White Ribbon Day on Monday started a week of events in Dannevirke to raise awareness of family harm and to promote healthy relationships.

Representatives of the different groups who provide help and support for the victims of family harm and those responsible for causing it gathered at the Clock Tower on High St to mark the start of the week's events.

White Ribbon regional ambassador Tamai Nicholson introduced Tararua mayor Tracey Collis who said when driving into town that morning she was pleased to see white ribbons tied around the town's trees.

She acknowledged the presence of the local agencies who deal with family harm at the coalface.

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"Congratulations for attending today, for standing up and leading the way.

"We must make changes in our behaviour and change the direction of Aotearoa's shameful statistics of violence towards women and our precious children."

Collis said this year New Zealanders were asked to challenge the unspoken rules.

"These unspoken rules are the expectations we place on our boys and young men about how a boy should act: Phrases like harden up or don't cry like a girl.

"Hearing these phrases creates a stereotype of what is to be a man. This stereotype of gender behaviour can add to the pressure to behave in a certain way which can include control, bullying or violence to prove they are a so called real bloke."

She said the consequence of this is devastating to the individual, to schools, families, communities and workplaces.

"We need to encourage boys and men to express their emotion, talk their problems through and promote more peaceful and inclusive alternatives.

"We need boys who are respectful, kind, consensual and inclusive."

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Collis said men were socially conditioned to shy away from emotions.

"When we as individuals show our vulnerability and model healthy emotions – young people around us see that.

"Sometimes our young people are confused by their feelings. Try naming the feelings they have to help our young people understand how we are reacting.

"Like I am frustrated because I can't find my keys or I loved that. Don't be afraid to use the word love. This models to others a range of feelings and how to express them in a healthy way.

"When we don't open up about the way we are feeling, we can feel depressed and if we can't discuss our pain, it can come out in an unhealthy way such as violence or suicide."

Collis said expressing feelings and emotions was healthy and a sign of strength.

"Being able to express feelings in a healthy way leads to respectful and fulfilling relationships in our families and our communities."

Collis thanked everyone who turned out and said she would love nothing more than to see a reduction in family harm statistics.

Yesterday a rock hunt was held at some of the district's school's.

Painted rocks were hidden around the schools and parks which children hunted for. Rocks were then taken to the Tararua REAP office where the children received a goodie bag and had their name entered into a draw to win a tablet donated by REAP.

Today Dannevirke police Sergeant Gary McKernon is hosting a barbecue with the help of other police staff in Copenhagen Square at 11.30am. If the weather is fine the barbecue will be moved to the Clock Tower.

Tomorrow an interactive community family fun day will be held at Coronation Park where a touch rugby game will be held between police and parents.