Angelina Jolie offers advice to women fearing abuse over the holidays

The Oscar-winning actress addressed a conference on women and peace last month

Harriet Alexander
Tuesday 08 December 2020 23:22
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Angelina Jolie gives advice to women fearing domestic violence over the Christmas holidays
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Angelina Jolie has urged women fearing domestic violence over the Christmas holidays to build a network, and to "find allies" to support them.

Speaking via video link at the 2nd International Conference on Action with Women and Peace in Seoul, the actress acknowledged that Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for many women.

"Talk to someone," she recommended. "Try to find allies. Be connected for emergencies.  

"For example, you can agree a code word with a friend or family member, which tells them if you are facing an emergency. Begin to build a network and gain knowledge."

Ms Jolie, 45, has spent years working with women around the world who have suffered from violence and abuse.

In 2012, Ms Jolie co-founded the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) with the-then foreign secretary, William Hague, which aims to reduce rape as a weapon of war by addressing the culture of impunity for crimes of sexual violence in conflict, tackling the stigma and increasing the number of perpetrators held to account.    

At the conference held last month, Ms Jolie argued for increased funding of sexual violence programmes, as well as the protection of human rights defenders.

She told the women listening that there were many ways to seek help.

“It’s sad to say, but you can’t assume all friends and family will always want to believe and support you,” she said.  

“Often it will be strangers who help. Or other victims, support groups, or faith groups. Above all, be careful. Only you really know the danger you are in, and until you find your support outside, you may feel quite alone.”

Angelina Jolie launched an initiative to reduce sexual violence in conflict in 2012 with William Hague

According to UN Women, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner in the past year.  

Fewer than 40 per cent of women who experience violence report it or seek help.

Ms Jolie, a mother of six children, whom she shares with her ex-husband Brad Pitt, encouraged everyone to be on the alert for friends and relatives who might be being abused.

“If it has even crossed your mind that someone you know might be vulnerable in this way, try to stay close and present in their lives,” she said.  

“Make it clear that you are there for them. Another thing we can all do is educate ourselves. Learn about domestic violence. Learn how trauma affects our health and can lead to biological changes, particularly in children. Take these issues seriously.

“Take it seriously and stand by them.

“Listen to them. Don’t judge them. Try to understand the huge emotional, financial and legal pressures they are likely facing, including the pressure to stay silent about what has happened to them. And be aware that they may well be suffering trauma and PTSD."

Angelina Jolie is now perhaps as well known for her activism as for her acting

Ms Jolie, whose has become as well know for her globe-trotting activism as her acting, said that she saw similar issues around the world.

"Women are vulnerable because societies are unequal," she said.  

"Women and children suffer disproportionally as a result of war or economic crisis. They make up two-thirds of all refugees and displaced people, and they are hardest hit by the effects of climate change."

And she urged societies around the world to take the issue seriously.

“We don’t take domestic or gender-based violence seriously enough anywhere, and we often overlook the trauma and injury suffered by children who witness or experience violence, in their own homes,” she said.

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