An advert placed by Women’s Aid in the March issue of Vanity Fair contains a hidden message for women currently isolated with abusers under the government’s stricter ‘stay at home’ policy. 

The message is a series of questions that form a pattern of abusive behaviour. It is designed to highlight the descent into coercive control that slowly escalates from asking ‘where are you’ to ‘remember I’m watching you’. 

Designed by creative ad agency ENGINE, the questions feature in a hexagonal shape on the page, surrounding the statement: ‘When it’s a pattern, it’s abuse’. 

Faye Connelly, fundraising manager at Women’s Aid, said: “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.

“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.”

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse. Women’s Aid defines it as ‘an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim’. According to data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, there were 17,616 offences of coercive control recorded by police in 2018, roughly equating to 48 per day.

(Women’s Aid)

What can you do if you are isolated with an abuser?

Women’s Aid has this week issued safety advice for women isolating in abusive households. It suggested to keep a mobile phone to hand at all times so you can phone 999 in case of emergency. 

It also urged women who could be at risk to familiarise themselves with the police-mandated ‘Silent Solution’. This is when women call 999 and cannot speak, the call will be forwarded to an operating system. If ‘55’ is pressed then the system will detect this and the operator will transfer the call to the police as an emergency.

In a statement Women’s Aid said: “Survivors are telling us that they are feeling unsafe with the prospect of being isolated in the house with their perpetrator. We want to reassure survivors and local specialist services that we are here for you and we will be doing everything we can to support you during this challenging time.”

Survivors who had previously been using helplines or support services can use the Live Chat function on the Women’s Aid site which is available between 10am and 12pm. 

If your living situation is dangerous and you are considering leaving, Women’s aid says to pack a bag with essentials like medication, identification, money or cards as well as essential clothing for you and your children. Charities like Shelter can help to provide free legal advice, confidential housing information and support.

For more information, visit


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