Domestic Violence Is Now A Part Of Me

I Support the Girls | Towne Post Network - Local Business Directory

When I was asked to sew facemasks, I started a friendship with a woman who works with homeless people and shelters. Before I knew what hit me, I got involved, jumped in head forward -not knowing what I got myself into.

I wanted to help, and I started collecting bras and feminine hygiene products for http://www.isupportthegirls.org, an organization I had never heard off. I spread the word to all my customers, friends and neighbors. They all were generous. I collected so much more than I had aimed for and it felt good. I was hooked!

My new friends called a few months ago. “Bridget, this year we do the same, but only for battered women shelters,” she informed me. “Are you in?” How could I not? Thanks to our dogs and online shipping, I have six empty, large CHEWY boxes in my garage, waiting to be filled. I was ready! What I got to see and the stories I heard, left me feeling helpless. How lucky am I to have a husband who would never harm me in any form or way?

Battered women shelters! Shelters for women and children, who had to leave their life behind, because of domestic violence. Often fearing for their lives, they arrive at the shelters with nothing.

Responding to the Domestic Violence Crisis of COVID-19 – FXB Center for  Health & Human Rights | Harvard University

These shelters exist all over the world but we don’t know where they are. We are not supposed to know. The woman’s safety is at risk. So I will not tell you how it works where I live, but instead you will travel with me to Poland and further.

Cheerful images of chamomiles and violets adorn the Polish Facebook shop “Rumianki I bratki,” an e-commerce platform for natural cosmetics and, as the website promises, a touch of spring. “Remember –change is important. Could this be your moment?” reads an advertisement for a cream. “We are happy to help you take care of yourself!”

But there is nothing to buy behind the ad. Indeed, the entire shop is a fake. It is actually a place women can turn to should they be the victims of domestic violence. What looks like a normal Facebook shop, is so much more. A crisis intervention team.

"Rumianki i bratki" looks like an online shop on Facebook. But it's actually a portal for women facing domestic violence and abuse.

If the team receives a request, the pretend saleswomen ask a number of questions: What is the condition of your skin? How does your skin react to alcohol? Do you need cosmetics for children? All of the questions are coded inquiries to help the intervention team determine if the woman, and perhaps her children, are in acute danger -if they are at the mercy of a violent, drunken partner. They want to know if immediate action is necessary.

The pandemic has forced initiatives combating domestic violence to get creative. Since the emergence of COVID-19, domestic violence has risen around the world, according to UN Women. Many countries have set up hotlines and expanded pre-existing services but such efforts aren’t all that helpful in situations where women live together with their tormentor, and can’t speak on the phone in private.

Lockdowns have made things even more difficult, increasing stress levels and further limiting women’s freedom of movement. Furthermore, abusive men often read their partner’s telephone messages and emails and some women don’t even have their own mobile device. Organizations and initiatives around the world have come up with code systems –such as fake online shopping platforms– to secretly offer help to domestic violence victims.

When a “customer” uses certain codewords in discussions with the psychologist, orders a product and provides her address, the counselor calls the police. Sometimes, they help find an alternative solution. For one woman, they sent a taxi to collect her and her child and provided them shelter until they could move to her parents’ place. She simply hadn’t seen any other way to get away from her husband, and she had no money of her own.

School systems should confront domestic violence in formative educational  courses | East Tennessean

There are many initiatives similar to Paszko’s around the world. In Colombia, activists urge women to get in touch via social networks or WhatsApp using the codeword “VendoMaquillaje” (“I’m selling makeup”). The Colombian organization Nosotras Hablamos has urged victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse to “write to us if you are isolated with your tormentor and he hurts you. Ask us to send an eyeliner to your home and give us your address.” The network, which includes more than 100 women, then notifies the authorities.

The group Proyecto Fem Reynosa in the Mexican border town of Reynosa also acts as a link between domestic abuse victims and the police, notifying the authorities when somebody inquires about a certain lipstick. “In the pandemic, many of the large factories here on the border have had to close down. A lot of people have lost their jobs,” says team member of the collective. “Women were locked up day after day with their brutal partners, who grew increasingly aggressive.” The group doesn’t just notify the police. It also helps women file charges and provides them with legal and psychological assistance.

A Hand Signal for Help - What Design Can Do

Even donuts have a role to play in the battle against domestic violence. In the poverty-stricken communities of Cape Flats, an area located just outside of the South African metropolis of Cape Town, the sticky-sweet confectionary known as “Koeksisters” are quite popular. Caroline Peters and the others from the Cape Flats Women’s Movement communicate with endangered women via WhatsApp by negotiating Koeksister deals.

