Today is White Ribbon Day when men are encouraged to step out and show they are against violence to women and children. I have written and extolled the virtues of the New Machismo in earlier columns. A new machismo is not a kind of desperate moustache but a term I like to use when describing the way men can be staunch about the things that really matter. It takes a lot of tough to tell your friends and workmates that bashing the partner is not manly. It takes a lot of true grit to say to someone in your sports club that creating an emotional mine-field of intimidating language and physical threats around your partner is a dangerous path to walk.
I have worked with perpetrators of domestic violence who say the assaults on their partner were motivated by love, then in the next breath call the woman a bitch. That's not love. Studies show that the most dangerous time for a woman in a violent relationship is when she decides to leave. For men who are used to using violence to get their way, this is a massive challenge to notions of ownership and ego. That's not love.
Women's Refuge provides shelter and time to put in place a support structure enabling women to make the next step away from domestic violence.
Most people are aware that Whanganui Women's Refuge provides crisis accommodation but may not know of their advocacy and information services.
Jo, a social work colleague who works for Refuge, tells of family members and friends who are worried about their loved ones living with partners who are responsible for the violence they are experiencing, wanting to know what they can do to get them away from danger. The ability to assist with expert advice and support before there is a crisis is as much the role of Refuge as providing a safe place for women and children when the violence is being perpetrated on them.
Our local Refuge team is part of a national network and they often work with Refuges in other regions to find support and safe housing for women and children who need to move away from the risk of continued violence. National figures show that last year the Refuge network supported 24,911 women and children as community clients through their service. To get perspective and move beyond anonymous statistics, picture half of the population of Whanganui requiring support and safety from violence. On an average night, 224 women and children around the country use refuge as a safe place to sleep. Picture all the people in your street suddenly needing to move away from the threat of violence. We can count the numbers but statistics cannot tell the stories of children growing up in homes where the threat of imminent violence steals their childhood years.
There is much to be done. To support our local Whanganui Refuge in this work there will be fundraising concert starting at 2pm on Sunday, December 2, in the foyer of the Museum. For $5 at the door you will get to support Refuge while I and a collection of musical co-conspirators perform a selection of songs I have written over the years, including the well-known ones - such as The Man in the Moon, Moving at 80mph and Don't Surrender.
I am looking forward to it as the foyer of the Whanganui Museum is a magical space to perform in with superb acoustics. Readers - a big round of applause please for the museum, Craig from Gatshack and Meteor Print for helping to make this concert happen as their way of supporting Whanganui Women's Refuge.
Terry Sarten lives in Whanganui and describes himself as a writer, musician, social worker and staunch advocate of the new machismo. Email feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org