Busselton event takes stand against violence and abuse to women and girls

A White Ribbon event will be held at Georgiana Molloy Anglican School on August 16 in support of the community taking a stand against violence and abuse to women and girls.

White Ribbon Australia is part of a global movement that works to eliminate gendered violence and strives for an Australian society where all women and children are safe.

Guest speakers at the event include South West Police Family Protection coordinator Don McLean who will talk about coercive control and GMAS Year 12 student Coralie Sandor who will discuss sexism in Australia.

The keynote speaker is Katherine Houareau, the founder and chief executive of Changing Lives Australia, which works to empower people to make a difference.

She is also the Wanneroo and Communities Suicide Prevention Network chair and Lifeline WA ambassador.

Ms Houareau is a survivor of child sexual abuse, family and domestic violence and intergenerational trauma.

She uses her voice to speak about her own experience to help remove any negative stigma associated with abuse and encourage others to speak out.

"People do not realise what is going on," she said.

"If we do not talk about it we cannot fix it, we can't heal and we can't change that continuing narrative, which is how intergenerational trauma occurs.

"If you do not talk about it that pattern carries on and sometimes that pattern manifests in different ways, you may experience mental health issues such as depression, alcohol or drug misuse.

"One of the biggest things I have learnt is to use your voice and do it from a place of authenticity, own your story.

"I use my negative experiences in a positive and constructive way because I want to be able to make a difference and tell people they are not alone."

Ms Houareau started talking about suicide attempts to her friends on Facebook and YouTube where she found more and more people reaching out to her from all over the world.

"Now I am owning my story around the sexual traumas and family and domestic violence because I felt I was ashamed of it, and if I did not talk about it I could not help anyone else going through it," she said.

"People look up to me now and I am really humbled by that, they said I did not realise how much I have impacted their lives."

Changing Lives Australia came about by Ms Houareau finding her voice and needing a platform to talk to people so they knew they were not alone.

Ms Houareau said knowing how silence can continue the cycle of intergenerational trauma and sexual assault was one of the reasons she started the organisation.

"It is about empowering people to make a difference, whether it is through mental health first aid training, speaking engagements, laughter yoga or community activities, we want people to have a voice," she said.

"Whether you have lived experience or not it is about empowering people to realise that it is okay to talk about it and to not give things power to take us down.

"Truths can give you the greatest strengths, people do not realise because they get told to suppress it and not talk about it.

"Through my experiences overcoming all the trauma I really started to bed down and invest in free training courses, read books, went to online group chats and spoke to different people about their insights and experiences.

"I also sought out mentors and people who inspired me, I had conversations with people and got curious about policy and advocacy.

"Because I had to advocate for myself it was a natural thing for me to learn how to use my voice through advocacy."

Ms Houareau said initially it was difficult for her to disclose to anyone what had happened and she found it critical in high school that she started to find her own voice.

Being disbelieved and threatened about speaking up made her realise that something was not right with the narrative.

One confidant who did believe her felt disempowered to help because of their own traumas.

"It was too traumatic and volatile to bring it up and they were afraid of the consequences of having her voice, which is really sad," she said.

When Ms Houareau did speak about what happened she said at the time there was a lack of support and empathy from police because the abuse had occurred years prior.

"That is something that haunts you, when you have an experience that is either emotional, psychological, physical or financial abuse, when you speak up as a survivor it is the first time you talk about it you need to feel validated and you need to feel heard," she said.

"That literally broke me.

"I walked away from that totally invalidated and unheard, and stepped into that narrative that had been continuing through the family, it was pretty harsh to realise that."

To help break the cycle, Ms Houareau said as a community people needed to be mindful about how to have conversations around what a healthy relationship looks like.

"We should try to teach our children what is a good secret and what is a bad secret, all this sort of stuff will change the narrative in how we support people," she said.

"By having conversations and realising it is not okay is something that we need to reflect on.

"We are talking about mental health and suicide but we still have a long way to go.

"As a community if we can have champions with lived experience that would make a huge difference and have people who are good positive leaders.

"As a community we all have a responsibility, we should all work together as a community because we are a community and we all care, which is my whole approach, it makes a big difference.

"Prevention is better than cure - early intervention about what a healthy relationship looks like - we need to give kids a voice and be part of that narrative."

The White Ribbon event is suitable for anyone in the community aged 15 years and over, and will be held at GMAS from 5.30pm to 7.30pm on Monday, August 16.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from trybooking.com/BSVCZ (teens aged 15 to 18 years are free).

Where to get help

If you or someone you know needs help the following services can assist:

  • Waratah: 1800 017 303
  • 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Women's Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 007 339
  • The National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1800 880 052 or email hotline@workfocus.com
  • Sexual Assault Resource Centre: 1800 199 888
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
  • Men's Domestic Violence Helpline: 1800 000 599
  • Mates Men's Support Group: 9752 3217
  • Department of Communities - Child Protection and Family Support: 1800 622 258