Crusading for White Ribbon Day walk

ANTI-DOMESTIC violence advocates took powerful steps towards changing perceptions, as a sea of white snaked along the spectacular coastal walk from Lighthouse and Flynns Beach to the Town Green yesterday.

Men, women and children battled the heat, sore feet and the challenging terrain, to bring to light one of society's worst afflictions.

In its fourth year running and coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women White Ribbon Day proved as moving as ever. Whispers of change and echoes of injustice filled the air, as walkers confided in one another.

Among them were perpetrators, victims, friends and family of those effected by domestic violence.

For 66-year-old Ray Oakley, every strenuous step of his 9km journey served as a stark reminder of those who have endured this terrible act.

"It gave me quite a bit of pain getting up the stairs on that big hill," he said. "But I just think what some of these women would have been through would be much worse."

Mr Oakley has seen the devastating effects of family violence first-hand, at just three years old.

He said the haunting images of violence between his parents would be forever etched into his memory.

"I truly believe it's a lifetime thing," he said. "It's like a razor cut, once you've been through it you're scarred for life."

But walks like the White Ribbon Day event, encouraged people to speak out against domestic violence, and lift the lid on an issue often left-alone, he said.

"We don't know what goes on behind closed doors," he said. "I've held it in for years, but I've realised it's time to share, and give back to help others."

Mr Oakley said he hoped the walk would band together victims and supporters, and raise awareness of this all-too-common crime.

Hastings Women and Children's Refuge manager Gemma Morley said Mr Oakley's story served as an important reminder that domestic violence was by no means limited to women.

She said the remarkable number of men who turned up to the event were testament to an encouraging shift in the perceptions of the community.

"This is a crime, this is not something that belongs in the family," she said. "We need to bring it out into the open and tackle the issue for what it is. Having so many men involved is a big step towards achieving that."

Ms Morley said the faces of the walk and the stories of those taking part, were what made the event so inspiring.

"One in three women have been subjected to domestic violence at some stage in their life," she said. "That means all of us have a neighbour, a family member, or a friend that has experienced this."

She said the willingness of the community to lend their support showcased an ever increasing intolerance to domestic violence.

"These parents are role modelling for their kids by saying no, we're not going to stand back and say it doesn't effect us we're going to take a stand. 

After all, she said: "There is no such thing as an innocent bystander."

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can free call the Domestic Violence Line for help on 1800 656 463 or the Hastings Women and Children's Refuge on 6583 2155.

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