In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The US Department of Veteran Affairs is partnering with White Ribbon USA to launch White Ribbon VA, a national call to action that encourages citizens to take a pledge against domestic violence. The genderless awareness movement invites citizens of all genders to participate, with the aim of eliminating sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence in VA health care settings and communities while promoting a positive change in gender culture.
As the world’s largest organization of men and boys working to end domestic violence and promote gender equality, the White Ribbon Campaign has spread to over 60 countries around the world since its inception in Toronto in 1991. Leila Jackson, Senior Strategist at VHA Office of the Chief of Staff, initially come up with the idea of a joint White Ribbon VA campaign in partnership with Veronika Mudra CEO/Founder of the White Ribbon USA and National Association of Social Workers. Through their join efforts, the White Ribbon VA campaign invites people to symbolically wear a white ribbon throughout October and November to reflect their pledge to “never commit, excuse or stay silent about sexual harassment, sexual assault or domestic violence against others.”
In a campaign video, those wearing a white ribbon take various pledges, including: to honor VA health care settings as safe and welcoming environments; to recognize that touching, comments about appearance and personal nicknames cause discomfort; to respect personal space and boundaries; to confide in others about unwanted hugging, touching or flirting; and to Remember, Every Single Person Expects Courteous Treatment (RESPECT).
“It’s a very important milestone for our organization,” says Veronika Mudra, founder of White Ribbon USA and domestic violence survivor. “It’s an honor to lead this campaign on a national level together with VA, and we hope to get new supporters through this campaign. Our mission is to make White Ribbon known in the US as a global symbol of activism against domestic and gender-based violence towards women and girls.”
In the US alone, 43.6% of women and 24.&% of men have experienced some form of sexual violence. According to Mudra, awareness initiatives like these are vital in combating the roof of the problem, which is gender bias narratives. “Gender bias narratives cause issues like domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, inequality in payment, inequality in education, inequality in careers. These are all consequences of a much larger issue, which is gender bias.”
VA will hold local and national White Ribbon VA programming throughout the month of October 2020, which will include various speakers, including veterans, promoting a workplace and health care system that is free of harassment and assault. The campaign will also promote its message across all social media channels with the hashtags #WhiteRibbonVA and #HarassmentFreeVA.
This campaign is just the first step in White Ribbon’s efforts to gain more support from governmental organizations who have the power to raise awareness on a national scale. “The Department of Veteran Affairs is offering great support to our cause and we want to make more governmental organizations, law enforcement and later police forces our ambassadors,” says Veronika Mudra, founding CEO of White Ribbon USA. “These are people who experience a lot violence in their duties, so their commitment against domestic violence and harassment means a lot to us. It’s important that they actively, openly and publicly stand against it.”
Co-authored with Adriana Georgiades