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The campaign #youarenotalone encourages victims of domestic violence to seek help

One in three women in Bulgaria is subjected to some form of harassment

Photo: stolica.bg

Five actresses with bloodied and distorted faces send a cry for help in the center of the Bulgarian capital. Entering the role of victims, they started #nesisama (you are not alone) - a campaign against domestic violence against women. Posters with their close-up images and short messages are located in the heart of Sofia, the Crystal garden, in order to reach absolutely every one of us. Because even the indirect witness of violence is as responsible as the abuser and his actions can save a life.‎

Silvia Petkova

According  to data from non-governmental organizations, one in three women in Bulgaria is subjected to domestic violence, whether physical, mental or emotional. And this means that approximately 1million and 250 thousand Bulgarian women become victims of some form of harassment.

It turns out that Bulgaria is the only one in the European Union that does not keep official statistics on victims of domestic violence. At the same time, the phenomenon is deepening both here and around the world. However, the problem often remains unheard, misunderstood, closed within the framework of the family, therefore the proactive campaign #nesisama aims not only to make the victims seek help, but also to involve society in this multi-layered problem .‎

"It is very difficult to show the soul, because most victims either do not realize that they are victims of an abuser, or they hide it due to shame, fear and a huge misunderstanding from those around them," says Antonia Doncheva-Donya. A make-up artist by profession, she applied the stigma of violence behind closed doors to the faces of the actresses Bilyana Georgieva, Daria Simeonova, Desislava Bakardzhieva, Ioana Bukovska-Davidova and Silvia Petkova.‎

"A large part of our society believes that the victim is to blame for having caused it herself," she adds. “The same applies to other victims of violent relationships, including men - we say "He's putting up with her." But the problem is extremely serious, and until we realize that even one case of violence is too much, things will not change."

In many cases, the people who, through the screaming and crying, become witnesses of the violence in neighbouring homes, choose to remain uninvolved.‎

‎"One of our goals is to awaken empathy in society”, continues Antonia Doncheva. “For people to understand that when they witness violence and do nothing, they actually become accomplices to the abuser. It is very easy, hearing a woman, man or child screaming from behind a locked door, to ring the bell or call 112. Because this action can save a life, be something extremely meaningful and significant in our regular lives." ‎

Bureaucracy and the way people on the other end of the phone line react to the victim's signal often instil additional uncertainty and fear in the victim. ‎

‎"Imagine the enormous courage required of a woman or a child in real danger to call 112”, points out Antonia Doncheva. “And on the other side, an interrogation begins - your names, address, are you sure of what you are saying. An awful lot of time is wasted, and this is where the next problem arises, because when the police officer arrives at the address, the victim is relieved because they called the emergency line. However, this does not protect them if they have not subsequently lodged a complaint with the police. No one at all informs the victims that, in addition to calling 112, they should also go to the nearest regional police station. But many times when the complaint is filed at night, late in the evening, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday - it is not entered in the system. And it turns out a vicious circle arises, in which we first call, then we have to go to the police, and on top of all that, we then have to check whether our complaint has been filed." ‎

A drop of hope, a speck of confidence and a seed of determination - all this can be felt from the positive messages of the posters in the exhibition in Crystal garden in central Sofia. If the victims read them and recognize themselves in the disfigured faces, they might realize that:

"It's not scary to run away, it's scary to stay, and life outside is wonderful!"

Written by Diana Tsankova (based on an interview of Silvia Velikova from BNR Horizon channel)

Editing by Elena Karkalanova

Photos: stolica.bg

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