16 Days of Activism: Why I don’t wear a white ribbon, by Jo Gough RISE CEO

Posted on November, 2023

Today is the first day of 16 Days of Activism, an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (also known as White Ribbon Day) and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. Here, our CEO Jo writes about what these days and this campaign mean for her, and the survivors we work with.

I have never worn a white ribbon.

Why? Because I am not a man. That’s it.

Ok, I should explain. For the uninitiated White Ribbon Day (on the 25th November) was set up by men to encourage men and boys, to make the White Ribbon Promise to never use, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women.

Like me the White Ribbon organisation believes that most violence against women is committed by men. It was set up to ask ‘all men’ to take responsibility for preventing sexism, harassment, and male violence. All good I hear you say and yes, I agree. A men’s movement is needed – led by men for men to change the world for women and girls – stopping male violence needs men to act collectively.

And yes, I want to see more action, but, call me a cynic - I am not yet convinced that a white ribbon will do the trick when 12% of all police recorded crime in in Brighton and Hove in 2021/22 had a domestic abuse flag (3,299 crimes and 2,188 incidents) 88% of the perpetrators were male, and 45% of 14–16-year-olds who had ever had a relationship locally say they had experienced a problem behaviour in their relationship or that 19% of 14–16-year-olds locally said they had experienced someone at school touching them sexually when they did not want it. (SAWASS, BHCC). Or when 60% of female runners (worldwide) have been harassed; over 70%of women in the UK say they have experienced sexual harassment in public; and globally almost 9 in 10 women in some cities around the world feel unsafe in public spaces (UN Women).

Recently we have been asking survivors that have used RISE services what justice would look like for them. Here are some of their words:

“Men being held to account for abuse. Women being able to name abuser and be believed. Society condemning abuse.”

“The criminal justice system not allowing men to get away with it and women feeling beloved, supported when they speak out.”

"The family court system to acknowledge how abuser use it to get control (physical and financial) over the mother.”

“Prison sentence and freedom from the perpetrator.”

When we ask what life feels like when you (and your children) no longer have violence/abuse affecting you they describe it as,  

“Sense of freedom, safety, independence, and happiness. A movement from being out of control to in control. The world opens-up again. There are opportunities. I can think for myself.”

“Freedom, calm, safety and independence”

“We are free to be our best selves.”

"Not just surviving, reaching up and out. Making plans.

Feeling safe.”

“Freedom and light. We are all able to be ourselves and are growing in confidence.”

"It feels like a huge weight has been lifted.”

“I get pleasure from so much more, especially the small things like being able to listen to my choice of music."

Survivors are asking for freedom from abuse which is exactly the reason that RISE exists – we don’t want to just be a helping organisation – we want long, lasting change that means no-one has to suffer abuse and violence. Domestic abuse is hidden, chronically under-reported and victims rarely get justice, which is why they need a service like RISE, that they can trust to walk by their side to safety and recovery. And we know that it takes more than a white ribbon on your jumper, once a year, to achieve this. ‘Freedom from Abuse and Violence’ is our vision and we have vowed to stay strong until this is achieved. Are you with us?

So, this year RISE will be delighted to meet with Councillor Pumm, White Ribbon lead, at a professionals event on 27th November to connect with services and staff. We look forward to hearing his plans to end violence against women and girls. We are anticipating that he and all our local leaders will step up to the challenge and act using the knowledge from expert local specialist providers, survivors and evidence from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales in ‘A Patchwork of Provision’.

We are hopeful that the new Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy for Brighton and Hove (currently in consultation) will build on the previous ground-breaking strategy that ended in 2017. This strategy said that Brighton & Hove was committed to providing, ‘sustainable provision of specialist domestic and sexual violence services’, that provide ‘an effective network of specialist violence against women and girls services that provide safety, advocacy and support,’ which are ‘independent from statutory services and provide safe, separate women-only spaces.’ I wonder if this commitment still applies. We will be replying to the consultation. If you want to have your say on the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2023- 2026, go here

So, despite my cynicism, I want to ask you to join RISE from the 25th November to the 10th December, to amplify the voices of women as part of the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women (IDEVAW) and the 16 Days of Activism. We are calling for action to increase awareness, promote advocacy, challenge, and seek solutions.

We are asking every person in every neighbourhood to stand up to end violence against women now. Wear a white ribbon if you like but don’t just gesture, ACT!

Join RISE for our 16 days of activism.

If you need support or to someone to talk to, call our helpline on 01273 622 822. It is open on Monday and Tuesday mornings 9.30 - 12.30pm, and Wednesday evenings 5-7pm. Or to the following organisations:

  • Get details of local support here
  • Women’s Aid live chat service lets women chat directly with a support worker
  • AAFDA: If you have lost a loved one through fatal domestic abuse, contact AAFDA to see if we can help you
  • Galop: The National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline for LGBT+ people who have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic abuse. They are also there for people supporting a survivor of domestic abuse; friends, families and those working with a survivor.
  • Respect: The Respect Phoneline is a confidential helpline, email and webchat service for domestic abuse perpetrators and those supporting them and Men’s Advice Line – confidential helpline, email and webchat service for male victims of domestic abuse:

#16DaysofActivism #16Days #EndMaleViolence #IDEVAW

RISE 16 Days of Activism 2023 Day 1 Jo Gough 1