Rauðu Ljósin (“Red Lights”) is the first of its kind in Iceland; an awareness campaign to make women aware of ‘red flags’ in potentially abusive relationships. The campaign is meant to help women in any kind of abusive relationship, and is largely targeting prevention.
The Rauðu Ljósin movement was created by two women’s shelter and support organisations in Iceland: Bjarkarhlíð and Kvennaathvarfið. They believe that abuse can be recognised done through the recognition of the ‘red flags’ that often present themselves early in a relationship. If the signs are recognised early on, it may be easier to exit a potentially abusive relationship before it is too late, or before more damage is done. “It is our hope that this campaign increases the understanding of violence in relationships and see the red flags before it leads to violence,”the website states.
The main feature of the campaign is a series of five videos made by Helga Arnardóttir, which present Icelandic women sharing their stories and personal experiences of being in emotionally and physically abusive relationships. The videos have been posted both in Icelandic and with English subtitles, and are also being shown in Youtube ads.
“It started breaking me down, but at the same time all of these questions started popping up. This is not normal and the uneasiness became stronger than the love day by day,” says Elín Elísabet, one of the featured women sharing her story through video in the campaign, who is also a cartoonist at Grapevine. In the video, she also reflects on her experience, “At first I thought I should have spotted this sooner, but when I look back now I’m just happy to have figured out the red flags at all, and get myself away.”
Afraid to leave
Elín later tells me the importance of the campaign being created and organised by Bjarkarhlíð and Kvennaathvarfið. “Women are afraid to leave abusive relationships, and that’s why it’s important that the campaign is being made by Bjarkarhlíð and Kvennaathvarfið,” she says. “Both of those places are shelters where you can go to feel safe when you’ve exited a relationship like that.”
Elín also notices a pattern in all of the shared stories. “It [always] starts out perfectly, and then you start noticing the jealousy and bursts of anger. Those two symptoms were really common in the videos.”
Exiting an abusive relationship can be especially difficult in Iceland. “If you’re coming out with a story that targets a violent man in your life, most likely, you’re going to have lots of people around that know him personally,”Elín explains. “I think a lot of women are worried that they won’t be believed, or that the people that they know will side with their abuser.”
Sharing her story in public video was difficult, although it had a positive effect for her too. “What was really important for me personally with making this video was the reactions I got. I got a lot of messages of support. There’s always this small voice inside me that tells me, ‘why are you making such a big deal out of this, it’s probably nothing, lots of people have had worse.’It’s just really reassuring to get messages of support that tell me I was doing the right thing by coming out because there have also been people contacting me who have been through the same thing and they need to feel validated.”
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