Angelina Jolie has a message of support for women who suffer from abuse

The actress and UNHCR special envoy wants women to stay safe and feel supported during the holiday.
December 8, 2020 3:28 p.m. EST
December 10, 2020 11:00 p.m. EST
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Oscar winning actress and director Angelina Jolie has long been a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) special envoy, and her passion for humanitarian work has often bled into her creative work. Her films In The Land of Milk and Honey, First They Killed My Father, and Beyond Borders have all explored the disastrous effects of war that uniquely effect women and children, displacing and destroying their lives. Now, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, and the upcoming holiday season, she has a message of support for women facing domestic abuse, and encourages friends and colleagues to help.

In a new interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, she talks exclusively on the topic of domestic violence and how women who have been abused (and those concerned about their friends and colleagues they suspect might be subject to violence) can arm themselves with a plan during the holidays. This is all part of her support of the UN 16 days of activism, which is a global initiative against gender-based violence.

“I value women,” she says, speaking about her motivation to continue this taxing work. “I can’t stand to see the immense and enduring suffering so many women face, and how little accountability there is.”


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“I see the same patterns repeated globally,” she continues. “Women are vulnerable because societies are unequal. Women and children suffer disproportionately 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. 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.”

For those who are concerned a friend or colleague might be silently suffering through domestic violence, she has some sound and grounded tactics one can take to effect change. “Take it seriously and stand by them,” she recommends. “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.”

When it comes to abused women and other non-binary people who need support and advice, she speaks directly to them, encouraging them to devise a plan. “Talk to someone. Try to find allies. Be connected for emergencies,” she advises. “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.”

She adds, “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.”

She concludes with, “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.”

This comes on the heels of her delivering a powerful speech at the 2nd International Conference on Action with Women and Peace in Seoul, South Korea in her capacity as a UNHCR special envoy. In her direct-to-camera speech, which you can watch in full here, she begins by acknowledging women imprisoned for seeking their rights, women killed for reporting domestic violence, women human rights defenders murdered for exposing corruption, and “young girls burned to death for naming their abusers.”

“The truth is, a woman's life does not rank equally with a man's, far more universally than we are willing to admit," she said in her speech that clocks in just under seven minutes. "Conflict-related sexual violence is a manifestation of this reality."

She then goes on to list all the ways that our society’s concern and compassion for women and children victims of domestic abuse only goes up “to a point.” She noted how governments seem to care about victims of gender-based violence "only to a point,” as long as it doesn't interfere with business and trade, or clash with vested political interests, or "to the point that it might force us to see something we don't wish to see, and have to act upon it".

She says that this kind of half-caring is the reason why “gender equality is still at least a century away; that domestic violence has grown sharply worse during the pandemic; and that the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution - over half of them women and children - has doubled in a decade.”

This Harper’s Bazaar UK interview and UN speech come just a few days after the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6th), commemorated in Canada after the 1989 Montreal Massacre at École Polytechnique, where 14 women were gunned down by a murderous man, angry that women were pursuing careers he felt were traditionally meant for men.


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