Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Roast Busters: March against violence towards women

The White Ribbon Day march in Wanganui last year. Photo / APN
The White Ribbon Day march in Wanganui last year. Photo / APN

Members of the west Auckland community shaken by the Roast Busters scandal will march against violence towards women tomorrow.

The parade is one of a number of White Ribbon Day events around the country to demand an end to violence against women.

The White Ribbon campaign, which raises awareness and asks men to be part of the solution, has focussed this year on urging men to "take the pledge" to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women.

Tiaria Fletcher, the manager of Waitakere family violence prevention network Waves, said the annual parade from Waitakere Hospital in Henderson was especially significant this year because of the Roast Busters controversy.

Members of the Roast Busters group, who boasted on social media about having sex with drunk and underage girls, went to high schools in west Auckland.

"Our community in the west is deeply saddened by the violation of some of our young women by a few of our young men," Ms Fletcher said.

"We know that too many of our men hold harmful attitudes toward women and that this needs to change.

"As a community we are committed to developing strategies to address these attitudes, and working alongside police in addressing the barriers that have sometimes prevented victims coming forward."

Tomorrow's parade starts at the hospital at 1pm and goes through the Henderson shops before finishing at Falls Park.

Participants will include Auckland deputy mayor Penny Hulse, Family Court Judge David Mather, and local high school and university students.

Ms Fletcher said having young people involved was especially important.

"We believe that we need to begin talking to young people early about issues like relationships, sexuality and violence."

A march will also be held in Christchurch, with police and community leaders to walk alongside White Ribbon motorcycle riders.

Canterbury police district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles will address the crowd at the central police station before the march starts about 9am tomorrow.

The march will lead to Christchurch Hospital to symbolically recognise the women and children who are affected by family violence in Canterbury each year.

Lesley Elliott, the mother of murdered 22-year-old Otago University graduate Sophie Elliott, will address the crowd before a silent return march to the police station.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said White Ribbon Day was a day for all New Zealand men to take a stand against violence and the mental distress it caused.

"Women and children overwhelmingly bear the brunt of physical, mental and sexual violence within their families and whanau."

She said it was important to recognise that violence against women undermined the mental health of men, women and children.

"Safe and equal relationships benefit us all, so it is good to see men stepping up and taking responsibility for men's behaviour."

Labour Party women's affairs spokeswoman Carol Beaumont said White Ribbon Day this year came amid an outpouring of community anger about sexual violence against women.

She said New Zealand had high rates of domestic violence and the figures painted a shocking picture.

Police said one in three women would experience partner violence at some point in their lives, while an average of 14 women a year were killed by their partners or ex-partners.

Meanwhile, a Kapiti school has launched a new student safety programme in the wake of the Roast Busters scandal.

Paraparaumu College's health and guidance department will lead discussions with single-gender groups of Year 9 and 10 students to discuss strategies and barriers to keeping themselves safe.

Principal Gregor Fountain said news of the Roast Busters had prompted the initiative, which built on the school's work throughout the year on issues such as values, peer pressure and the importance of seeking help from a trusted adult.

Families have been informed about the programme, which would run over the next two weeks before the school holidays.

* To take the White Ribbon pledge, and for a full list of White Ribbon Day events, visit www.whiteribbon.org.nz

- APNZ

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