FOR Roger Yeo, the month of November represents a rollercoaster of emotions.
Today is White Ribbon Day.
Tomorrow, he and his wife Kathy will reflect on what would have been their daughter Rachelle’s 38th birthday.
The day afterwards is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Next Friday he will speak about the crime he never expected would rob his family of their much loved “practical joker”, at the Hunter White Ribbon Breakfast.
“I don’t think of it as reopening a wound, because it’s not going to go away and I’m never going to forget,” Mr Yeo said.
“But I want to change the world one White Ribbon at a time.
“If I can persuade one guy to change his attitude or listen or stop and think about it, that’s a positive.
“If I can create the circumstances for one woman to be able to walk away from a domestic violence situation and survive, that’s a positive.
“I don’t have a budget to put on a course for men, or put together a training program to teach corporations or institutions about gender equity, which is what it boils down to.
“I can only use what tools I have – and that’s my voice and my pen.”
Mr Yeo became a White Ribbon ambassador after his daughter was murdered in her Sydney home by a former partner on July 16, 2012.
He describes the perpetration of violence against women by men as a “national human rights disaster”.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017 figures show one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15, one in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence and one in six Australian women has experienced physical or sexual violence by current or former partner.
ABS figures also show Australian women were nearly three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner.
Australian Institute of Criminology 2017 figures show on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.
An ABS Personal Safety Survey from 2015 found both women and men were more likely to experience violence at the hands of men, with around 95 per cent of all victims of violence in Australia reporting a male perpetrator.
“This is a men’s issue and it has to be driven by men,” he said.
“All the talk in the world, all the programs, all the promises of politicians to spend another $100 million are not going to change attitudes and behaviours that men have learned since they were children, so we’re talking about cultural change that has to happen.
“I’m not going to change the behaviour of a 45 year old man that’s beating his wife – maybe he can be changed through jail or seeking psychological help.
“But it’s the next generation of kids and the one after that. I know they talk about it amongst themselves – they get it, they understand and their attitudes and behaviours will change a little bit and the next generation will change again and gender equity will become real.
“The reaction to domestic violence will be more strong, there will be less tolerance, less sweeping under the carpet ‘because it doesn’t affect me’. That will not wash with the next generation.
“[Television presenter] Charlie Pickering started speaking about analogies and he’s absolutely right – if one person was being killed every week in Kings Cross we’d roll out the National Guard.
“If there was a kid being killed at a roundabout outside a school every week or every two weeks we’d do something, we’d shut it down, we’d cut the speed limit.”
I don’t have a budget to put on a course for men, or put together a training program to teach corporations or institutions about gender equity... I can only use what tools I have – and that’s my voice and my pen.- Roger Yeo
Mr Yeo said his daughter was “not the stereotypical person you would think” would be the victim of abuse.
She was a strong, sociable, independent woman with a supportive network of friends and a good job.
Ms Yeo had also told her employer and police about the perpetrators’ behaviour, moved states and did not disclose her address.
“It can happen to anyone,” he said.
“The whole message is that often the most vulnerable time for women is when she starts to try to escape, because that challenges the male feeling of entitlement and need for control.”
Mr Yeo urged the public to learn about the signs of domestic violence – and be willing to intervene if necessary.
“There was hardly anyone in her life that was not aware she was in a toxic relationship,” he said.
“Most of us thought she was clear of it.
“We did not realise this guy was stalking her and neither did she.
“The relationship was well and truly over at least three or four months prior and a normal person would think ‘That’s done – she’s got a new boyfriend, moved on to a new job and new city’.
“I think there were signs we did not realise.
“There were emails and mysterious phone calls that she told us she refused to take, they weren’t being responded to.”
Mr Yeo praised his daughter’s neighbours for banging on her door and calling police the night she died.
“When you see or hear violence you should do something about it,” he said.
“I read that most domestic violence situations cease within 10 seconds of someone making the perpetrator aware that they know what they are doing.
“We can’t ignore this any longer.”
Details: The Hunter White Ribbon Breakfast will be held at Wests at New Lambton on November 30.
NSW Police Northern Region Domestic Violence Commander Superintendent John Gralton will emcee the event.
Tickets are $40, include a cooked breakfast and must be prebooked at 4935 1287 or www.proticket.com.au.
Proceeds will help NAPCAN expand its school-based domestic and family violence and sexual assault prevention program in the Hunter.
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