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The Blue & Gray Press | December 13, 2017

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White Ribbon Campaign urges men to pledge against sexual assault

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Ginny Clark/ The Blue & Gray Press

By SARAH GRAMMER

On a brisk Wednesday afternoon, men throughout the University of Mary Washington took to Campus Walk wearing white ribbon in an effort to stand up against violence on women.

These ribbons were a part of the university’s White Ribbon Campaign, led by the UMW Campus Police and the Athletic Department on Nov. 10 through the 14.

The goal of the campaign was to raise awareness and put a permanent end to violence against women, and it is one of the many campaigns the university has held this year to combat sexual assault.

“The White Ribbon Campaign was focused on men taking a part in stopping sexual assaults,” explained Leah Cox, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion. “The White Ribbon campaign that takes place all over the world since 1991, which focuses on men, was just one initiative.”

As stated on their campaign site, “White Ribbon positively engages men, young men and boys through relevant educational programming that challenges language and behaviors, as well as harmful ideas of manhood that lead to violence against women.”

According to the White Ribbon campaign, violence against men has doubled since 2005. The campaign encourages men to take a stand against violence for themselves as well as women. It provides them with ways of knowing when they are being abused and offers them safe ways out. Similar programs exist for victims of abuse in same sex relationships.

However, some students were not pleased with the way the campaign was executed.

“The campaign reinforced a gender binary that I, as well as many of my peers, do not believe to be correct,” said senior international affairs major Sarah Chamberlain. “The slogan ‘Man Enough?’ leaves out the gay and transgender populations on our campus because it clearly reinforces a stereotype of what it means to be a man or a woman.”

The seeds for the campaign were planted when three Dominican sisters, Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel, were assassinated for their involvement in attempts to overthrow the government of Rafael Trujillo.

In response to the horrific acts, groups of women from across Latin America gathered in Columbia on July 1981 to take a stand against the violence toward women. This day became an annual protest in memory of the Mirabel sisters.

In 1991 the first official White Ribbon Campaign protest began in Canada by a group of men in response to a horrific shooting of 14 women at the University of Montreal.

By 1998, the Campaign was launched in the United Kingdom by Womankind, a charity that works to support women and girls.

Finally, in 1999, the United Nations officially declared Nov. 25 the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign continued to develop in the United Kingdom through 2009 before it spread again. Scotland appointed their campaign’s first worker in 2009, marking the beginning of progress in the campaign.

As of Aug. 1st, 13 European countries have become involved in the campaign, and 25 more states have signed the convention, but have yet to ratify it.