Pictured above – Tech student and co-founder of White Ribbon Tennessee Rayne Herrington (right) pictured with her husband, Eric, last fall holding a proclamation signed by Cookeville Mayor Laurin Wheaton recognizing November 17 as White Ribbon Day.
Mayor Laurin Wheaton issued a proclamation Nov. 17 2022, recognizing the organization and declaring November 17 “White Ribbon Day” in Cookeville
Cookeville – Survivor of domestic violence and Tennessee Tech University student Rayne Herrington, co-founded White Ribbon Tennessee, an educational nonprofit that aims to engage men in education and advocacy against all forms of violence against women and children.
She is using her past experiences as motivation for change through guidance and resources.
“I am a survivor of long-term domestic violence, and it was a situation that to this day, causes me a lot of pain, even though I left my abuser five years ago,” Herrington said. “I was very disappointed when I finally developed the strength to turn my abuser in, because there were almost no legal consequences for him— despite all of the evidence.”
Herrington, a senior political science major with a concentration in legal studies and a minor in history, her husband, Eric Herrington, Andy Burgess, Tenika Burgess, a Tech employee and Leisa Loftis, founded White Ribbon Tennessee in 2022.
The organization acts as a midpoint to connect current victims and survivors with resources, and they work to bring necessary resources to the community.
“Domestic violence is most often perpetrated by males, and so we want to really involve men in the conversation and development of solutions, but not in accusatory ways, rather by meeting each person where they are at in their beliefs and willingness to advocate and making small but impactful steps,” Herrington said.
In April 2022, Herrington helped plan Tech’s “Take Back the Night” event alongside the other Pi Sigma Alpha members and their adviser, Lauren Harding. Herrington is the president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honors society.
“I asked Andy Burgess to come and speak about cyber violence and he and I noticed that almost everyone in attendance of the event concerning violence against women were women,” Herrington said. “When an issue is predominantly perpetrated by males, why are women the biggest advocates?”
The White Ribbon Tennessee founding members met and discussed what they could do to get men more involved, and through the inspiration of White Ribbon Australia, Judge Caroline Knight, and Cookeville Mayor Laurin Wheaton, they created White Ribbon Tennessee. Mayor Wheaton issued a proclamation Nov. 17 2022, recognizing the organization and declaring November 17 “White Ribbon Day” in Cookeville.
“She has been an incredible supporter of ours since the beginning. Judge Knight has also been wonderful and met with our organization with ideas of where our community can use the most help on this issue,” Herrington said. “We have spoken with other domestic violence organizations across Tennessee for support and ideas, as well as White Ribbon Australia.”
The target reach for White Ribbon Tennessee is the entire state. They are starting in Cookeville because they are completely self-funded right now, so they must start small. Eventually, as they can raise more money, they will expand to the entire state, one community at a time.
“Our hope is to have Tennessee Tech and local high schools involved, because educating younger men and women on the consequences of domestic violence and getting them involved with the solution can help ensure a safer future for everyone,” Herrington said.
Herrington will begin law school in August 2023, and remain with White Ribbon Tennessee, but also expand it to whatever state she goes to law school in.
“We hope that eventually the entire country will be involved in education and advocacy in this issue,” Herrington said.
While not affiliated with any organization, they did take inspiration from White Ribbon Australia, who has been a resource and is willing to meet with them via Zoom to assist however possible, according to Herrington.
“We really want to reach our goal of having community members trained in advocating for women going through the difficult court processes, and we look forward to making that happen this year,” Herrington said.
White Ribbon Tennessee recognizes that each area in Tennessee is societally different, but each area is far too often impacted by domestic violence, according to Herrington. White Ribbon Tennessee is working to be a catalyst for change. Their goal is to bring to light the many forms violence against women takes, whether it be cyber violence, legal violence or financial violence.
“Many people are not aware of those types because it is not discussed as often as physical domestic violence and they therefore do not know how to protect themselves,” Herrington said.
White Ribbon Tennessee is currently fundraising to have a training specialist from National Organization for Victim Assistance come to Cookeville and train interested community members, who, once trained, can attend hearings, trials, or help victims take out an order of protection.
White Ribbon Tennessee has many things planned for community outreach this year, according to Herrington. Those interested in getting involved can email Herrington at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the website www.whiteribbontn.org.
“Our entire organization cares so deeply about ending violence against women, and each co-founder has been impacted by domestic violence in some way. Most people would agree that violence against women should never be tolerated, and yet it is tolerated in some form every day,” Herrington said. “There are small ways that people can advocate in their everyday life.”
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech