Real Life

The initiative supporting Kiwi women affected by domestic violence in memory of Grace Millane

We’d love you to get on board and boost a survivor’s feeling of worth and aroha.

It was a murder that shook the nation. Grace Millane, young and vibrant, strangled to death by her Tinder date on the eve of her 22nd birthday. As New Zealanders battled shock and disbelief, the British backpacker inadvertently became the face of violence against women in our country.
"People could see a sister or a friend or cousin in her," says The Project host Kanoa Lloyd.
"The faces of survivors of sexual or domestic violence are usually anonymous. They can be people we're working with or people we know from school, but it's often so private and secretive we never find out."
The 33-year-old is one of a number of people who are getting behind a new initiative, Love Grace, started by Grace's cousin Hannah O'Callaghan in London, and hopes to make a difference to the lives of the 250 New Zealand women and children who seek refuge in a safe house on any given night throughout the year.
"In my role doing news, we don't have the choice to ignore headlines," tells Kanoa. "It was really important to us at The Project to think about how we could talk about this case in a way that was uplifting and potentially find some good in it. Doing something for other women who are in dangerous situations seemed like the right thing to do."
Love Grace is a three-week campaign that combines Grace's love of handbags with a legacy to end violence towards women. People are encouraged to dig deep into their wardrobes to find high-quality handbags to donate, as well as toiletries, luxury items and other essentials.
With multiple drop-off venues around the country, each bag will include a tag with a drawing of a flower created by Grace, a gifted artist, as well as information about Women's Refuge – the organisation where all donations will go.
Never forgotten: UK backpacker Grace forever has a place in our hearts.
"When a woman comes into a safe house, it's because she has to – she can't be safe anywhere else," explains Dr Ang Jury, CEO of the charity. "They don't bring the good stuff – they bring what they can for the kids. They always do that. But for themselves? Not so much.
"Being able to give them these things will help them feel like they're important, that they're worth something. It will give them a little boost that's really hard to find otherwise."
The 59-year-old, who has been working for Women's Refuge for more than 20 years, is keen to bust through myths surrounding those who need the charity's help.
"There's this notion that if you are battered and bleeding, or have something broken and need to go to hospital, that makes it serious domestic violence. That's what people generally believe," she explains. "We tend not to think about psychological and emotional violence, the gas-lighting that makes her think she's a bit crazy.
"We don't focus on economic violence. And we don't recognise that sexual violence is almost an inevitable part of an abusive relationship. We just focus on the physical."
The 40 refuges around the country work hard to provide 24/7 safe housing, and also help women in their homes and communities.
It is important work that Love Grace will highlight and which Woman's Day and The Edge are also getting behind.
Breakfast show host Megan Annear, 29, says that from the time Grace was reported missing she felt a connection to her.
"I went through social media and saw how many people were blaming her and her parents, and yet when I was 19 I travelled to America on my own," she says.
"I couldn't imagine her parents struggling to process what had happened to her, let alone being told they were awful for letting her travel the world and be a young woman and free and independent."
At the time, the radio star used her platform on The Edge to video an open message in support of Grace, which has now been viewed more than 3.2 million times and resulted in Grace's mum Gill reaching out to Megan in a letter of thanks. And now the broadcaster's glad to be involved in the initiative.
"I haven't been in that situation before, but anything we can do to make it easier on women going through domestic violence is really important."
We can do this ladies! From left: Dr Ang, Megan, Kanoa and Sido are overflowing with gift ideas.
Woman's Day Editor-in-Chief Sido Kitchin, 48, agrees. "Kiwis were united in grief after the tragic death of Grace, and many of us felt helpless – desperately wanting to do something but not knowing where to channel our heartache and sorrow.
"We'll never forget the beautiful smile and spirit of Grace Millane, and the Love Grace campaign gives us a tangible way to create a lasting positive impact in her name."
Sido adds, "Sadly, our domestic violence rates are the worst in the developed world, and if we can help women escape a violent situation by giving them supplies they need as they seek refuge – and showing them we care and they're valued – we can make a meaningful difference."
They are sentiments that Dr Ang appreciates. "I really hope people make the connection between this dreadful thing that happened to this beautiful young backpacker and the thousands and thousands of women that we work with that aren't Grace Millane.
"There are many women who are never going to get a headline and who are experiencing conditions that are unthinkable. We need to keep the focus on those everyday women and those victims."

Make a woman’s day by teaming up with some friends to fill a pre-loved bag

Bare necessities
Shower gel
Sanitary products
Tissues & wipes
Hand sanitiser
Lip balm
Cotton buds
Face cloth
Hair brush or comb
Hair ties & clips
Playing cards
Costume jewellery
Nail polish
Nail file
The initiative runs until Friday, March 7. For more info, visit bit.ly/lovegracenz

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