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Organization raises awareness on domestic violence

To promote awareness against sexual abuse and domestic violence, men have been asked to wear white ribbons in honor of the “Massachusetts 2011 White Ribbon Day” on Thursday.

The White Ribbon Campaign, held from March 4 to 11, organized by the Men’s Initiative for Jane Doe Inc., is meant to target men who are “ready to help” and see a change in attitude of men toward women, said event coordinator Craig Norberg-Bohm.

Active men have very important roles in society today, from being involved as a father, to leadership or even through volunteer work as a sport coach, Norberg-Bohm said.

“When the boy isn’t doing well on the field, he shouldn’t be called a girl,” he said. “There needs to be shifting in a frame of conscious; this is targeting men who want to help.”

The White Ribbon Campaign, an international movement, began in the United States in Massachusetts with Jane Doe Inc. in 2008 and is the only campaign held in the United States.

Jane Doe Inc. hopes to create more branches and expand across the country, but first want to focus on local communities and on solidifying the regional impact before moving nationwide, Norberg-Bohm said.

The organization chose the month of March for the campaign because International Women’s Day takes place on March 8, Norberg-Bohm said.

“In our field, October is the month dedicated to domestic violence awareness and April is the month dedicated to sexual assault. We chose in between in order not to have an either-or stance,” Norberg-Bohm said. “Also, the international day for the elimination of violence against women is on Nov. 25 and we can’t really sponsor that date like the other countries do because Thanksgiving usually falls around that time and no one would pay attention.”

One out of four girls and one out of six boys experience sexual assault by the time they are teenagers, and one one-half of households experience domestic violence, Norberg-Bohm said. This is measured on the international scale as well.

“Research shows it varies more or less by different cultures but not necessarily in a religious way,” he said.

Although domestic violence is more often associated with lower-income communities because it takes places more “outside,” Norberg-Bohm said, domestic violence also takes place in higher income households but more often in “private.”

“If there’s ever been a question about why men must take seriously their responsibility to help change the culture in which violence against women exists, the names of the recent domestic violence homicide victims provide the answer,” said Mary Lauby, executive director of Jane Doe Inc., in a press release.

“We are also alarmed by the significant increase in demand for support and services reported by JDI’s sexual and domestic violence members throughout the Commonwealth,” Lauby said in the release.

However, Boston University students said they believe that it will not do much to help stop domestic violence.

“I just don’t think it will accomplish much. Either you’re a wife beater or you’re not,” said Tyler Murray, a junior in the College of Communication. “A lot of domestic violence is caused by drug abuse and alcoholism and if someone’s addicted to that kind of stuff, they probably can’t help it.”

“I think that having men take a pledge to end domestic violence and sexual assault isn’t really going to do anything,” said Chrissy Saniuk, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “The people who are taking this pledge are probably not the people who would be commit domestic violence anyway. If you’re a bad person, you’re a bad person and you’re probably not going to take a pledge.”

Gov. Deval Patrick will stand as the honorary chair for the 2011 White Ribbon Day Campaign.


  1. On behalf of Jane Doe Inc., we want to thank Emanuelle and the Daily Free Press for telling the BU Community about the MA White Ribbon Campaign and our efforts to help end men’s violence against women. We wouldn’t want to take credit for something that’s not ours, so want to clarify that the White Ribbon Campaign started in Canada in 1991 and has grown into an international movement. There have been many local WR efforts throughout the US over the years. In 2008 Massachusetts became the first with statewide campaign in the United States. The 2011 Campaign started March 3 with a State House Proclamation event with Honorary Chair Governor Patrick and local activities are taking place around the state through March 11 and beyond.
    We appreciate that the campaign is not going to resonate with everyone, and really want to hear from more young people like Tyler and Chrissy about what you think will make a difference in helping to end violence against women.
    Finally, it’s really important that we all understand that there’s never an excuse for abuse – including drugs and alcohol. in fact substance abuse doesn’t cause sexual and domestic violence – it can certainly contribute to poor judgement and increase the danger of a situation.
    And please remember, that morally and legally, being intoxicated means that someone can’t give consent. If you have questions about these issues or want to know your rights, please contact your local domestic or sexual violence program.

  2. Yes, true enough, “either you’re a wife beater, or you’re not” and most of us aren’t. And yes, the White Ribbon Day may be an exercise in “preaching to the choir”. But, you don’t have to be a batterer to contribute to the attitude that violence against women is OK. Most of us do it every day without saying a word. And thus, by failing to be part of the solution, we are part of the problem. White Ribbon Day is about saying out loud that violence against women is wrong. By saying nothing we foster the attitude, we teach our children that sexual and domestic violence is something we just have to accept. Yes, most of us don’t beat our partners. We don’t approve of it, but we don’t speak out either. We don’t challenge these attitudes in ourselves when we laugh at a sexist joke, when we we choose what media consume, when we brush off casual comments that degrade women, and when we say nothing.
    So, I took the pledge. I commit to speaking up, I commit to trying to help redefine masculinity in a more positive confident way and I urge other men to do the same.