International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: Defense Ministry illuminated. How to detect abuse signs

The building of the Romanian Ministry of National Defense will be illuminated on Wednesday night in orange, the colour of solidarity with women who are victims of domestic violence. The action is taken on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and is part of a global 16-day campaign repeated annually and having orange as its distinctive colour. 

An orange band and the mention of the international day can also be found on the institution’s website:

Photo source: Screenshot of the page

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was established in 2000 through a UN resolution.

Statistics reported by the United Nations show that more than one-third of the women in the world are confronted with violence from their partners at least once in their lifetime. 137 women are killed daily through domestic violence.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, some countries saw the number of calls to specialized support helplines increase up to five-fold.

Yet, it is estimated that less than 40% of the victims ask for help because they feel guilty, they do not believe there is a solution to their problem or they even feel paralyzed by fear of their partner.

How to support women to leave the circle of abuse

“St Alexandra the Empress” Counseling and Support Center, based in Bucharest, Romania, has offered on its blog some advice for members of the victim’s entourage on how to spot the signs of abuse on women and how to offer support.

Signs of abuse

  • She seems afraid of her partner or is always very anxious to please him or her.
  • She has stopped seeing her friends or family or cuts phone conversations short when her partner is in the room.
  • Her partner often criticises her or humiliates her in front of other people.
  • She says her partner pressures or forces her to do sexual things.
  • Her partner often orders her about or makes all the decisions (for example, her partner controls all the money, tells her who she can see and what she can do).
  • She often talks about her partner’s ‘jealousy’, ‘bad temper’ or ‘possessiveness’.
  • She has become anxious or depressed, has lost her confidence, or is unusually quiet.
  • She has physical injuries (bruises, broken bones, sprains, cuts etc). She may give unlikely explanations for physical injuries.
  • Her children seem afraid of her partner, have behaviour problems, or are very withdrawn or anxious.
  • She is reluctant to leave her children with her partner.
  • After she has left the relationship, her partner is constantly calling her, harassing her, following her, coming to her house or waiting outside.

What to do

  • Listen to what she has to say.
  • Believe what she tells you. It will have taken a lot for her to talk to you. People are much more likely to cover up or downplay the abuse, rather than to make it up or exaggerate. You might find it hard to imagine someone you know could behave abusively. But the person who is abusive will probably show you a very different side to the side the victim sees.
  • Take the abuse seriously. Abuse can be damaging both physically and emotionally. Don’t underestimate the danger she may be in.
  • Help her to recognise the abuse and understand how it may be affecting her or her children.
  • Tell her you think she has been brave in being able to talk about the abuse, and in being able to keep going despite the abuse.
  • Help to build her confidence in herself.
  • Help her to understand that the abuse is not her fault and that no-one deserves to be abused, no matter what they do. Let her know you think that the way her partner is treating her is wrong. For example, ‘No-one, not even your husband, has the right to mistreat you’
  • Help her to protect herself. You could say ‘I’m afraid of what he could do to you or the children‘ or ‘I’m worried that it will get worse’ . Talk to her about how she thinks she could protect herself. See the section ‘Helping to increase her safety’ (see below).
  • Help her to think about what she can do and see how you can help her to achieve it.
  • Offer practical assistance like minding the children for a while, cooking a meal for her, offering a safe place to stay, transport or to accompany her to court, etc.
  • Respect her right to make her own decisions, even if you don’t agree with them. Respect her cultural or religious values and beliefs.
  • Maintain some level of regular contact with her. Having an opportunity to talk regularly to a supportive friend or relative can be very important.
  • Find out about legal options available and pass this information on to her if she wants it.
  • Tell her about the services available. Remind her that if she calls a service, she can just get support and information, they won’t pressure her to leave if she doesn’t want to.
  • Keep supporting her after she has left the relationship. The period of separation could be a dangerous time for her, as the abuse may increase. She may need practical support and encouragement to help her establish a new life and recover from the abuse. She could also seek counselling.

What not to do

  • Don’t blame her for the abuse or ask questions like ‘what did you do for him to treat you like that?’ or ‘why do you put up with it?’, or ‘how can you still be in love with him?’ These questions suggest that it is somehow her fault.
  • Don’t criticise her partner. Criticise the abusive behaviour and let her know that no-one has the right to abuse her (for example, say ‘your partner shouldn’t treat you like that’). Criticism of her partner is only likely to make her want to defend him or her.
  • Don’t give advice, or tell her what you would do. This will only reduce her confidence to make her own decisions. Listen to her and give her information, not advice.

Find more similar practical advice on the topic at the Domestic Violence Resource Center Victoria (Australia). 

Photo courtesy of (opening photo)

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