SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WRSY-TV) — No Excuse for Abuse. It’s a statement Vera House has stood by for years and one that will soon be shared across social media once again.
The pandemic will alter this year’s White Ribbon Campaign a bit but its message and male leadership remain.
The month-long campaign is about encouraging male-identifying neighbors in the community to step into a leadership role and stand up against violence.
This year, a virtual Breakfast for Dinner will kick-off the campaign on Monday, March 1 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The 2021 honorary co-chairs, Emad Rahim and Marissa Saunders, will lead the charge.
Throughout the campaign, men will be asked to call on one another to be the ‘Next Man Up’ and help create a world without domestic and sexual violence.
This campaign focuses on male masculinity. It reminds men that vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength. It’s something we need more of so fewer people have stories like the 2021 co-chairs’.
Emad is no stranger to violence. He grew up on the receiving end of his step-father. “He was abusive toward my siblings but I just feel like he was more abusive towards me because I was not his child,” he said.
When Emad was 12-years-old his stepdad was fired from his job.
He went into my bedroom, took my clothes, took my bedsheets, took them to the backyard and set them on fire. And he told me that I was bad luck and the reason he lost his job is because of me, and in order to change things, he would have to kill me.Emad Rahim
At 12-years-old, he was homeless for two weeks. It wasn’t until Emad was 14 that he fought back, standing up for his mom and taking the brunt of it to protect her. The police were eventually called and he never saw his step-dad again.
As for Marissa, her abuser was her husband.
I remember banging on my neighbor’s walls. I remember screaming out of windows because he had locked me in the house where I couldn’t get out. I remember just wondering to myself in that brief moment, I know people hear me, I know they hear me. And when I was finally able to escape from the house with my daughter on my hip, I’m pregnant and I’m running down the street asking people to help me, and I remember nobody did.Marissa Saunders
The person who finally did open her door, helped a victim become a survivor at the moment she decided to reach out her hand and give Marissa support.
“That to me is extremely powerful to have people that are there not to just save you right, it’s not about being saved, it’s about being there for you,” said Emad.
The March 1 Breakfast for Dinner will begin a campaign that’s meant to encourage and empower men to stand against abuse, stand up for their neighbors and encourage everyone to be that person of support if the time comes for them to step in.
“I believe there’s going to be a bigger challenge to our community. For, not just to man up but for everyone to stand up,” said Marissa.