“You have something to tell, don’t be silent.” Violence in War: Challenges and Countermeasures

“You have something to tell, don’t be silent.”  Violence in War: Challenges and Countermeasures

Daily violence is like a snowball. It seemed like just yesterday it was just a single coldness of someone’s words or carelessly thrown accusations. Later, you decided to remain silent again.

Or, for the sake of peace, give in to one’s own interests. And today you already hide your tearful eyes under black glasses and don’t understand why your cozy world has suddenly become so fragile. And the main question is how to live on? Unfortunately, but also fortunately, you are not alone.

What is it about?

Every third woman in the world faces gender-based violence. It can be physical, psychological, sexual, economic and more, and it is committed against a person because of his belonging to a certain gender.

Gender-based violence affects women of all nationalities and religions, regardless of wealth or skin color. It exists in private and public spheres, crosses continents and overcomes oceans.

In 2006, the Secretary-General of the United Nations released an in-depth study of all forms of violence against women, which emphasized that “Violence against women persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of human rights and a major obstacle to achieving gender equality.”

Rapists do not take a break for war or pandemic, and often intensify their intolerable actions in difficult times. Unfortunately, gender-based violence is the leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age.

Here are just some figures related to gender-based violence in Ukraine:

  • 75% of girls and women in Ukraine under the age of 15 have experienced some type of violence;
  • 35% of women experienced physical and/or sexual violence;
  • 24% mistakenly believe that violence against women is provoked by the victims themselves;
  • 19% still believe that sexual violence in marriage is justified;
  • 10% of women suffered from stalking (obsessive harassment);
  • only 30% of families discussed sexual violence and safety with teenage girls*.

How did the war affect it?

As the full-scale invasion began, the number of cases of gender-based violence increased. In the non-governmental organization “Girls”, which is engaged in supporting women, the reason is seen in the fact that all our lives have partially gone online due to the severing of social contacts.

Cases of online violence have increased.

In addition, during the war, many women and men made the decision to return to their partners or relatives to live together due to the loss of stable income, increase in housing prices, etc. They often returned to those people who had committed violence against them.

In addition, due to the loss of security, the inability to influence the course of events and plan for the future, the emotional state of many of us worsens. Because of this, there are uncontrolled bursts of aggression, which can also lead to violent acts.

And this circle is increasingly difficult to break.

However, women should not remain without help and a friendly shoulder. The NGO “Girls” advises not to tolerate, but to seek help for victims of violence, to specialists who will help them get out of traumatic relationships and start building a new life.

AVON nearby

As part of the Avon Ukraine program “Mission against violence against women” in cooperation with the public organization “Girls”, they launched a joint project to combat gender violence, for which Avon Ukraine made a charitable contribution of UAH 655,000.

The project entitled “Psychological assistance to victims of physical and sexual violence as a result of hostilities in Ukraine with the support of Avon Ukraine” lasted from May to July 2023.

During this time, specialists spent 564 hours of psychological work at individual and group meetings with women who faced violence.

The experience of the psychologists of the NGO “Divchata” has shown that the number of gender-based violence during the war continues to grow.

Requests came mainly from women and children with difficult life circumstances. Each appeal is individual and required detailed processing in order to provide the necessary and high-quality assistance.

Thanks to the fruitful cooperation between Avon Ukraine and the NGO “Divchata”, 198 women in the cities of Sumy, Zaporizhzhia and Kyiv region received psychological support. Behind these numbers are personal painful stories and relief, difficult decisions and the understanding that victims of violence have someone to listen to and help.

“Supporting women is one of the priorities of the Avon Ukraine Company. We strive to ensure that every woman who has faced violence does not feel alone with this problem. We do not stand aside from the events that are happening around us, so we continue to do our best for those who who needs it, and we make help available,” says Volodymyr Nefedov, CEO of Avon in Ukraine and Georgia.

Why should we talk about it?

Alina Kasilova, Master of Clinical Psychology, supervises the projects of the NGO “Divchata” for comprehensive psychological assistance. She has 8 years of experience in psychological assistance to women and girls of Ukraine and a lot of authority – from conducting surveys of victims and selecting specialists for rehabilitation to implementing projects and reports.

Alina Kasilova identified at least seven reasons why it is worth talking about gender-based violence.

Violation of human rights

Freedom from violence is a basic human right. At the same time, gender-based violence undermines the sense of self-worth and self-respect. This affects not only physical, but also mental health, and can lead to self-destruction, isolation, depression and suicide attempts.

Threat to physical and psychological integrity

Gender-based violence is an obstacle to the realization of the well-being of every person and his right to self-realization and self-development in the family, community and society.

Manifestation of discrimination

Gender-based violence is deeply rooted in harmful stereotypes and prejudices against women or anyone who does not fit into the traditional gender binary or heteronormative society. So it can push victims to the margins of society, making them feel helpless and inferior.

An obstacle to gender equality

Gender equality implies equal rights for any sex, as well as equal visibility and equal opportunities, acceptance of responsibility and participation in all spheres of public and private life. Instead, gender-based violence reinforces the power of one gender.

The culprits remain unpunished

Avoiding talking about violence in the family legitimizes it, and also makes it difficult to condemn illegal actions. The impunity of the initiator of violence exposes the victim to even greater suffering, up to increased violence and possible fatal consequences. In addition, wrongdoing very often silences those it affects.

It costs a lot

The response and involvement of various services – medical, psychological, police or justice system – leads to economic costs. Sufferers are often withdrawn, may not be able to keep up with things at work and school, and this negatively affects their productivity.

Children suffer

Victims of violence, at least psychological, are children who are brought up in families where it is allowed. The youngest in the family may get the impression that such behavior is justified or normal – in other words, they will learn violent norms. Growing up in a culture of violence can negatively affect self-development and the ability to function in society. Gender-based violence also affects family members, friends and colleagues.

What to do if faced with violence?

If you have become a victim of gender-based violence, it is important not to remain alone, but to seek support from friends or women’s organizations that work with similar topics. For example, you can ask for help from the NGO “Divchata” by writing a letter to the mail: [email protected].

Experts will provide psychological support, initial legal advice and help draw up a further action plan.

It is also worth enlisting the support of a psychologist whom you can trust with your experience and a lawyer to get legal advice to understand that the abuser is violating your rights and freedoms.

If you feel a real threat to your life and health, it is best to contact the police by calling 102.

Remember, there is no excuse for any form of violence. And there is always someone nearby who will comfort, listen and help. “You have someone to talk to, we are there, don’t be silent,” says the NGO “Girls”.

The material was prepared by the NGO “Girls” as part of a joint project with AVON Ukraine “Psychological assistance to victims of physical and sexual violence as a result of military operations in Ukraine”.

* – Based on the results of the OSCE-led study “Women’s Welfare and Security” and the “Women and Stigma” study of the NGO “Girls”.

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