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NewsGirls & Women

This British Artist Draws Unfinished Portraits of Domestic Abuse Victims

By Emma Batha

LONDON, Jan 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A young British artist is commemorating domestic abuse victims killed by their partners or exes with a series of unfinished portraits — drawing each woman for just one minute for every year she lived.

"The pictures highlight how these women's lives were cut short. They are incomplete because the women were never allowed to live their full lives," said Holly Ringrose, who is posting the images on social media.

Britain, like other countries, has seen a surge in domestic abuse during lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19, which have left women trapped at home with their abusers.

Ringrose was inspired by US artist Adrian Brandon, who created a series of unfinished portraits of Black people killed by police in a project called "Stolen" that attracted global attention last year following the death of George Floyd.

Nearly 2 million people a year in Britain, mostly women, suffer some form of domestic abuse, according to official data.

The Femicide Census, a project run by a charity that collates data on women killed by men, says a woman is killed by a current or former partner every four days in Britain.

The youngest victim drawn by Ringrose is schoolgirl Ellie Gould who was 17 when a classmate stabbed her in the neck 13 times in May 2019 after she ended a short relationship with him.

The oldest is Elize Stevens, a 50-year-old mother-of-three and welfare officer who was stabbed 86 times by her partner in March 2019.

"I want to show that it can happen to anyone — it doesn't matter how old you are, where you come from, your race, ethnicity, or economic background," said Ringrose, who works for a domestic abuse charity.

"It's still quite taboo. People think it's none of their business, but girls and women are losing their lives. I thought this was a good way to show that we do need to speak about it."

Ringrose, 19, who aims to post one or two drawings on Twitter each week, said she hoped they would help raise awareness of the heightened risks of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

Britain, which has Europe's highest COVID-19 death toll, began a third lockdown early this month as it tries to tackle a highly infectious new strain of the virus.

"People forget that domestic abuse is also a pandemic. The first lockdown was catastrophic for so many women," Ringrose said. "I hope the drawings will make people more aware of what goes on behind closed doors and encourage them to help."

Ringrose, who works for Reigate and Banstead Women's Aid, which provides refuge for women fleeing abuse in the south of England, said demand for spaces had increased 150% since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020.

Related Stories May 28, 2020 UK Domestic Abuse Charity Sees 10-Fold Spike in Website Traffic During COVID-19 Lockdown

She said demand for spaces was 10 times greater than what was available.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said anyone at risk of violence is allowed to break the stay-at-home order.

(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)