With 1 in 4 women suffering from domestic violence the charity Refuge and make-up artist Lauren Luke are launching a powerful online campaign telling victims of domestic violence, and wider society, ‘Don’t cover it up’.
The online film takes a brave and disarming approach to the issue of domestic violence, encouraging women to break down the silence which so often masks abuse and reach out for help from specialist organisations like Refuge.
In the short, unsettling video, Lauren appears onscreen with severe cuts and bruises on her face. Her injuries are fake, but the viewer is led to believe that they have been inflicted on her by an abusive partner. She proceeds to deliver her make-up tutorial, calmly applying foundation to cover up her bruises and giving practical tips on how to minimise the effects of physical violence. The video ends with a shocking statistic – 65% of women who experience domestic violence keep it hidden 
Lauren Luke has a huge online following of teenage girls and young women. Research shows that abuse in teenage relationships is alarmingly common, and Refuge believes that much more work needs to be done to reach this group and educate them about domestic violence. A survey undertaken by Refuge and YouGov in 2009 revealed that over half of young women aged 18-21 had experienced at least one abusive incident from a boyfriend, husband or partner. Despite this, only 41% said that they would know where to go for help if they experienced domestic violence.
Refuge hopes that this video will be shared far and wide among young women and girls, helping to raise awareness of abuse. Viewers are encouraged to share the video with friends, text to donate to Refuge, and sign a petition which Refuge has launched with Red magazine, calling for more life-saving domestic violence services across the country.
Lauren’s injuries may be fictitious, but domestic violence is a horrifying reality for thousands of women and children up and down the country. Two women are killed by a current or former partner every single week in England and Wales. One woman in four will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Yet, despite this, domestic violence is still, largely, a hidden crime. Victims of abuse often feel too afraid or ashamed to speak out and the myth that domestic violence is a private matter, to be dealt with behind closed doors, still persists. Furthermore, some types of domestic violence do not leave physical marks: the effects of emotional, psychological and financial abuse can be severe and long-lasting, even though they may be invisible to the naked eye.
Lauren Luke says: “I was shocked to read that domestic violence affects one in four women and yet it is not something we hear about all the time because I think many women are too afraid or ashamed to speak up about it. The bruising on my face for the video wasn’t real but my emotions in that video were because I had a bad experience in the past with a previous boyfriend. He never physically hurt me but I did sometimes fear what would happen next if I said the wrong thing. He could be over-protective and embarrass me in front of my work colleges or friends because of his aggressive behaviour. Sometimes it was like living with a volcano which could erupt at any second – I felt I was walking on egg shells just to keep him from exploding and smashing something across the room.
“To open up and be honest about something like this makes us feel weak among our friends and family, but in actual fact there is nothing weak about it. Those who are abusive behind closed doors are the ones who are weak. Back then I knew the whole situation wasn’t normal but I didn’t know about the help that is out there and that is why I wanted to work with Refuge – to get the message out to anyone who may need help and support that it’s time to stop covering it up.”
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says: “For too long, domestic violence has been allowed to fester in the shadows of our society. Women who are abused often feel too afraid or ashamed to speak out. People frequently turn a blind eye when they know or suspect abuse is taking place, even when the victim is a loved one. This must end. Lauren Luke’s video sends a powerful message: domestic violence is a crime and it must be exposed. If you are being abused, you are not alone. Reach out for support – organisations like Refuge can help you stay safe. If a friend or loved one is being abused, don’t stay silent. Don’t ignore it. Don’t cover it up.”
Refuge opened the world’s first safe house for abused women and children in Chiswick, West London in 1971. Since then it has grown to become the country’s largest provider of domestic violence services. On any given day Refuge supports over 1,600 women and children through its network of life-changing and life-saving services. www.refuge.org.uk
 Refuge, Starting in school to end domestic violence, 2009. Research carried out by YouGov. Sample of 513 18-21-year-old women.