Church trying to tackle domestic abuse

The white ribbon outside St Columba Presbyterian church raising awareness of domestic violence. Image: Daniel Hines/SunLive.

New Zealand has one of the worst rates of domestic violence in the developed world and a local church is bringing awareness to this for White Ribbon Day.

Reverend Donald Hegan of St Columba Presbyterian church says they didn’t want to be passive as a congregation.

“We think we can have an effect in helping people, not just to be bystanders.

“We're saying we can be an active bystander - someone who is willing to challenge inappropriate or threatening behaviour in others.”

“It's just a huge concern what's happening in society where women and children are so vulnerable.”

He says the number of serious assaults and women murdered in New Zealand is too high.

“For that reason for the last three years, we've been promoting white ribbon in our community.”

The church has a large white ribbon outside and are having a stall on Friday outside Cherrywood Pharmacy.

They are raising money for the Shakti Women’s Refuge and will be handing out white ribbons and information about how to get help.

“It's making our community aware of these issues and not just keeping them hidden.”

He says at last year’s stall they were approached by ladies in their seventies and eighties who spoke about their recent experiences of violent relationships which shocked them.

“The thing is, it happens in all stages of life, our shock was that it was happening with older women.

“It's wide spread, it happens in all socio economic groups.”

A woman also spoke to the congregation about her experience of domestic violence.

“She was a young mother who had gone through domestic violence and her life was under threat, but she found it very hard to leave.

“She was talking to us and gave us some of the reasons why it was so hard for a woman.

“She was a university educated woman, come from a well to do family but [experienced] horrific abuse.

“It was almost too horrific to actually hear, but she talked to us about how she needed people not just to be condemning of her partner because she still loved him.

“That's what we find very hard to understand, but she still loved him and wanted to try and make it work.

“She tried to help us understand how a woman, a vulnerable woman needs help in these situations.”

Donald says they want to help men as well as women.

“We’re also aware that we have to help men to overcome their anger issues.

“We just can't condemn people, we have to try and somehow help them to break those cycles of abuse.”

The goal is also to get people to talk about the issue, he says.

“I would hope people would feel that they could talk about it because I think a lot of their families have been affected in some way.”

“For many years it was just silent, we couldn't talk about it.

“We were angry about the situation but we didn't know what to do about it.”

The church is also hosting a morning tea on their front lawn on Friday at 10:45am and people are encouraged to plant a white ribbon stake to support the cause.

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