Shared Testament Shines Light on Family Violence

By Suzanne McKenzie | Posted: Tuesday December 10, 2019

Presbyterian Support Southland (PSS) recently partnered up with * PresCare NZ and Invercargill’s First Presbyterian Church to host it’s first-ever White Ribbon event aimed at raising awareness of, and encouraging community-based action to end, family violence.

PSS Enliven Pastoral Care and Retirement Villages Manager Karl Lamb said the two-day event included a special church service and members of the public planting a white ribbon ‘stake’ in the lawn or tying a white ribbon to the Church fence to symbolically pledge their support of the cause.

As one of the region’s largest social services provider and a responsible employer, PSS’s inaugural involvement with the global movement focused predominantly on spreading the anti-violence message across its diverse workplace and service settings and making sure prevention resources and assistance information was available to anyone affected by family violence.

Karl said that while it had been heartening to get such a positive response from staff and the wider community, a quick glance at local and national headlines over the past month painted a frightening picture of just how prevalent the issue of men’s violence against women really was.

“Grace Millane, Amber-Rose Rush and our own Azalia Wilson, have recently become household names, but the sad reality is they could have just as easily have been your, or my, next-door neighbour, a work colleague, or the mum-of-three who lives down the street.

With a proliferation of official sources backing this up, Karl said it was not hard to see why the White Ribbon messages and avenues of assistance, had garnered considerable traction and why action was vitally important to the future wellbeing of Southland families.

Karl - also an ordained minister - and Reverend Nyalle Paris of First Church cleverly interwove key messages into the Sunday service.

But, as many attested to, the most poignant message of the weekend was not delivered by sermon, nor by symbolic stakes in the ground – but rather it came with the presence and brave testament of an unnamed survivor of serious domestic assault, who came to reclaim back power over her life.

Karl said the woman - who had no ties to PSS or First Church - had been the first person he met on Saturday and was one of the last to leave.

“She touched us all with her story of turmoil, escape and hope for a better future … free from violence, for herself and all her family.”

Now surely that’s the future worth working towards.

*PresCare is a partnership between the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and all Presbyterian Support regions. It is aimed at caring for communities by focusing on the well-being of children and families.