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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Cait Kelly

White Ribbon appeal taken down after accusations it asked people to ‘sponsor an abuser’

A White Ribbon pin. The domestic violence charity has removed its latest campaign from social media after it was ridiculed by critics. But the charity says it was ‘misunderstood’.
A White Ribbon pin. The domestic violence charity has removed its latest campaign from social media after it was ridiculed by critics. However the charity says it was ‘misunderstood’. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

A White Ribbon appeal asking people to donate money for violence prevention has been taken down after critics accused the organisation of essentially asking people to “sponsor an abuser”.

The campaign, which went up on Twitter and Facebook, showed an image of a man in a suit accompanied by the request for a donation to help the domestic violence charity run its prevention programs.

“A donation of $49 will educate one man in person around violence prevention,” the ad read.

Another appeal offered to educate one man with an online course for $19.

The Tweet has been deleted
The tweet has been deleted Photograph: White Ribbon/Twitter

Critics on social media compared the appeal to the $1-a-day campaigns used by charities such as World Vision to combat global hunger and educate children living in poverty.

“You made two different graphics for your ‘sponsor an abuser’ program for the different donations tiers like it’s a Patreon … ,” said Twitter user John Delmenico.

In a statement, White Ribbon’s national director, Allan Ball, said the posts were removed because people had “misunderstood” the message behind them.

“Based on some of the commentary we received it became apparent that some people misunderstood the message because of the way it was worded, and this is the reason we decided to remove the post,” a spokesperson said.

The organisation offers online and face-to-face training to address attitudes and power imbalances that cause violence, Ball said.

“Our social movement sets the vision of an alternative future and finds the clearest pathway to mobilise, educate, instigate and embody the change we want to see, in collaboration with the vital work of women’s safety services.”

The charity apologised on Twitter, writing: “Sorry, that latest post should not have gone live and was not the message we were intending to share. When you have a really small team, sometimes these things happen.”

Silke Meyer, a professor of social work at Griffith University who specialises in intimate family violence, said the campaign was “inappropriate”.

“No matter how they intended it, it comes across in the same way as ‘please fund the education of a child in a developing country’,” Meyer said.

“It is inappropriate because it is calling on the general public to fund an intervention or educational approach that really needs to be the responsibility of state and federal government.”

White Ribbon has been trying to rejuvenate its public image after a series of scandals, including the company’s 2019 liquidation and the assault charges against one of its founding members and former Channel 7 star Andrew O’Keefe, who has pleaded not guilty.

“There has been declining public confidence ever since it went into liquidation and came back,” she said. “Campaigns [like this] aren’t helping restore public confidence.”

Meyer said intervention programs could be beneficial but they needed to be evidence-led and should not be put into competition for funding with crisis services.

“At least in the victim-survivor space, crisis accommodation, financial emergency support saves women’s and children’s lives. Why would we invest in this if we have no evidence in how it’s going to work?”

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