Since the death of of Grace Millane, a visitor to New Zealand, last year, countless emotions have been stirred. The trial of recent weeks will have returned those to the surface. In this post, updated from an earlier version published in December, we offer some suggestions on how to channel the sadness, hurt and anger.
Support the family
New Zealanders hearts go out to Grace’s family, many of whom were in court today as the 27-year-old man, whose name remains suppressed, was unanimously found guilty by an Auckland High Court jury.
Her family, based in Essex, to the east of London, are running a tribute by way of a campaign in which handbags stuffed with toiletries are donated to victims of domestic abuse, hoping to “continue the legacy” of Grace.
A white ribbon is tied to each handbag, with a note reading: “She was a loving, family orientated free spirit with a beautiful caring nature, who was a loyal friend and enhanced the lives of all who lucky enough to meet her. Grace’s family have created the legacy in her name by fundraising for the White Ribbon charity, promoting awareness to end male violence towards women. To continue this legacy, we have created ‘Love Grace’ bags. Donated in memory of our amazing Grace, which contain everyday essentials that we hope will be of benefit to you and help you on your road to a safe future.”
More information at the Instagram account.
Donate your money and time
If you would like to show your support to local organisations working to end violence against women in New Zealand, there are many places you can donate.
The Women’s Refuge is an organisation working with New Zealand women and their children, preventing and stop family violence in New Zealand.
The Sophie Elliott Foundation teaches girls and boys at school about how to have respectful relationships.
The Aunties support vulnerable people and their families who have experienced intimate partner violence
Shakti New Zealand works with women of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin in the area of development, empowerment and violence intervention, prevention and awareness
Shine supports victims of family violence in New Zealand
Good Bitches Baking is all about spreading kindness, delivering delicious baked goods around the country to those who need it the most.
Stop reading the comments
As the responses poured in on social media from around the country and the world, so too has the vitriol from the #notallmen brigade, hellbent on defending their “good guy” status while also decrying Grace for travelling alone, for using a dating app, for going to a hotel with a man. Although it’s tempting to channel your rage towards Jock from Palmerston North, whose profile photo is definitely a car, a better use of energy might be to go to straight to the higher-ups.
Report comments that spew bile, misogyny and misinformation. Engage with the comments that don’t to give them more air to breathe. Send messages to the Facebook pages and let them know if toxic shit is going down on their posts. If it is the stories themselves that are drawing out the trolls, email the editors of news organisations and let them know that their sensational headlines are doing damage. Use the trash emoji freely.
Support young women doing cool shit
Now is as good a time as ever to throw your might behind young women heading out into the world and seizing their dreams. Seek out local organisations that help to empower young women and give them your love and support – maybe even find a group for yourself.
Graduate Women New Zealand advocates for women’s rights, equality and empowerment through access to quality secondary and tertiary education.
Girls Rock! is a programme for young women, using music to build confidence, empowerment and foster social change.
Sisters United provides creative programmes and services to young Pacific and Māori women in Auckland.
The YWCA is the world’s largest women’s organisation, a global network leading social and economic change and empowering young women.
The Women in Leadership Programme (NZWiL) develops women who are, or aspire in future to be, leaders within the tertiary sector.
The Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS) encourages women to use and develop their scientific abilities and to achieve their full potential.
Engineering New Zealand is working to attract and retain women in engineering.
Girl Guides New Zealand empowers girls to take action and change their world using fun, adventure and friendship.
Show some empathy
This one is for the fellas of New Zealand. Take some time to listen to the women around you and understand that we are all hurting in some way or another. Think of your women friends who have travelled alone. Think of the ones who were too afraid to. Think of the stories that your women friends will never tell you. Think of the stories they haven’t told anyone.
“Witness women’s rage,” says Angela Meyer of the Ace Lady Network. “Allow women the mic. Let us rage, grieve, shake the fucken bars of an oppressive system and say, enough of this shit! Don’t try to diminish our rage, but actively listen.”
For men: help yourself, help women
Men’s violence against women is an issue that needs to be fixed by men. Women learning to “protect themselves” is not only an unfair and inequitable burden, it’s a bandaid on a stab wound – it can never stem the tide if men themselves aren’t proactive, and centuries of violence are proof that it has never been, and will never be enough. If you want to find help for your own anger or violence issues, or want to support other men who might have them, there are a number of avenues you can take.
The Ministry for Social Development’s 2016 Are You OK? campaign offered a range of resources, testimonials and research that can still be found on the website.
Shine have a help line and plenty of resources to help out both perpetrators and victims of family violence. Shine also run educational programmes in schools.
