Domestic violence gets the thumbs down in a new WAO campaign.
IF there is one message the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) wants to send out this year it is that domestic abuse deserves zero tolerance.
Through their 2014 public education campaign, No Excuse For Abuse, WAO hopes to assure victims of violence that there is absolutely nothing that can justify abuse – not love, anger, stress or economic hardship.
“WAO has been working closely with victim-survivors of domestic violence for 32 years and we know how hard it is for survivors to walk away from abuse. Many women do not even realise that they are being abused. Others do but they justify the abuse without even realising it,” says WAO’s advocacy officer Sally Wangsawijaya.
The No Excuse For Abuse campaign, she explains, aims to tackle domestic abuse at its very early stages.
“It is easier for victim-survivors to walk away from an abusive relationship if they are aware about the abuse early on, or if they are able to come to terms with their situation. But in many cases, women are in denial while in the early stages of abuse.
“It is a hard thing to accept. Imagine the person whom you thought was your prince charming turns out to be a monster. It’s not an easy thing to deal with or accept.
“These are the people we want to reach out to ... those who may be in doubt or who are questioning whether things are going right in their relationships,” says Sally.
One of the main components of the campaign is a series of installation art pieces that highlight common justifications that women give their abusers. The installation art is a display of plain white tops with statements stitched on them.
These statements are the ‘thoughts’ or excuses that women often have when first confronted with abuse.
“Some of the excuses women give their abusers are that ‘He loves me too much. That’s why he keeps me in the house all day” or “He may hit me sometimes, but he is a good father to the children”. These are things that many victim-survivors tell themselves and we want to send a clear message that one mustn’t justify the abuse,” says Sally.
The No Excuse For Abuse campaign will be launched tomorrow in conjunction with International Women’s Day. At the launch, WAO will also introduce TINA (Think I Need Aid), a virtual friend of WAO whom victim-survivors or women in distress can chat with via SMS (the public can SMS TINA at 018-988 8058).
“Some people are hesitant to call a helpline. I mean if you do not think you are being abused, why would you call a helpline. Some may be too embarrassed to confide in their actual friends or family even if they really do need to talk about their problems or clear their doubts.
“We hope that TINA can be their friend who will listen and respond to their problems and, if need be, refer the women to the WAO counselling line,” says Sally.
Although WAO hopes to reach victim-survivors through their campaign, No Excuse For Abuse aims to garner public support too.
“We want the public to take a firm stand and insist that there is no excuse for abuse. So far, we have received the support of our female Members of Parliament from both aisles who are willing to stand together to say no to abuse. Members of the public are also pledging their support on social media (#NoExcuseForAbuse) and I hope more people will participate,” she says.
No Excuse For Abuse will be launched at Publika, Solaris Dutamas tomorrow. The installation art will be displayed from March 8 till 17 at Publika, as well as at the Hero Supermarket outlets in Sri Damansara and Puchong at the end of March.