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Senior Cymru footballers team up to tackle gender-based violence

In an exclusive video, Cymru Players Ben Davies, Joe Morrell, and David Brooks share simple tips to help women feel safe and discuss the importance of men talking to one another about healthy relationship behaviours.

To mark White Ribbon Day 2023, which aims to raise awareness of and take action to end men’s violence against women and girls, the Football Association of Wales have partnered with the recently launched Sound campaign to start a conversation around gender-based violence.

This weekend also coincides with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25), which marks the start of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

In a 15-minute YouTube and RedWall+ video, which will also feature on the FAW and Sound social channels, the players chat to one another about societal pressures, what men can do to help women feel safe, and the importance of having open conversations with male friends and colleagues – including teammates.

The trio are the first Cymru ambassadors to the Sound Campaign, a Welsh Government funded project which aims to raise awareness of early red flag behaviours in relationships by ‘sounding out’ concerns with friends, getting ‘sound advice’ from trusted sources and being ‘sound as’ by modelling positive behaviours in day-to-day life.

During the conversation, Ben Davies, who married his partner Emily in 2022 and recently became a father for the first time, reflected on his own relationship by saying “the reason our relationship is so good, is because we’re open with each other, we’re honest with each other and we have each other’s backs. Good communication is key, and I think it’s important that we also have this in the dressing room. I probably spend just as much time with my wife as I do with the boys in the football changing room. Creating those relationships is very important, being able to trust and being able to open yourself up to other people to help you out, it’s a huge thing.”

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David Brooks picked up on the importance of communication, reflecting on his cancer diagnosis in 2021.

“It’s deemed to be ‘what I’m going through’ and the difficulties that I had. But me living through it, I didn’t find it that mentally challenging, obviously it was physically demanding but Flora had to see me on a day-to-day basis, and she didn’t want to burden me so it took a toll on her. It just shows that what you’re going through can affect others too, and that communication was important to get her the help she needed through the process as well.

“I’ve also had to learn to not take work stuff home, like if I’ve had a really bad day, for example if I’m not playing or not training very well and in that bit of a rut, not to take it home and take it out on someone around me.”

A key proponent of the Sound campaign is constructive and honest conversations with friends who may be exhibiting red flag behaviours, as well as self-reflection on relationships.

Joe Morrell said: “I think self-reflection is really important, and sometimes it can be really difficult. It’s important to reflect on how you are coming across and how you are living your life. For sure it can be difficult and for sure it’s something I’m probably not amazing at.”

He added: “The people around you are a reflection of you. A good friend comes under many umbrellas. Calling them out when needed is certainly a part of that”.

David Brooks agreed, saying, “If my friends were acting a certain way out in public, or in their relationships, I’d pull them up on it. You’re only as good as the company you keep.”

Ben Davies reflected on training that his club, Tottenham Hotspur, had recently given players to help women feel safe in public spaces and at matches.

“It was just little things like make yourself approachable, don’t be too boisterous if you’re in a group, think about how your words and actions make a woman feel. Even if it’s crossing the street away from the woman to make her feel more comfortable, little things like that, especially at nighttime can have such a huge impact.

“It can be very scary for women when walking home from work, or, or walking alone after games at night. Men need to be aware of simple actions you can take just to make women feel more comfortable, because as men, we don’t realise it so much, but if you’re walking home at night alone and you’re hearing on the news stories of women being abducted or killed, it’s pretty awful and it’s a pretty terrifying thing. I’ve got a younger sister; I can’t imagine what it’s like for her to worry about making a short walk home. Life shouldn’t be a terrifying ordeal.”

Since launching in July, Sound has reached 327,000 men aged 18 – 34 in Wales, with a number reaching out to seek advice directly from campaign channels.

Alongside the FAW and Cymru players’ support for the Sound campaign, the FAW recently dedicated their Cymru men’s UEFA EURO Qualifying match against Türkiye to White Ribbon, reiterating the White Ribbon Promise to never use, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women.

Football Association of Wales CEO, Noel Mooney said: “We are incredibly proud of our Cymru players Ben Davies, David Brooks, and Joe Morrell for their support of the Welsh Government Sound campaign and highlighting the importance of men talking to one another to end harmful behaviours. 

“We hope the conversations between our players will encourage many other men to reach out to their friends or seek trusted, sound advice on how to address such behaviours and how to create an environment where women can feel safe.” 

Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said: “It is fantastic to see Senior Cymru footballers supporting the Sound campaign and speaking about their experiences of helping women feel safe.

“The Sound campaign shows that it doesn’t matter where you see harmful behaviours, whether it’s in the changing rooms or on social media, it’s imperative you recognise it and Sound it out.

“Our Violence Against Women Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Strategy shows our commitment to prevention and early intervention to break the cycle of violence.”   

Anthea Sully, Chief Executive of White Ribbon UK, said: “We can only change the story for women and girls if men start reflecting on their own attitudes and behaviours and encouraging healthy expressions of masculinity from one another. 

“The Sound campaign, along with Welsh footballers, have provided a brilliant example of what men can do to change cultures to end harmful behaviours, by challenging restrictive norms and giving each other space to have sound conversations.”

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