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11 November 2022

Ruta Mave: We all need to be listening and looking

Monday 11 December 2023 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Local, National

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Ruta Mave: We all need to be listening and looking

Men treating women as important and deserving respect at home, work and in the courtrooms will initiate change for the White Ribbon campaign.

White Ribbon day is to celebrate? Or shine a light on violence against women in the Cook Islands. An alcohol-free concert featuring father and son DJs where men could attend along with their families was held to raise awareness and “flip the script and change the narrative” to say no to violence, domestic abuse, child abuse and exploitation. 

Well, that is what the newspaper said. It holds all the right catchy words and paraphrases, and this is how our Ministry for Internal Affairs believes is going to change the direction by doing something to attract young men and fathers so they will want to change the story – their story because violence is generational.

Saying it is generational gives the perpetrator an excuse to say it wasn’t, it isn’t, their fault; “they just doing what their daddy did.” 

It is the type of reasoning defence lawyers jump on when their client is being charged with hitting women with machetes, bike pumps or fists.

The concert was live streamed to other Cook Islanders overseas so “they could share our good vibes, high spirits and good wholesome event.”

At the end of the night the event finished with a magnificent fireworks display.  Nothing like showing a party atmosphere as a celebration of White Ribbon Day ending with an explosive display of fire and pulsing stars in your eyes. 

The same sort of thing 25 percent of women in domestic incidents experience from the result of violent abuse within their own homes, that are meant to be a safe haven.

They say the police have tools at their disposal like home visits, police safety orders and protection orders from the courts.

These would be great if they were dispensed where it was intended - for women and children who have been physically threatened and fear for their safety; not to keep certain family members off land wanted by another.

Land lawyers report seeing an increase in this type of use since its inception and police officers have said they hand out safety orders like raffle tickets for land disputes because you no longer need to prove evidence of abuse.

Just the mere mention of provocation and pretending to be scared can elicit reason for the police to appear at your workplace unannounced and stopping you returning to your home for 1 – 5 days.

The no drop policy is a good incentive to follow through on all reports made during the heat of the moment, unfortunately once it gets to court, we fail most of our victims.

If a man pleads guilty to assault with a weapon and still gets off the charge, or is allowed to travel overseas because it is argued they are a businessman, or is given a get out of jail card to work on their business because their dad hit them, then we are never going to get a buy in from young or old males that violence for any reason is wrong.

Because as they see it, they can get away with it if they play their cards or pay their lawyer right.

Apparently, the idea is to encourage parents and caregivers to speak to their children about courteous relationships, respectful communications, focusing on the good qualities boys and men can demonstrate if they are raised in a good healthy family environment.

It starts at home and it starts with removing words like “go help your mother with the dishes” or “I am helping my wife with dinner by peeling the potatoes.”

No one should be ‘helping’ the woman in the home because that implies it is only her job.

Everyone in the home should be participating equally towards the smooth operating of the home, including children.

If the man in the house eats food, he should be part of making the food. If he wears clothes he should be rostered to wash, hang out, bring in, fold and put away everyone’s clothes.

It is not the woman’s sole job to be everyone’s personal butler. It’s definitely not her soul job.

If she is working and he is working, why is it her job to have dinner ready every day?  His mother might have done that for his dad, but she may not have needed to help finance the family costs.

His dad might have had a beer at the pub on the way home from work but 6pm closing sent dad’s home early to be with the family.

Now they fill them with alcohol then wash their hands of responsibility if they drive drunk or lash out domestic violence once they’re home.

Men wearing a White Ribbon for a day won’t elicit change. Men treating women as important and deserving respect at home, work and in the courtrooms will initiate change for the White ribbon campaign.