- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
In my last County Times article I mentioned my Not in my Name campaign against domestic abuse.
Each year I work with the Women’s Institute in Wales to recruit male ambassadors to promote a simple pledge, the White Ribbon pledge: to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.
Together we organise and support a range of events and activities around White Ribbon Day on 25 November.
At the heart of the campaign is a belief that we must empower men and women to speak out against gender-based violence. Role models are important. For this reason we are very pleased that male sports teams have backed us. Players from Cardiff City, Wrexham and Newport County football clubs and the Welsh Rugby Union have signed the pledge.
Last year, for the first time, we did a student survey with the National Union of Students (NUS). This year we want to build on this to involve schools and colleges. I have written to all the secondary schools and colleges in Wales giving them a campaign pack and asking them to get involved. I am delighted to say that I have received positive responses from schools in Powys. I recently met up with the assistant head teacher of Welshpool High School to discuss how to engage pupils.
When I talk to students and pupils about gender-based violence I usually find that the level of awareness amongst young men is high. Where Not in my Name can offer help is in suggesting practical ways in which boys and men can contribute to the campaign.
Abuse is not a respecter of gender, age or social standing. Research shows that the problem is found in all social classes; it affects people of all ages; it is found in rural and urban communities. Our approach is to broadcast the message far and wide. There can be no abuse “not spots”.
There is a growing political consensus. This summer the Welsh Government introduced the Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill. If passed, it will legislate to improve leadership, accountability, education and awareness, and strengthen support services in Wales.
Laws are important but the change must happen in society, in our communities and behind closed doors.
If we consider the pledge – not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women – what does that mean? Violence is not just a physical act. Talking down to someone, wearing them down; controlling their money; checking up on them, reading their private messages; abuse comes in many forms. Does it include jokes and banter? The answer must be yes but it can be complicated. What is a “normal relationship,” after all?
Here’s a case in point: last year Cardiff University’s football team was banned from playing for two weeks after one of its members allegedly made jokes about rape and domestic abuse at a social event. That it happened is why I campaign for people to talk and think about violence against women. That it was punished is why I believe that society, like people, can and does change.