Nearly 200 people marched from the central police station to Christchurch Hospital this morning to mark White Ribbon Day and stand against family violence.
The march, led by the White Ribbon motorcycle riders, was to symbolically recognise the women and children who are affected by family violence in Canterbury each year.
Participants included District Police Commander Superintendent Gary Knowles, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Councillors, Members of Parliament and representatives of many different agencies working to prevent family violence and support those affected by it.
Special guest Lesley Elliott, mother of Sophie Elliott and founding trustee of the Sophie Elliott Foundation, told the marchers she hoped that others would never have to experience what she has been through.
"Since Sophie died there have been about 80 family violence-related deaths. That is shameful.
"If you know of someone being abused don't be a bystander. Do something about it. And if you are personally being abused, seek help - you don't have to put up with it."
Pauline Clark, General Manager of Christchurch Hospital, noted that the hospital's emergency department was a salient reminder of "some of the most serious and devastating outcomes for women experiencing family violence.
"It is only with the combined efforts of all within our communities that we will achieve the necessary change in behaviour and attitudes to reduce and ultimately eliminate family violence."
Superintendent Knowles told the marchers that one in three women experience violence from a partner in their lifetime, while on average, fourteen women are killed each year by a member of their own family.
"Police staff face the grim reality of family violence every day, and we see it occurring right across our community, among every ethnicity, every age group, and every socio-economic level of society.
"My challenge to us all today is to stand for non-violence, to wear the White Ribbon to show we will not tolerate violence towards women; and to not be afraid to speak out against domestic violence, wherever we find it."
As part of the White Ribbon campaign men are encouraged to take The Pledge – to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence towards women.
The Pledge can be signed online at: www.whiteribbon.org.nz