Sherynne Smith was terrified to talk but compelled to speak up and, in doing so, brought the room first to tears and then to their feet.
The Newcastle domestic violence and family abuse survivor was the guest speaker at this year’s Hunter White Ribbon Day breakfast, attended by over 400 people at Wests New Lambton on Friday.
The theme of the morning was one of solidarity and Ms Smith urged the community leaders in the room to “get loud and make sure every victim knows that even when they are silent they are never alone”.
“On the topic of silence about domestic violence, I encourage every person to raise the conversation with others,” she said.
“Tell your mates and girlfriends abusing your family and others is not OK.
“Reach out to someone who may be living with domestic and family violence and abuse. The signs are there.”
You’ll never walk alone was the theme of the morning.
White Ribbon ambassador and former Newcastle Knights player Clint Newton sent a video message, which also brought resounding applause.
Mr Newton said it was the town’s responsibility to stand together to stamp out domestic violence and expressed his concern that many women “don’t feel safe because they are not a man”.
As part of his role as an anti-violence educator in NSW schools, Mr Newton always starts by first asking the male students and then female what they do on a daily basis to protect themselves against sexual harassment and violent attacks.
The boys’ response was always silence and the girls invariably answered “walk under street lights, always have my phone on me, walk to my car with my keys between knuckles”.
He urged Novocastrians to help break the cycle of violence and to acknowledge the “daily grind of women in our country”.
“Newcastle is a community that has stood through the toughest of times,” Mr Newton said. “This is another one of those times. We need to show perseverance and courage. Past, present and future women and girls are relying on us not to give up.”
Mr Newton also featured in one of two videos produced by charity Sista Code which were launched at the breakfast.
The videos are part of an ongoing community campaign, 1000 People - One Voice: Say NO to domestic violence.
Sista Code founder Melissa Histon said the region must act.
“Let’s get that message out there that in the Hunter region we don’t accept domestic violence,” Ms Histon said.
For help 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732