First, we want to thank you for your stated commitment to ending men’s violence against women and children. We waited a long time for men to come on board and join us in this fight for real equality and justice, and you have pledged to do just that. We thank you for talking the talk. We write today to plead with you now to walk the walk in more obvious ways.
Right from Day One of this year, 1 January 2011, media reports reminded us that the slaughter of women and children is continuing unabated.
On New Year’s Day, in Canley Vale in Sydney’s west, a 32-year-old man was arrested and placed under police guard at Liverpool hospital. When police arrived at the block of units, they found a 24-year-old woman with stab wounds to her stomach and shoulder on the stairwell. Her partner had barricaded himself in the unit with their 2-year-old daughter. The police broke in and arrested the man and found the 2-year-old unconscious. She later died of stab wounds at the Westmead Children’s Hospital.
Also on New Year’s Day, in what the media called a murder/suicide, a man in the Northern Territory shot his wife with a crossbow and then set the house on fire. The bodies of the victim and the perpetrator were later found in the burnt-out houses.
As the year proceeded, there were many more reports of men’s hideous violence against their partners. On 19 September, NRL player Robert Lui pushed his partner Taleah Rae Backo in the chest, causing her to fall backwards. He pulled her hair so hard that some of it came out in his hand. While she was on the ground, he kicked her repeatedly in the head causing bruising and swelling to the left temple. Lui was subsequently charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and released on bail. And that was not the first time Robert Lui had been charged with violence against his partner.
We recognise that, as White Ribbon Ambassadors, your role in stopping men’s violence is crucial, so we are pleading with you today to do more to stop the slaughter of women and children. It’s one thing to wear a white ribbon, to stand up on White Ribbon Day and declare that you are men who abhor the violence of other men, but it’s quite another thing to take practical and determined steps to stop it. We know it’s a difficult task, but we’re depending on you, because we know that violent men are much more likely to listen to you than to us.
In 2008, the Federal Government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd funded the White Ribbon Foundation to the tune of $1 million for four years to expand into rural and regional areas. In light of the continuing slaughter of women and children both in the city and the bush, we are seriously wondering how that money is being spent. If government funding doesn’t result in fewer murders and less violence by men against women and children, then surely the Australian White Ribbon movement must be called to account.
We, feminists with decades of experience in research and activism in the area, stand ready to work with you, and would welcome any request from you to work in partnership. We know you will agree with us that, with men’s violence against women and children escalating year-by-year, the matter is extremely urgent.
Dr Betty McLellan
for a Coalition of Feminist Voices