They ask their “customers” periodically if they want to buy more of the pastries, with a negative answer being a sign that the situation has improved. But if somebody asks how expensive the donuts are, I know that I have to intervene immediately. The Movement keeps a database containing the addresses of township residents who face abuse so that they can respond quickly in an emergency and notify the police.

The use of codewords to assist victims of domestic violence is something of a balancing act. For the system to work, women must be aware of them. But if they become too well-known, perpetrators of such violence could learn of them too. A slippery slope if we aren’t careful.

Ask for ANI - support for victims of domestic abuse | Cheshire Constabulary

In the United Kingdom you asked for ANI (Action needed immediately). If women are in immediate danger they can call 999 and ask for the police. If they can’t talk, silent calls will work as well. They can call 999 and then press 55 when prompted. Even text works.

Domestic violence is a problem we have neglected for too long.

I cant’ change the situation, but at least I can collect bras and feminine hygiene products. While it doesn’t seem much, every bra will give one women back their dignity.

There is so much we can do, we often just don’t know until someone points us in the right direction.

Check it out! www.isupportthegirls.org is collecting nationwide and is looking for females who are willing to collect where they live.

School systems should confront domestic violence in formative educational  courses | East Tennessean

14 thoughts on “Domestic Violence Is Now A Part Of Me

  1. Pingback: Domestic Violence Is Now A Part Of Me — The happy Quitter! – Leigha Robbins

  2. This is fantastic! It’s interesting to know how different countries use different methods of reaching out. In the United Kingdom the charity Womens Aid, along with the police, mean I am a survivor. There are 3 women every two weeks over here that can’t say the same because that’s the statistic of women who are killed at the hands of their partner or ex partner.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bridget, this is just fantastic. I could really get behind this and have many friends who would join me. Thank you! I have a couple of social worker friends (and therapists) who are very active in working with women’s shelters, with a focus on domestic abuse, but I am confident they haven’t known of this particular effort or I would have been informed by them. You are a continual source of good information, and I’d also add inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Debra, you will be surprised how many of us have gently used bras in our dressers. We buy them without trying, mostly because they are on sale, and then for whatever reason we wear them only once or twice.

      If you want to do this where you live, here is the flyer (email) I use:

      I want your Bras please!

      I am not kidding. The new ones we all have in our dressers, because we bought another bra – again – without trying it on. Bras we wore once or twice, bras that will never fit because let’s face it, it’s unlikely we will lose the weight it would take -and then some.

      “I support the girls” has a representative in (your city) her name is (You can find them on facebook or contact Isupportthegirs.org directly they will let you know). You can look her up on Facebook if you search for isupportthegirls (your city). I collect for them, and so do many others.

      Women are experiencing homelessness, they are victims of domestic violence, they fall into financial hardship and poverty. A woman shouldn’t have to choose between feeding herself and her personal health and hygiene. COVID-19 has not helped the situation. Domestic Violence has been on the raise, shelters are full with women and children who had to leave their home. Financially, they fall through the cracks -like always.

      Every woman should have the ability to maintain her dignity. I am a woman! I wanted to help! I know how expensive bras are. There was a time in my life I could hardly afford them myself.

      I collect the following items:

      • Gently used bras (Bras all sizes from extra small to extra big, including sports bras and maternity bras, mastectomy bras and nursing bras)
      • NEW underwear (with tags or in original package only)
      • Socks (new or hardly used)
      • BACK PACKS because most have only a plastic bag!
      • Female Hygiene Products (shampoos, toothbrushes, toothpaste and so much more)
      • Menstrual Products (tampons/pads/wipes)

      Big bottles will be separated into little bottles, so each woman can get a small bag with everything they need to feel clean -and decent. Please, put the bras in a zip log bag and write the size on it!

      A donation bins is outside my home (driveway) it is secured and watched by cameras.

      You can call me/email me….bla bla bla

      💕💖

      Like

    • Let me tell you how it’s done when you don’t have time:

      1. Ask husband if he wants to go to the hardware store (aka toy store) and pick up two large bins with lids. (Husband delighted)
      2. Write letter and let women know that I am coming for their bras and add on a list of all the other things these women need. Tell them to spread the work on social media, because I don’t have social media. (They are delighted)
      3. Print this letter 100 times for my workroom and give it to all my female customers. (Printer is delighted)
      4. Write emails to all my friends and neighbors, attach above letter and ask them to spread the word. (They too are delighted)
      5. Bring donation bin outside every morning, bring it back inside (full mostly) in the evening. (I am delighted)
      Voila~!
      Time spent (approximately 1 hr.) the rest was a snowball effect.

      Liked by 3 people

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