Men unite against domestic violence
By Lori Hein / Correspondent
Friday, January 23, 2004
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Church group takes White Ribbon pledge
This is the fifth in an occasional series on the role of churches, synagogues and religious organizations in the community.
It started in Canada. In 1991, a group of Canadian men decided to speak out against violence against women. They wore white ribbons to symbolize their commitment.
Within six weeks, about 100,000 men across Canada wore ribbons, and the White Ribbon Campaign was born. White Ribbon Campaign events culminate in men coming forward and taking a pledge "never to commit, condone nor remain silent about violence against women."
On Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m., the men's group of Easton's Covenant Congregational Church will host a White Ribbon Campaign event to raise awareness among men and boys in Easton and surrounding towns of the types, magnitude and effects of violence against women.
Everyone is invited, but the evening's message will be aimed at men, who, at the end of the gathering, will be invited to take the White Ribbon Campaign pledge and receive a white ribbon to demonstrate their promise, in the words of men's group member Bill Griffith, "to not accept, to fight against, to essentially reject anything and everything that is connected with domestic violence."
Covenant Congregational Church has a very active men's group, Griffith said.
"Last year, we decided to take on as one of our missions the task of helping local agencies that support the fight against domestic violence," he said.
From Denise Papagno, domestic violence officer for the Easton police department and president of HUGS II, a local program that offers help and service to abuse victims, the men learned about the violence against women - physical, sexual, verbal, psychological, financial - that exists in their communities.
"Denise receives upwards of 300 emergency calls per year," Griffith said. "It's terrifying to imagine how some people live."
He added that many people in towns like Easton don't realize the extent of the problem.
"They think Easton doesn't have these issues," Griffith said. "Womans Place Crisis Center in Brockton doesn't have enough beds and here, in Easton, many homes have more bedrooms than there are people living in those homes. It's a dichotomy that is bothersome. Life is not fair."
Last year, the Covenant men decided to do something to help make life a little safer for local abuse and violence victims. They held a fund-raiser called "Dinner With the Guys." The men cooked and served a five-course dinner to "an absolute sellout crowd," recalled Griffith, and raised $4,400 to benefit Womans Place and HUGS II.
"It was very eventful when we delivered that check," said Griffith. "Very meaningful."
The men's group plans to hold another fund-raiser in the spring.
Impressed with the Covenant group's desire and ability to reach out and enlist others in the fight against abuse, Maria Robbins of Womans Place Crisis Center put the men in touch with Chuck Callan, vice president of Old Colony United Way and co-chair of a local White Ribbon Campaign initiative. Callan co-chairs the effort with Timothy Cruz, Plymouth County district attorney and Joseph McDonough., Plymouth County sheriff.
"I took this project on about four years ago," Callan said.
Working with Michael Sullivan, former Plymouth County district attorney and now U.S. attorney for the Massachusetts district, Callan began volunteering time to the White Ribbon Campaign, now an international, interdenominational effort. Callan works to educate men and boys about the need to end men's violence against women.
"People think this is a woman's issue," he said, "and that men don't need to get involved."
Callan spends time "going out and talking to men and boys, going into the schools, setting up White Ribbon pledge signings." As United Way funds support many of the agencies that provide services to abuse victims, Callan noted that his volunteer work with the White Ribbon Campaign "works hand in hand" with his professional responsibilities.
Covenant's White Ribbon evening will include, in Callan's words, "a lot of speaking from the heart." The church's pastor will introduce speakers who will share facts, feelings, insights and personal experiences. Speakers include Callan, Denise Papagno, Timothy Cruz, Joseph McDonough, Maria Robbins, and Captain Richard Cardinal of the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department. Several domestic abuse survivors will share their stories, or pieces of them.
"It will be very moving," said Callan. "Very, very powerful."
At the end of the evening, "all men attending, young and old, will be invited to take the pledge together," said Callan. The men will then sign a banner declaring the White Ribbon Campaign promise "never to commit, condone nor remain silent" about an issue which Griffith says "touches us all."
Each man taking the pledge will receive a white ribbon. It started with a small group of Canadian men who, a dozen years ago, inspired 100,000 other men to stand up against violence against women. In 2003, according to Chuck Callan, more than one million men worldwide took the pledge.
Covenant's White Ribbon evening will take place at the church on Wednesday, Feb.11 at 7:30 p.m. The church is located at 204 Center St. in N. Easton. For more information about the White Ribbon Campaign, visit www.whiteribbon.ca or call 508 238-6423.
Lori Hein can be reached at 508-634-7563 or firstname.lastname@example.org