Unfortunately, the volume is beginning to dial down a notch on the recently amplified conversation about violence against women. At its worst we were circulating a celebrity abuse elevator video that no one should have watched. At its best we were actively learning about women's journeys through the #whyIstayed and #whyIleft hashtags. But there was power in that amplified conversation and in the public actively considering that domestic violence is an epidemic in our communities.
Interval House, Canada's first shelter for abused women, has just made a move to reignite and steer that conversation in another direction by releasing an elevator video that is worth sharing. It calls for us all to take action to end the violence and aims for a world where we can help women create more alternate endings:
The video also aims for women to know that when they are ready to leave there are community agencies that are there to help.
There are many complex and valid reasons why women cannot or choose not to leave her abusive relationship. Blaming her or judging her will not end the abuse nor keep her safe. Supporting her and empowering her with information so that when she is ready to leave she can do so safely is key.
But, when a woman is ready to leave, how does she do that safely?
One of the most dangerous times for a woman facing abuse is when she chooses to leave the relationship. The act of leaving -- or even planning on leaving -- shifts the balance of power and control and can lead to escalating and serious violence. It's not as simple as deciding to "just leave".
A critical step for any woman who is considering leaving her abusive partner is safety planning. Safety planning is about identifying actions to increase her safety and the safety of her children and should be a top priority for all abused women, whether they plan on remaining in the home or leaving.
There are many actions that a woman facing abuse can take to increase her safety and the safety of her children including:
If you are a friend or family member of a woman living with abuse the best thing you can do is to believe her, offer her non-judgemental support and a listening ear and to help her connect with her local women's shelter or similar community agency. Most of all always put her safety first. Never talk about the abuse in front of her abuser and unless she specifically asks for it, never give her materials about domestic abuse or leave information through voice messages or emails that might be discovered by her abuser.
If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the emergency number in your community. If you feel you can't call the police, call your local crisis centre or local shelter. You can find numbers at the front of your phone book and have a confidential talk with an emergency counsellor. In Toronto you can call the Assaulted Women's Helpline at 416-863-0511 or Interval House at 416-924-1491.
We must keep this conversation going if we want to create more alternate endings and help women to find ways to move from #whyIstayed to #whyIleft.
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Women's Aid won an award for their domestic violence awareness campaign, which saw celebrities including Anna Friel, Fern Britton, Jemma Kidd and Honor Blackman made-over to appear as if they had been beaten.
In September the Home Office began piloting a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, known as Clare's Law. It was so named to honour Clare Wood, who was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend. It proposes to give women "the right to know" if a partner has a history of domestic violence. The scheme came into being after campaigning to protect women from Michael Brown, the father of the murder victim.
Self-taught make-up artist Lauren Luke appeared before her YouTube subscribers in July looking battered and bruised. While the bruises were fake, the video, made in collaboration with UK charity Refuge sent a clear message to women across the globe: "65 per cent of women who suffer domestic violence keep it hidden. Don't cover it up." http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=d-XHPHRlWZk
Atonement actress Keira Knightley starred in a 2009 Women's Aid ad which saw her punched and kicked to the ground. Shot by Atonement director Joe Wright, the clip was deemed "too violent" and was censored before it was shown on TV.
An 'unofficial' campaign was carried out against singer Chris Brown, who found his latest album, Fortune, slapped with stickers reading: "WARNING: Do not buy this album! This man beats women!"
Here's Barbie as you've never seen her before - as a model of domestic abuse. A student artist has painted black eyes, bruises and blood onto the perfect faces of the iconic dolls. The art project, It's A Matter Of Trust, has the tagline 'We shouldn't be taught that life is perfect.' Read more here.
On the surface this newlywed couple look blissfully happy, but sadly reality tells a different story - one of domestic violence and abuse. Behind the smiles, beautiful flowers and white wedding gown, the groom is twisting his new wife's arm, which is battered and bruised from previous violent episodes. The powerful image forms part of a hard-hitting Norwegian domestic violence awareness campaign. Read more here.
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