"Talk to someone. Try to find allies. Be connected for emergencies," said UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie

By Benjamin VanHoose
December 08, 2020 10:41 AM
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Angelina jolie
Credit: 2nd AWP Conference 2020/ youtube

Angelina Jolie is reaching out to women facing abuse during the holidays, and offering ways to seek help.

The Oscar winner spoke to Harper's Bazaar U.K. about her humanitarian work as UNHCR Special Envoy, particularly her activism against gender-based violence. Jolie, 45, suggested women fearing abuse amid the holiday season — especially after increased instances of domestic violence during the pandemic — should reach out for assistance.

"Talk to someone. Try to find allies. Be connected for emergencies," she told the magazine. "For example, you can agree a code word with a friend or family member, which tells them if you are facing an emergency. Begin to build a network and gain knowledge. 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."

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

The Maleficent actress, who gave a powerful keynote speech at last month's International Conference on Action with Women and Peace, also explained why she finds her humanitarian work so important: "I value women."

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"I can’t stand to see the immense and enduring suffering so many women face, and how little accountability there is. I see the same patterns repeated globally," she said. "Women are vulnerable because societies are unequal. Women and children suffer disproportionately as a result of war or economic crisis. They make up two thirds of all refugees and displaced people, and they are hardest hit by the effects of climate change."

"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," said Jolie.

The actress/director also said that "people often don’t want to see abuse, even when it is right in front of them, because it’s easier not to."

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Jolie — who is mom to sons Maddox, 19, Pax, 17, and Knox, 12, and daughters Zahara, 15, Shiloh, 14, and Vivienne, 12 — also told Harper's Bazaar U.K. what someone can do if they suspect someone else might be a victim of abuse.

"If it has even crossed your mind that someone you know might be vulnerable in this way, try to stay close and present in their lives," she explained. "Make it clear that you are there for them. Another thing we can all do is educate ourselves. Learn about domestic violence. Learn how trauma affects our health and can lead to biological changes, particularly in children. Take these issues seriously."

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.