SOUTH YARMOUTH – The major theme of the 4th annual Cape Cod White Ribbon day event on Thursday was education.
White Ribbon Day is a campaign that calls on men and boys to take a pledge saying “no” to violence against women and girls.
The event was a collaboration between Independence House, a non-profit that helps individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence, the Yarmouth Police Department and the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office. It was held at Irish Village on Route 28 in South Yarmouth.
Several guest speakers, including those in law enforcement, politicians and even high school studens, talked about violence against women, prevention efforts and offered personal stories.
Judge Jospeh Reardon said at a young age he was taught by his father to never lie, never steal and never hit a woman.
“We have to teach our young men early on that you never hit a girl,” Reardon said.
Reardon said that in a lot of cases violence is a byproduct of poverty and individuals in that situation often resort to drugs, alcohol, criminal acts.
“You lose respect for yourself,” he said. “And as soon as you lose respect for yourself you lose respect for everyone else around you.”
Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings said he is in a unique situation at the Barnstable County Correction Facility as there are batterers and victims in the same building.
“We do our best up there to try to change the way the batterers think,” Cummings said. “That’s what we see as the problem. Either they learned it from a father or someone else growing up and we try to teach them to change their cognitive behavior so that they think differently.”
Student presidents of local Mentors in Violence Prevention programs at Cape Cod high schools also spoke out against violence.
The goal of the MVP program is to spread awareness to students that domestic violence, dating violence, bullying and equality unacceptance is not acceptable.
Jack Giberti, the co-president of the Barnstable High School MVP program spoke about the effect Cape Cod students had on the cancellation of a Don McLean concert scheduled in April at Barnstable High School.
McLean was arrested in January for domestic violence assault in Maine.
The presidents of the four MVP programs at Cape Cod High School wrote a letter to Barnstable Schools Interim Superintendent William Butler. The next week the concert had been cancelled.
Fellow MVP president at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School Paxton Reed discussed his feelings when he found out his best friend had been raped and that the concept of violence against women suddenly became real to him and not just a plot of an episode of “Law & Order.”
Reed also said that educating youth was the key to stopping violence.
“Abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Frederick Douglas said, ‘It’s easier to build strong children than to repair grown men,’” Reed said.
State Representative Brian Mannal from the 2nd Barstable District said the White Ribbon Day event is a good thing for the community and a sad day as well.
“I wish that we didn’t have to have White Ribbon Day. I wish that this was no longer and issue and I think there will come a time when it is not an issue,” Mannal said. “The thing about domestic violence and violence against women is that for so long as a culture we have hidden it and we have not talked about it.”
Other speakers included State Representative Tim Whalen, District Attorney Michael O’Keefe and Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos.
A consensus among all of the speakers was the importance of the work done by Independence House across the Cape.
By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter