Adeela Warley: Communication work can go far beyond raising awareness

The efforts of carefully crafted campaigns have changed laws, given victims a voice and created safe spaces to share stories and challenge hate

“An epidemic of violence” was the damning description in the justice inspectorate’s recent report into violence against women and girls.

Its bleak findings, tragically underlined by Sabina Nessa’s recent murder in south London, examine the estimated 1.6 million victims in the UK each year.

Campaign communicators help to raise awareness, of course, but they also help change laws, craft new narratives, give victims a voice and create safe spaces to share stories and challenge online hate.

Following the murder of Sarah Everard, thousands of women shared their experiences and stories of violence on Everyone’s Invited. Their testimonies helped prompt the government to commission this report.

Talking to women survivors, the charity Refuge heard that one in seven young women in the UK lives in fear of receiving threats to share their intimate images or films.

The Naked Threat campaign created highly visible media moments with celebrity ambassadors and brave survivors sharing their experiences and secured cross-party political support.

This huge effort has resulted in the government agreeing to make threats to share intimate images a crime in the Domestic Abuse Bill; its enforcement will help protect the lives of countless women.

Women’s Aid’s latest, brilliantly subversive, “Not Model’s Own” campaign takes its inspiration from fashion advertising to highlight the devastating impact of coercive control and makes it easier to recognise and prosecute.

If, as the report urged, we are to give these issues the same urgency and seriousness as tackling terrorism, perhaps it’s time to rethink the words “domestic violence”.

As one survivor said, it makes it sound like a “spat” – not our reality, and all too easily dismissed.

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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