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Angelina Jolie: 'We Don't Take Domestic or Gender-Based Violence Seriously Enough Anywhere'

Visit to NATO by Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. | NATO North Atlantic Treaty / Flickr

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Crises disproportionately put women and children at risk of violence. Global Goal 5 aims to end gender-based violence worldwide to achieve gender equality. You can join us and take action on this issue here

Actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy Angelina Jolie is holding everyone accountable to stand up against domestic violence.

Jolie addressed questions about how people can help stop gender-based violence in their communities in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK published Monday.

“It’s on all of us. People often don’t want to see abuse, even when it is right in front of them, because it’s easier not to,” she said when asked how employees can support efforts to end gender-based violence in the workplace.

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Jolie advised employees to find out how their company supports employees who are survivors of violence as part of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which runs through Dec. 10. Employees can also take steps as individuals by donating to a local domestic violence shelter. 

For anyone who is at risk of experiencing violence this holiday season, Jolie shared tangible tips and recommended building a support system.

"Talk to someone. Try to find allies. Be connected for emergencies," she said. “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.”

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Women can create a code word with a trusted friend or family member to let them know when they are in an emergency, Jolie explained. 

"Above all, be careful,” she continued. “Only you really know the danger you are in, and until you find your support outside, you may feel quite alone."

People can also help friends, relatives, or children who they suspect are being abused by staying involved in their lives and being available to them, according to Jolie.

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Everyone can also educate themselves about domestic violence and try to understand the impacts of trauma on people’s health. 

"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," Jolie said.

Violence against women tends to increase during crises when stress and economic difficulties are at an all-time high and access to health and social services declines. Women are especially at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic as they are forced to live in tight spaces with their abusers and movement is restricted.

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Within the past year, 243 million women and girls were abused by an intimate partner and less than 40% of survivors reported the abuse or asked for help, according to UN Women. 

Working as a UNHCR special envoy since 2012, Jolie has seen how women are treated around the world and it keeps her motivated to continue her humanitarian work. 

"I value women. I can’t stand to see the immense and enduring suffering so many women face, and how little accountability there is,” she said. 

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Angelina Jolie: 'We Don't Take Domestic or Gender-Based Violence Seriously Enough Anywhere'

By Leah Rodriguez