Partners HealthCare joined hundreds of men and women at the State House this month for the Massachusetts White Ribbon Day and pledged to help end violence against women.

The day was hosted by Jane Doe Inc. and featured speakers including Partners President and CEO Gary Gottlieb, MD, as well as the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and Reverend Ron Odom of True Vine Church in Dorchester.

The White Ribbon Day event serves as an opportunity for men of all ages to stand up against violence against women. The day encourages everyone to work to change societal attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate and allow excuses for violence against women.  The event reminds us that violence is pervasive and has a profound impact on both individuals and the larger community. Violence against women - sexual or domestic - is an issue everyone must work together to stop. 

White Ribbon Day auditoriumSecretary Polanowicz began the event by inviting all those gathered to stand and take the pledge against violence against women. He also cited the work the Patrick administration has done and continues to do with the partnership of organizations like Jane Doe Inc. and Partners HealthCare. Some of this work includes a new public service announcement. “Domestic violence is not a women’s issue, but a community issue that impacts all regardless of race, orientation, gender, ethnicity, religious background, or any other differences,” said Secretary Polanowicz.

Dr. Gottlieb followed the Secretary and in his remarks supported the importance of partnerships and collaboration. Partners and its hospitals have established a number of programs across its health care system to prevent violence, working with Jane Doe.  He also talked about how, as an employer, the organization has a deep responsibility to end violence against women. Gottlieb said, “As a health care system, Partners is committing some of the best and brightest caregivers to preventing and intervening against all forms of violence and abuse. Our nurses, doctors, and other response specialists at our hospitals and community health centers work to provide pathways to safety and security.” Partners has violence prevention programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, North Shore Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and McLean Hospital.

Reverend Ron Odom of the True Vine Church in Dorchester gave a very moving speech as he spoke of the way in which violence has affected him personally. Reverend Odom lost his thirteen year old son to gun violence seven years ago. Reverend Odom reminded the audience of the importance of prevention and the value of standing together against all forms of violence. “Violence happens in many forms and there are many victims who live in the aftermath and trauma,” said Odom. “The pain experienced through gun violence is no different than the pain experienced through domestic violence; violence is violence.”

Speaker Robert DeLeo closed the event with his remarks in which he reinforced what Polanowicz, Gottlieb, and Odom said, while also introducing ideas about the ways in which prevention can be enacted on the state level. DeLeo identified legislation as the potential catalyst for positive change around this issue—the laws must encourage right behavior and protect women. “Too often we are struck by the devastation of violence against women,” said DeLeo. “We must create legislation to take steps to quell the tragic tide of violence against women in our society.”

Attendees of the event included young men from local high schools, a dozen state legislators, the mayor of Salem, many other dignitaries, members of the military, professionals, and the general public. All participated in the pledge and share in the commitment to working to end violence against women.