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Women’s Aid places hidden message in Vanity Fair to support victims isolated with abusers

Women’s Aid places secret message in Vanity Fair to highlight patterns of coercive control

With victims of coercive control being forced to stay indoors with their abusers during the coronavirus, the Women’s Aid Federation of England, the national domestic abuse charity, has placed a pertinent ad in March’s issue of Vanity Fair that contains a hidden message.

“During these uncertain times and under current guidance, we know that a lot of women will have to spend more time indoors. We are thinking of all those for whom home is not a safe place but one of fear and control," explained Faye Connelly, fundraising manager at Women’s Aid.

“From our work with survivors, we know that coercive control is at the heart of domestic abuse yet continues to be largely misunderstood and underreported."

In 2019, data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales found that an overwhelming number of victims of coercive controlling behaviour are women, with men making up 97% of defendants prosecuted in the year ending December 2018. During that year, the police recorded 17,616 offences of coercive control, with the Crown Prosecution Service recording 1,177 offences in an intimate or family relationship.

While there has been a rise in awareness over the years, there is still a lot of ground to cover to ensure the justice system and wider society recognises that abuse is a pattern of behaviour that restricts a woman’s freedom over time – not just single incidents.

To raise awareness, Women's Aid concealed a hidden message of abuse within a beautiful pattern. Created by Engine, the pattern is created from a series of questions that form a pattern of abusive behaviour.

Starting from the outside, the questions escalate slowly into a grim and frightening conclusion, highlighting how coercion is designed to control, manipulate or frighten another.

In its 45th year, Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women. It has made it its mission to combat coercive behaviour, campaigning back in 2015 to make coercive control a criminal offence. Supported by Avon, it developed a coercive control toolkit to coincide with the Home Office’s implementation of the coercive control law.

Back in 2017, the charity launched a campaign that used displaced effect – a visual technique that reveals two different headlines depending on your perspective – to highlight the fact that, though difficult to see, coercive control can be just as damaging as physical violence.

Chris Ringsell, creative director at Engine, said: “In this difficult time awareness of the work Women’s Aid do is even more crucial, especially as some people will now be forced into isolation with their abusers. What a terrifying thought.

“This creative execution highlights the menacing form of abuse that is coercive control, a pattern of repeated, controlling and abusive behaviour. We created a bold, clean and simple graphic ad to stand out amongst the image heavy luxury/fashion editorial style of Vanity Fair. Arresting at first glance the copy has an underlying menace that highlights this awful form of abuse. This type of coverage in a magazine like Vanity Fair will help Women’s Aid highlight the cause, raise awareness and hopefully encourage much-needed donations.”

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