President of Ukraine

Olena Zelenska at the launch of the nationwide campaign "Take a Step. Sensitivity Overcomes Violence": Fighting a domestic aggressor is the same as fighting the one who attacked your country

27 November 2023 - 19:16

Olena Zelenska at the launch of the nationwide campaign

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna took part in the launch of the nationwide campaign "Take a Step. Sensitivity Overcomes Violence". Its launch is dedicated to the international campaign "16 Days of Activism Against Violence", which is held annually around the world from November 25 to December 10. On this occasion, Ukraine House hosted a presentation of an interactive installation and a panel discussion on domestic violence during the war.

The event was also attended by: Minister of Social Policy Oksana Zholnovych, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Kateryna Pavlichenko, Government Commissioner for Gender Policy Kateryna Levchenko, UNFPA representative in Ukraine Massimo Diana, Ambassador of France to Ukraine Gaël Veyssière, Director of the State Institution "Center for Psychological Health and Rehabilitation of Veterans "Lisova Polyana" of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine Ksenia Voznitsyna, Minister Counsellor (British Embassy in Ukraine) Bilal Zahid; public figure, board member of the NGO "Active Rehabilitation Group", chairman of the board of the "League of the Strong", consultant on barrier-free environment at Superhumans.Center Uliana Pcholkina. The discussion was moderated by host and public figure Masha Efrosinina.

"We all live now with news from the frontline, reports of shelling, of victims of Russian aggression. And often other messages are overlooked, which also contain dramas and tragedies. That somewhere a son beat his father, a granddaughter beat her old grandmother. Or that in Odesa, in the middle of the street, a man beat his wife in front of his young son while they were walking. So, while the country is fighting a common aggressor, a lot of internal, family aggressors continue their assaults," Olena Zelenska said in her speech.

According to her, this year the National Police received almost 244 thousand reports of domestic violence. This is 8% less than in 2021, the last year before the Russian attack.

"No statistics take into account such "quiet" types of violence as psychological violence – when you are not beaten, but humiliated, driven to tears, stress, suicide. Or economic violence – when you cannot leave the abuser because you are financially dependent on them – in money, food, housing," she said.

However, according to the First Lady, the main problem of domestic violence is widespread victim blaming in society, which means blaming the victim and finding excuses for the abuser.

"As for me, blaming the victim is the same as justifying the rapist. This is the notorious 'she wore a short skirt' that was used in Soviet times to try to diminish the rapist's responsibility in sexual crimes. And now you can see the parallel: the aggressor who attacked Ukraine, a mental descendant of the Soviet system, also constantly finds all sorts of excuses for the attack in its propaganda. They say it's been brought to this. As a society, we understand that there can be no justification for armed aggression against a country. But when will everyone in our country realize that there is also no excuse for a husband who beats his wife, parents who hurt a child, children who abuse their elderly relatives?" the First Lady said.

The main idea of the campaign "Take a Step. Sensitivity Overcomes Violence" is to consolidate people's understanding that violence is unacceptable and to further form a caring society that is ready to respond to cases of violence by taking small steps, as emphasized in the title of the event.

The idea of small steps also became the basis of the interactive installation. It contains a puzzle that hides certain messages – tips on how to act in case of violence. In addition, participants leave a name sticker on the installation as a symbol of support for the fight against violence.

The campaign is initiated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and facilitated by the wife of the President of Ukraine in cooperation with the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy and with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

"By unleashing a full-scale war, Russia is trying to destroy not only our cities and homes. They are trying to destroy us mentally and psychologically. Constant stress, loss of jobs, separation from loved ones – it is often difficult for citizens to cope with all this on their own, which can escalate into domestic violence. The campaign aims to show that there is a path to healing, steps that everyone can take to help in a situation of violence or to prevent such violence. A united nation of caring people – this is about us," said Olha Stefanishyna.

The panelists discussed how the full-scale invasion has changed the challenges associated with domestic violence and how the relevant authorities are dealing with them. They also talked about how to detect violence in time, respond appropriately, and help victims. Particular attention was also paid to the question of how to develop a caring and inclusive society that is aware of the traumas of war.

"There is no shame in talking about violence against yourself or your loved ones. It is a responsible thing to do. Fighting a domestic aggressor is the same as fighting someone who attacked your country, your home," Olena Zelenska summarized.

After the official opening, an interactive installation dedicated to combating violence will be placed in the Gulliver shopping center in Kyiv. It will be open to the public from November 28 to December 2. In addition, the installation is scheduled to open in Dnipro on December 4 and in Lviv on December 8. We urge Ukrainians to join the campaign "Take a Step. Sensitivity Overcomes Violence", to be sensitive to each other and take a step.