Domestic violence may not be visible at first sight. But that does not mean it does not exist. In the Czech Republic, 47% of women have experienced some form of psychological violence, and 21% of women have direct experience of physical or sexually motivated violence by a partner. Currently, the situation is exacerbated by the increased frequency of staying at home as a result of measures against coronavirus – the number of requests for help from some non-profit organisations has increased by around 40% compared to last year. At the same time, home should be a safe place for everyone. That’s why IKEA has teamed up with the NeNa Coalition, which brings together specialised centres for women experiencing violence, and will focus on active assistance and awareness-raising in this area over the next two years. Among other things, it will contribute CZK 3,800,000 for material support, counselling and education to non-profit organisations.
The IKEA survey showed that 78% of Czechs most often think of „domestic violence“as physical violence or sexual coercion (69%). However, psychological violence, which is less visible at first sight, is also a serious problem, with up to 95% of victims seeking help. Examples include situations where the man forbids the woman from contact with family or friends, verbally threatens her, exerts undue control over her activities or restricts her access to joint money. Often women are not aware that they are facing this and live at home in fear of further violence. Domestic violence is a long-standing and serious social problem that is increasing due to the current situation around coronavirus and the associated increased frequency of staying at home.
Nonprofit organizations in the NeNa Coalition report a significant increase in victims’ requests for help, averaging 40%. A comparison of data from member organization ROSA for the period March 1 to October 20 in 2019 and 2020 shows that the number of phone calls and email inquiries related to domestic violence cases has even increased by nearly 60%.2 The coronavirus pandemic is not only impacting the economic functioning of families and couples, but also increasing psychological strain. This can lead to more frequent acts of aggression and violence. Increased isolation due to anti-epidemic measures makes it more difficult for victims to access help and reinforces control and power in violent persons. For many women and children, and not only today, the home is a dangerous place from which there is no easy escape. That is why we need to join forces and offer fast and effective help,” Branislava Marvánová Vargová, head of the ROSA Information and Counselling Centre, describes the situation. The NGOs ROSA, Acorus and proFem are members of NeNa – Coalition of Specialized Centers for Women Experiencing Violence, which has become an IKEA expert partner.
With most people staying at home, whether for health reasons or in an effort to limit social contact, a safe haven is needed more than ever. At IKEA, we believe that home should be a safe place for everyone. Unfortunately, this is not the case in every home. That’s why, over the next two years, we’ve decided to focus on helping victims of domestic violence by supporting local communities. During this period, we want to initiate a public debate and, in collaboration with other actors, contribute to raising awareness of domestic violence and at the same time reduce the level of its acceptance in society. To help victims of domestic violence, we are making a financial contribution of CZK 3,800,000 to selected non-profit organisations that provide counselling, support, crisis and shelter accommodation for women at risk and their children, as well as training for helping professions, such as social workers, health professionals, police officers and others,“ says Roman Bojko, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, IKEA Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. In spring 2021, IKEA will conduct a representative survey in cooperation with Charles University in Prague, which will be repeated at the end of the two-year period to assess how public attitudes have changed.
In order to help people better empathise with the issue of domestic violence, an interactive exhibition in the form of an educational wall has been created in IKEA stores in Černý Most, Brno and Ostrava. It contains up-to-date data highlighting the severity of the problem and behind it visitors can hear recordings with authentic snippets of conversations between the abuser and the victim. Passers-by will have the opportunity to pick up a phone attached to the wall and act as witnesses to make it clear that such behaviour is not to be tolerated. When the handset is picked up, a recorded message will be played thanking them for their decision to take an active role in the situation and informing them where to go for help in similar cases. The public will see this interactive display as soon as IKEA stores reopen, where it will be installed for a limited time.
Mirrors on the mall walls will feature authentic statements from abusers illustrating the shadow side of domestic violence: „Don’t you dare come out of the house!“ „You’re nothing without me!“ or „You’ll do as I say!“. Statements will be placed with foil on selected mirrors in the bathroom department.
In this way, IKEA stores will become a place where people can learn to recognise the signs of domestic violence in all its forms and, thanks to the cooperation with experts from the NeNa Coalition, get information on how to deal with similar situations.