Aviva Family Violence have a free 24 hour support line. Practical advice includes making a safety plan for if you think you may be at risk of committing an act of violence, removing yourself from the situation and calling a support person.
Porirua Living Without Violence have a 16 week Behaviour Change programme based on the belief that physical, sexual or psychological violence is not ok, as well as individual programmes.
SafeMan SafeFamily is a public Facebook page that offers support to men and the opportunity to discuss issues, spearheaded by ‘It’s Not OK’s Vic Tamati.
Tauwhai Men’s Centre offers help to men on the East Coast within a tino rangatiratanga framework. Their services include counselling and parenting programmes.
Gandhi Nivas in Otāhuhu is a service originally set up to address the problem of family harm in the Indian community but it now helps people of all backgrounds. It offers free counselling and emergency housing for men that have been referred by Police.
You can find a longer list of support for men around the country here.
Lifeline’s clinical manager, Renee Matthews, says 50% of their callers are men, which is unusual for a service that offers emotional and psychological support. She says the anonymous and non-judgmental nature of the helpline probably contributes to their willingness to call. Lifeline receives around 100 calls per month from people wanting support around family violence.
“We often support the caller to find organisations in their area that hold anger management courses, or counselling for anger issues. We will also offer some tips and skills that can be used immediately to decrease the risk of anger outbursts in the meantime. These include getting outside for regular exercise which can decrease stress, going for a brisk walk when they feel their anger escalating, recognising triggers for anger and practising relaxation techniques around these, and taking time out or mini breaks throughout the day to de-stress. It’s also good to recognise where the anger is coming from – what was the person’s home environment like growing up? How did this affect them? We also encourage the person by letting them know that things can change, and they are doing the right thing in asking for help.”
Dating etiquette for men
One of the flow-on effects of this tragedy is that even though it was not Grace who was at fault for travelling alone or meeting a malicious stranger on a dating app, many women will now be wary of doing the same.
Some ways men can help women feel safer in the dating world:
– It’s common for men on their dating app profiles to insist that they don’t want to waste time chatting, and would rather meet in person. Yes, it’s much easier to gauge someone’s personality face to face but the reality is that the period of getting to know someone over the app’s messaging system is crucial for women to make calls based on safety as well as compatibility. Be patient. Don’t pressure potential dates to meet up with you until they’re ready; let them take the lead. The last thing you both want is a date that is underpinned by fear.
– Suggest you meet for the first time somewhere public and let her pick the venue. Even if you intend to meet for a one night stand, meet in a public place first so she has the option of excusing herself if she’s not comfortable with you. Even if she says yes to sleeping with you before you meet, she has every right to pull out of the arrangement at any time. Make that as easy as possible for her.
– Get explicit and enthusiastic consent before initiating any intimacy.
– Don’t make contact via any other social media until you know she wants a friendship or relationship with you. A stranger, even one you intend to sleep with, learning about the intimate details of your life can feel scary and invasive. Stick to the dating app until she indicates she would like to communicate in other ways.
A little goes a long way
The reality is that men commit violence against women far more than the other way around, and there are many small things men can do to help women feel safe:
– Walk your friend to their car or, if they’re catching a taxi/Uber, take note of their driver and number plate.
– If a woman expresses discomfort or requests an action for her own sense of safety, don’t make it about you.
– When you see a friend is uncomfortable speaking with a man, introduce yourself. Enter the conversation and give her an opportunity to remove herself from the situation if she wants to.
– If you see a mate of yours making a woman feel uncomfortable or unsafe, speak to them about it. Calling out both our friends’ and our own behaviour is the hardest thing to do, but it’s the most important. A lot of good men do bad things sometimes. Address it and learn from it.
– Don’t think that you are a hero and required to ‘protect women’. The reality is that men listen to other men, so when there’s a situation that you can make safe simply by using your voice or presence, do that. And if you feel like your voice or presence is causing discomfort, remove yourself.
This thread by Anny Ma on Twitter is a great resource for men who want to help in easy, practical ways.
Dismantle the patriarchy
No matter what Jock from Palmerston North says on Facebook, we are currently living within a structure of patriarchy that favours men over women. “Our society is inherently based on inequality and the systemic assumption that women are ‘lesser to men’,” says Meyer of the Ace Lady Network. “Until the patriarchy is radically changed, violence towards women will continue to be seen as normal and ‘our fault’.”
A neat place to start for those with patriarchy L plates is Clementine Ford’s Boys Will be Boys, a thorough, infuriating and somehow funny look at the role that toxic masculinity plays in our everyday lives. “I want this world to be different for you,” she writes to her baby son, “I want you to have more choices about the kind of boy you want to be.” Also listen to this and watch this.
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