Angelina Jolie’s advice for abused women to protect themselves

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Angelina Jolie recently spoke about the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Angelina Jolie recently spoke about the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Angelina Jolie has shared advice for women facing domestic violence during the festive season.

The Oscar-winning actress and mom-of-six is special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and part of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign.

The UN recently revealed the shocking statistic that worldwide, 243 million women and girls have been abused by their partners in the past 12 months, and less than half of them – 40% – seek help or lay criminal charges against their abusers.

The UN said that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the incidents of abuse have increased.

Angelina, in an interview with Harper's Bazaar magazine, advised women to find help from loved ones or support groups if they’re in abusive situations.

“Talk to someone. Try to find allies,” Angelina said. “Be connected for emergencies. For example, you can agree on a codeword with a friend or family member, which tells them if you are facing an emergency.

“Begin to build a network and gain knowledge. It's sad to say, but you can't assume all friends and family will always want to believe and support you. 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.”

The UN reported that only 40% of women seek help and report their abusers. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The actress also had advice for the friends and family of a loved one who is a victim of gender-based violence.   

“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.

“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,” Angie said.

“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 [post-traumatic stress disorder].”

Angelina addressed the effects of the pandemic on abused people earlier this year, in an article published in Time magazine.

“Isolating a victim from family and friends is a well-known tactic of control by abusers, meaning that the social distancing that is necessary to stop Covid-19 is one that will inadvertently fuel a direct rise in trauma and suffering for vulnerable children.

“There are already reports of a surge in domestic violence around the world, including violent killings,” she wrote.

In South Africa, more than 120 000 calls were made to government’s gender-based violence and femicide centre – double the usual volume – in the first three weeks of lockdown.

“On average, a woman leaves an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good,” Mara Glennie, founder of the Tears Foundation, tells YOU.

“Abuse often occurs in a cycle where the victim might feel the relationship is a mix of good times; love and hope; along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear.

“She may have seen positive changes before, so she stays, hoping he’ll change again.

Follow these steps if you plan to escape an abusive relationship:
  • Save to create an emergency fund;
  • Ask a trusted person or organisation to support you on your journey;
  • Find a temporary place to stay with friends, family or at a women’s shelter;
  • If you don’t leave, change the locks on your doors and possibly windows;
  • Talk to your children’s school about who has permission to pick them up;
  • Pack and hide a “getaway bag” for you and your kids. It should include important papers such as your ID, marriage certificate and bond papers;
  • If you can, collect evidence of the abuse for possible legal purposes;
  • Plan when to leave, down to the day and time, and alert your trusted friend or organisation so they can expect you;
  • Keep your new location hidden from your abuser;
  • Obtain a restraining order from the police station or family court.

Sources: United Nations, Harper’s Bazaar, People, E! News, Time Magazine

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