On March 1, to commemorate the 10th annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day, a special flag waved proudly for the remainder of the week. The flag represents the commitment of men to be leaders and advocates in the struggle against domestic violence and sexual abuse against women, to promote safety and justice, and to be a part of the solution in ending all gender-based violence.

More than 750 people attended this year’s White Ribbon Day event at Faneuil Hall, including members of the MGH Men Against Abuse (MAA) and the MGH Domestic Violence Working Group – both of which helped initiate the day 10 years ago.

“We should all be very proud of the work that takes place throughout the organization; HAVEN, the Employee Assistance Program and Police and Security lead efforts to help our patients, employees and visitors every day,” says Jim Heffernan, senior vice president of Finance and Treasurer and MAA ambassador. Heffernan has been part of the initiative since the idea was first proposed by the Domestic Violence Working Group. “This was a way to increase awareness among men and get men involved more directly. It very quickly grew to a larger group of men and women.”

The members present at various departments, provide information about domestic violence and educate people about how to be aware of sexism and violence and to speak up. The group also organizes information tables and a Father’s Day program promoting positive male role models.

“Often our role is to be an introduction, and then HAVEN, the Employee Assistance Program or other groups continue further,” says Heffernan, who is quick to point out the teamwork from many key members and groups throughout the hospital. “The Facing Forward program jointly sponsored with our partners at MEEI provides care to survivors. Programs in our health centers and recently the Freedom Clinic try to meet the special needs of patients and survivors of trafficking. These are just a few of the ways that we step up.”

The White Ribbon Day campaign began to gain traction in Massachusetts and nationwide 10 years ago. A small group met with the governor, and the day grew from a dozen people in the conference room to close to 1,000 people gathering at Faneuil Hall, 60 flags flying across the state and more than 40,000 ribbons distributed and pledge cards signed this year. Heffernan hopes awareness and education continue to grow.

“We face these issues among our patients and fellow employees all the time,” says Heffernan. “Being aware of the issue is more helpful than being silent and doing nothing.” 

Read more articles from the 04/7/17 Hotline issue.