”

We don’t know the correct answer − and so, too often, we do nothing.

We hear screams from the neighbour’s house and think, “At what point do I call the police?”

We don’t know the correct answer - and so, too often, we do nothing.

We know our friend is being emotionally abused by her partner, yet we ponder - if we ‘stick our nose into their business’ - what it may do our friendship.

And so, too often and sadly, we do nothing.

There shouldn’t be so much ambiguity around what to do when we know or suspect domestic violence is occurring − and there doesn’t have to be.

 As the Early Interventions Manager at CatholicCare, Maryanne Kerrins, said to me: “It’s not enough to say you won’t perpetrate violence - we MUST educate the community on what to do when − when we see it or suspect it.”

The primary purpose of the Hunter White Ribbon Day Breakfast is to raise awareness about the elimination of violence against women and I’m so proud to work for CatholicCare, an organisation that put its support behind this event as a major sponsor on the day.

CatholicCare’s financial contribution meant that over 10 of our staff and 20 senior high school students from across the region were able to attend the event free of charge – and in doing so, to help to change the culture around the treatment of women through education.  

You have the power to change someone’s life, simply by speaking up and calling Crime Stoppers.  Perhaps you’ll lose a friendship by reporting − but you may also save a life.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.