Sunday, November 25th is White Ribbon Day and the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Why does this day matter? In Australia, ‘one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner. One in three women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives. And domestic and family violence is the major cause of homelessness for women and their children, and a recognised form of child abuse.’

The Australian White Ribbon campaign website invites men to swear an oath and tell the world that violence against women is not acceptable. As the website says, it is a ‘male-led campaign that believes that most men are good and that good men abhor such violence. White Ribbon also believes in the capacity of the individual to change and to encourage change in others.’

We can make a difference together. And we must, because according to the largest study ever published on the problem of violence against women – a study conducted in 70 countries over 40 years – violence is ‘a bigger danger to women than cancer’. Those are very strong words, and words I certainly connect with, having experienced violence from male strangers and having also lost my mother to cancer when I was a teenager. Thankfully, the battle against cancer is being fought by researchers, doctors and brave survivors across the globe. But we must also fight against this other wide-reaching and harmful disease.

According to S. Laurel Weldon, co-author of the study, which has been published in the latest issue of American Political Science Review by Cambridge University Press:

‘Violence against women is a global problem. Research from North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia has found astonishingly high rates of sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, violence in intimate relationships, and other violations of women’s bodies and psyches. In Europe it is a bigger danger to women than cancer, with 45 per cent of European women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence. Rates are similar in North America, Australia and New Zealand and studies in Asia, Latin America and Africa show that violence towards women there is ubiquitous.’

Not only did the study find that violence against women was a global problem, but they found that ‘feminist movements’ were the number one key to change, as ‘strong, autonomous feminist movements were the first to articulate the issue of violence against women and the key catalysts for government action, with other organisations sidelining issues perceived as being only important to women.’

Thank you to the men of White Ribbon for refusing to sideline this important issue. Domestic and sexual violence is a problem that affects all of us – men, women and children. We can make a change together.

* Find out more about White Ribbon programs in Australia.

* Read a post by Martin Pribble on the unfortunate vitriol he received for supporting White Ribbon Day. He breaks down the arguments against the campaign one by one.

* The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, also known informally as White Ribbon Day, is a day commemorated in my home country of Canada each December 6 on the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre, in which fourteen women were singled out for their gender and murdered. The killer, who had been abused by his father, claimed to be ‘fighting feminism’.