‘If they didn’t leave, they’d die’

THE stories of victims of family violence written to a Wangaratta police officer will go on display to promote White Ribbon Day.

Sgt Damian Loiterton is passionate about stopping family violence and he asked victims to write to him anonymously about their experiences so he could share them with the community.

He said the letters were devastating.

“The biggest theme was the fact that if they didn’t leave, they’d die,” Sgt Loiterton said.

Up to 10 of the letters have been hand-written on wooden cut-outs of women and will be displayed along a path in the King George Gardens in Wangaratta next Friday for White Ribbon Day.

“I encourage the community to come along and read their stories,” Sgt Loiterton said.

“People may feel a great deal of shame and some will get upset.

“But it gives those women the opportunity to express a story they may never have told and it’s community awareness that family violence is out there and to open their eyes.”

People will also be able to sign the White Ribbon Day oath, where they pledge their opposition to violence against women.

Sgt Loiterton runs a men’s behaviour change program with Ovens and King Community Health.

He started Wangaratta’s White Ribbon Day celebrations three years ago.

He said it was important for the focus to be placed on perpetrators of family violence.

“People often say, ‘Why did she stay?’ but it’s important to turn it around and put it on the male — why did they behave like this?” Sgt Loiterton said.

“These people have got dads, uncles, brothers, sons and nephews and they live in the community and they see their poor behaviour. It’s up to them to address that behaviour.”

The White Ribbon Day celebration runs from 10am to 4pm with a barbecue lunch, with the support of Wangaratta Bunnings.

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