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Today is White Ribbon Day. Here are 5 things you can actually do to help.

Today, the 23rd of November, is White Ribbon Day.

Men and women are encouraged to wear a white ribbon as a visual symbol of their commitment to never excuse or remain silence about violence against women.

In 1999, the United Nations declared today the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and thus the 23rd of November is about so much more than a piece of white fabric.

This year, Destroy the Joint is counting the women who have been murdered as a result of domestic violence. The toll is currently at 63.

Awareness and conversations are critical to building a future free from violence and abuse, but so is action.

Here are five practical things you can do to help women who have been afflicted by one of Australia’s largest and more dangerous epidemics.

Donate pads and tampons to Share The Dignity 

Many women who have escaped domestic violence, spend time in women’s shelters or refuges.

For vulnerable and at risk women, often they do not have the funds to afford pads or tampons. For some, it’s a matter of choosing between feeding their family and purchasing sanitary items.

Share the Dignity argues that sanitary hygiene is a basic human right, and they collect pads and tampons from all over Australia to deliver to women in need.

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There is currently an “It’s in the Bag” Christmas campaign, which asks Australians to find an old handbag, and fill it with items that she needs. That might include sanitary items, deodorants, soap, shampoo and condition, toothpaste and a toothbrush, sunscreen and cleansing wipes. They also suggest a thoughtful note to add to the bag, so vulnerable women are reminded that someones cares, and that she matters.

Every woman deserves dignity.

You can find out where the collection points are, here. Or find out more about the “It’s in the Bag” campaign, here.

Donate to RizeUp

While RizeUp seeks to raise awareness through advocacy and speaking engagements, they know that the victims of Family and Domestic Violence need practical assistance. And fast.

One of its services involves furnishing temporary housing, and making sure there is enough food for families in transition.

Mia Freedman chats with the founder of Rize Up, Nicolle Edwards, about how she is helping women flee domestic violence…

They also raise funds for families who have fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back.

You can donate to RizeUp, here.

Donate to the Safe Beds for Pets program

Many women refuse to leave domestic violence situations out of fear for the safety of their pets.

The RSPCA explain, “It is common practice for the perpetrator of domestic violence to lure family members back home, or prevent them from leaving, by threatening to harm the pet.”

The Safe Beds for Pets program offers temporary housing to the pets of people who are escaping domestic violence, and helps to address the link between human and animal abuse.

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You can donate to the Safe Beds program, here.

Volunteer at a women’s shelter

Organisations like Women’s Community Shelters include volunteer programs, where you can assist with the day to day running of the shelter or any fundraising events.

On their website they also call for any retiree or professional who is willing to offer their services pro-bono, to contact them.

Organisations like Lou’s Place in Kings Cross, NSW, relies on volunteers with a variety of tasks, from preparing and cooking food, the running of classes and activities like sewing or yoga, as well as shopping for supplies and cleaning.

Other organisations like Wire in Melbourne welcomes volunteers. You can train as a volunteer phone counsellor, which means providing information and support to women in need, as well as referring them to appropriate services.

Recognise the signs

It’s important to recognise the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Reach Out identifies the signs as:

  • Your partner tries to control your behaviour
  • Your partner gets jealous easily
  • Your partner insults you in public or private
  • Your partner makes you feel confused or like you are going ‘crazy’
  • Your partner threatens violence against you, your pets, or people you love
  • Your partner makes you feel scared

If you are subjected to physical or sexual violence, there are many support services to assist and keep you safe.

Image via iStock.

Also look out for the signs in friends, family and colleagues. They include:

  • Injuries and excuses
  • Absences from school or work
  • Low self esteem
  • Personality changes
  • Self-blame
  • Isolation
  • Stress related problems

White Ribbon Day is an important first step. But a piece of fabric does little to alleviate the suffering of domestic violence victims.

Today, we are aware.

Tomorrow, we must act.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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