"We don’t take domestic or gender-based violence seriously enough anywhere."

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angelina jolie
Credit: Samir Hussein / Contributor, Getty Images

Warning: This article references domestic violence and abuse.

United Nations Human Rights Campaign Special Envoy Angelina Jolie has given a plan to those who may be facing gender-based abuse when home for the holidays. According to the United Nations, 243 million women and girls worldwide were abused by an intimate partner within the last year, and less than 40% of that number seek help. So, to adjust those numbers, Jolie offered advice to those who are currently cooped up with an abuser during the pandemic, or who may experience abuse during the holiday season.

In a December 7th interview with Harper's Bazaar, Jolie said "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." So, she put forth recommendations for both those in domestic violence situations as well as those who can help from the outside.

"Take [someone's abuse situation] seriously and stand by them," Jolie says. "Listen to them. Don’t judge them. Try to understand the huge emotional, financial and legal pressures they are likely facing, including the pressure to stay silent about what has happened to them. And be aware that they may well be suffering trauma and PTSD."

And for those who are anticipating potential abuse during the holiday season, Jolie urges them to "Talk to someone. Try to find allies. Be connected for emergencies."

"For example, you can agree a code word with a friend or family member, which tells them if you are facing an emergency," she suggests. "Begin to build a network and gain knowledge."

She says that sadly, a person can't assume all friends and family will provide support and believe your abuse story. " Often it will be strangers who help," Jolie says. "Or other victims, support groups, or faith groups...Only you really know the danger you are in, and until you find your support outside, you may feel quite alone."

But, even so, there is always someone out there willing and able to help you. And if you're on the flip side of the coin and believe your friend may be in danger, Jolie says it's pertintent to "stay close and present" to this person.

"Make it clear that you are there for them," she says, and educate yourself on domestic violence facts and figures. "Learn about domestic violence. Learn how trauma affects our health and can lead to biological changes, particularly in children. Take these issues seriously."

And always, if you or a loved one needs help, dial the National Domestic Violence Hotline by either calling 1-800-799-SAFE or chat with a representative directly on the site.