Smiling victims and stock images: Andalusia accused of trivializing gender violence in new campaign

The regional government has spent €1.2 million on an initiative against “abuse” that includes photos previously used in dental ads

Photo of woman in dental clinic ad (l) also used to represent a victim of abuse (r).
Photo of woman in dental clinic ad (l) also used to represent a victim of abuse (r).

The regional government in Andalusia has been criticized for its new campaign against gender violence which uses stock images of smiling women to portray victims of abuse. In one image, a gray-haired woman is smiling next to the message: “She has suffered abuse but life is always stronger.” But a photo of the same woman appears in a US advertisement for a dental clinic. Critics say the new campaign puts the responsibility of abuse on women and avoids talking about gender violence, even though the problem has been recognized for 15 years in Spain’s gender violence law.

Playing down violence, not showing that it is sexist, blaming the victims. Hopefully it was ignorance, but this is failing to protect [victims] or meet the international obligations of the #IstanbulConvention. We all pay for our irresponsibility. Some more than others.

The regional government spent €1.2 million on the campaign using funding from a state deal against gender violence.

Andalusia is governed by the right-wing Popular Party (PP) and center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), with support from far-right group Vox, which has campaigned to repeal the gender violence law and to replace the term with “interfamilial” violence.

Don’t fool us: abuse does not make us laugh, it hurts and kills. Making this reality invisible leaves us unprotected.

“Speaking of abuse and centering the campaign on the victims reduces the effectiveness of this type of action to raise awareness,” warned the national Ministry of Equality, which is led by Socialist Party (PSOE) minister Carmen Calvo.

More than a thousand women have been murdered by their partners or former partners since 2003, when official records began. So far this year, 37 women have been murdered. In 79% of the cases, the victims have not reported their aggressors.

I don’t understand how a public administration could make light of a situation so serious as the scourge of gender violence. We demand this campaign be removed.

One of the messages of the Andalusian campaign is “Report. Live,” but experts say this emphasis is misguided, given that the fear of retaliation, of not being believed and the possible effects on their children often stop women from going to the police. Instead, specialists say the focus should be on encouraging families to report violence (families report less than 2% of cases), strengthening measures like medical screenings and allowing local social services to acknowledge women as victims so it is easier for them to access support and social protection.

The head of the regional equality department, Rocío Ruiz, from Ciudadanos, defended the campaign on Monday, arguing that “no one has ever attacked an initiative that looks to show that women can move forward, that there is a future after the ordeal of gender violence.”

“But life is always stronger” except for the 19 women killed this month, for example. What a shameful campaign. Mr Wonderful philosophy and empty euphemism to turn a social problem into self-help therapy. This [gender violence] cannot be fixed with smiles and reports.

Ruiz was involved in another controversy when she denied the existence of the gender pay gap on July 16, and announced she had asked head of universities for “scientific evidence” on the matter.

English version by Melissa Kitson.


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