“I’m a victim of domestic violence. Could you help me? I’m in Room 301 Building 4 East Garden.” That is the note a woman leaves in a Chinese shopping centre, trying to get help while locked down with her young son and abusive husband. It’s the opening of a new video created by the Justice4Her team in response to the news that Qianjiang Xian police bureau in Hubei province received 2-3 times more domestic violence reports in February 2020 than in the same period last year. The increase of gender-based violence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been noted in many countries around the world, and China is one of them.
RNW Media’s cross-sector Justice4Her project, co-funded by the EU, aims to strengthen the rule of law to reduce gender-based violence (GBV) against China’s millions of women migrant workers. A range of online and offline activities aim to raise awareness of the issues, inform this target group of their rights, amplify their voices and support their access to justice. Diverse online and offline channels are used and video is an important tool to engage the audience on topics that can be difficult to address without alienating users. Together with partner Beijing Qianqian law firm, the project offers legal advice and support for women affected by GBV, as well as trainings for pro bono lawyers to better represent victims and media professionals to encourage more gender sensitive reporting on cases of GBV.
Perspectives on GBV
Two recent Justice4Her videos have addressed GBV from different perspectives. The Note focuses on the situation women face when locked down with their abusers. As well as leaving her note asking for help, the central character communicates secretly with colleagues during a video meeting. The film was shown during this year’s China International Philanthropic Movie Festival and distributed widely on Justice4Her’s social media channels.
The Justice4Her team have also released a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video ‘Nowhere to hide’ which depicts domestic violence through the eyes of a child.
This video is a follow up to an earlier PSA ‘Survivors’, released in 2019, which was also the first time Virtual Reality technique was used to address domestic violence in China. Using VR technology gives viewers a powerful and real experience and involves them in the subject matter by stimulating their empathy on a different level. At the time ‘Survivors’ was released, Justice4Her’s Chief Editor Xia Liu said:
“When we discuss domestic violence, we tend to focus on the direct victims and survivors, but we always forget the impact of such incidents on children who witness them. Plenty of studies show that it is more likely for witnessing children to reflect the same moral values in their adult lives.”
Children’s vulnerability to the emotional damage caused by witnessing domestic violence was starkly illustrated during shooting for ‘Nowhere to hide’ when the 7-year old boy playing the main role became distressed by the aggressive performance of the actor playing his father. Filming had to be stopped for some time so the boy could be comforted by his mother, who was also on set, and reassured by the cast and crew that the aggression was not real.