“Blaming the victim means supporting the offender”, says the posters all around Vilnius, Kaunas and other Lithuanian cities. “Palaikyk” (“Support”) is the name of a new public service ad by the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson. The campaign strives to inspire the society to support women who open up about the experience of abuse and violence.
During the two weeks of the public service ad, people will see social advertisement on TV, radio, cinemas and on the streets of cities. The campaign addresses the people and institutions surrounding the victims of violence: friends, mothers, police officers, child rights protection staff, judges, and priests. According to a new survey, persons from these groups would express victim blaming most often and hold on women from looking for further help.
The video as well as the posters have quotes attributed to every character that were taken from real interviews with the victims of violence: women told that these were the words they would hear from the priests, police officers and others when they were trying to reach for help. The quote of the priest says “Family is the most precious thing. You must listen to your husband”. Asterisk next to the quote explains that the citation is real and taken from the interview with a victim. The quote of the police officer says “What did you tell him? Perhaps you provoked him?” while the judge is blaming with questions “Do you really need to destroy your marriage? Can’t you talk to your husband?”.
“With this ad, we do not seek to discredit any of the institutions or groups of society”, says the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson Agneta Skardžiuvienė. “We wish to show how deep victim blaming has taken roots in our culture and society. We invite people to unite and to cooperate in order to bring back the liability to the real culprit – the abuser”.
Despite the importance of the issue, the reception has been critical due to the characters shown in the posters and video. The representatives of priests, the police and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour were feeling attacked by the campaing but did not raised any discussion on their role reducing victim blaming in the aforementioned institutions.
Also, this public service ad is part of President Dalia Grybauskaite’s nationwide social campaign “For A Safe Lithuania”.
In 2017 Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson carried out a survey in which 85% of respondents agreed/partially agreed with a statement “if a woman wants, she can always terminate a relationship/divorce with a violent man”. However, the reports from women themselves indicate that financial conditions and the lack of support from the society are hindering their divorce.
51% of respondents agree or partially agree with a statement that women that experienced abuse “knew in what relationship they were getting into”. 53% say that “women themselves provoke violence”, 27% even stated that “women like” when they are getting abused. Only 51% of respondents think that it is abusive when husband is not letting his wife have a job, saying that he is earning enough money and her duty is to take care of home and children.
All this normalization of violence in Lithuania creates extremely difficult conditions for women who are victims of violence.
In 2017 almost 48,000 reports have been registered in Lithuania about violence in a close relationship, from which 4 out of 5 victims were women.
The World Health Organization has estimated that more than one in three (35%) women in the world has experienced physical or sexual abuse at least once.
Watch the Campaign video (English, French, German, Spanish, Polish and Russian subtitles available)