Press Release

Unveiling "Behind the Silence" - A Documentary Shedding Light on the Consequences of War on Domestic Violence in Ukraine and Support Services for Survivors, Premieres in Kyiv

26 May 2023

On May 24th, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in collaboration with StarLight Doc, presented the film "Behind the Silence," created with the support of the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), and the Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund (UHF).

Photo: © UNFPA, Stas Kartashov


The film shows how the full-scale war has impacted the levels and forms of domestic violence. Additionally, the documentary highlights the provision of assistance to survivors of war-related violence, including sexual violence.

The film premiere took place at the “Zhovten” cinema and gathered around 300 viewers. The event was attended by the ambassadors of Spain, Finland, and Croatia in Ukraine, as well as representatives from the embassies of France, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. The opening remarks were given by Her Excellency Larisa Galadza, H.E. Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine.

“Canada is committed to supporting Ukraine and its people for as long as it takes – not just in its defence against Russia’s ongoing military aggression, but also in dealing with the consequences the war has rot on the most vulnerable. Our collective supports ensure that there are safe spaces for SGBV survivors seeking assistance, and are available to make sure that no one is alone during these difficult times”, said Her Excellency Larisa Galadza. 

In addition to the services supported by the Canadian government, "Behind the Silence" also showcases how experts from services supported by the government of the United Kingdom provide assistance. Particularly, platform "Aurora," mobile teams of social and psychological assistance. 

“Tackling gender-based violence is a priority for the UK. That’s why we’ve been working closely with partners in Ukraine to ensure the survivors get the support they need. I’m proud that this work is helping people, and we will continue to support efforts like the Aurora platform. Those who need help should know that it’s available and they are not alone. This is what the "Behind the Silence" film is about”, said the British Ambassador to Ukraine Dame Melinda Simmons.

The film also highlights the work of other support services for violence survivors, such as Survivor Relief Centres, the psychological support line for men, shelters, crisis rooms, hotlines. Most of these services are supported by the United Nations Population Fund and other UN system organizations.

Caption: Denise Brown, UN Resident and Humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine
Photo: © UNFPA, Stas Kartashov

“In Ukraine, because of the invasion by Russia, because of the escalation of the war, the situation with regard to gender-based violence – domestic violence, sexual violence, conflict-related sexual violence – is just so much worse. Particularly for women and girls. They are so much more exposed because of the war”, said UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Denise Brown. So, ensuring that people know where to go to for support and understand the services that are available is critical. We all need to know where to turn to. And the documentary ‘Behind the Silence’ shows that assistance is available despite the circumstances. Psychologists, social workers, lawyers, the police are here to help. And we are honoured to support them.”

The screening of the film was supported by UNFPA's Honorary Ambassador in Ukraine, Maria Yefrosinina, who actively advocates for the rights of domestic violence and war-related violence survivors.

Caption: Maria Yefrosinina, UNFPA's Honorary Ambassador in Ukraine
Photo: © UNFPA, Stas Kartashov

"In times of war, when the country is going through immense suffering and pain, people sometimes downplay their own experiences, putting them aside, thinking that first we need to win the war. Undoubtedly, we should all continue to do everything possible to live in a free country, but it is important not to forget about ourselves, that enduring violence is not acceptable under any circumstances, and that we should not turn a blind eye to injustice within our own families because of the war. Help is available, and it is closer than it seems. The key is not to stay silent about violence, and the documentary 'Behind the Silence' is our attempt to motivate people to seek for support", said UNFPA's Honorary Ambassador in Ukraine, Maria Yefrosinina.

StarLight Media is the media partner for the creation of the film and the event.

Anastasia Steinhauz, Head of Starlight Doc and ICTV, ICTV2 channels, said, "Some may think that a full-scale war with all its horrors and pain has put a pause on internal social issues. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We know that the problem of domestic violence remains relevant and may escalate in the near future. We know that those who previously found it difficult to seek help are now facing new barriers - both in terms of general safety and psychological and economic challenges. Therefore, we are grateful to our partners, UNFPA, for the opportunity to create this documentary film. It is our joint documentary manifesto that reminds us that war should not hinder seeking assistance. There are professional, services, and organizations that continue to work for the sake of providing help, and there are people who need support right now."

With the onset of the large-scale war in February 2022 and the increase in the number of internally displaced persons, the issue of response to and prevention of gender-based violence has become particularly relevant. 

The situation has intensified in at-risk groups, according to experts, particularly affecting elderly individuals, some of whom have taken in children, grandchildren, or relatives from the beginning of full-scale war. Especially if there have been previous cases of domestic violence in the family. Children are also at risk, as they often depend on their parents' decisions, such as whether to stay in conflict-affected areas or change their place of residence. As a result, the risk of violence increases.

Photo: © UNFPA, Stas Kartashov

According to "La Strada-Ukraine," over the past three years, in 2022, the National Hotline for the Prevention and Counteraction of Gender-Based Violence received the highest number of calls—38,472. For comparison, in 2019, there were nearly 10,000 less calls.

In 2022, there were 251,829 reports of domestic violence received by the police and social welfare authorities.

Furthermore, the focus of assistance has expanded, as both social services and the police have started providing help to survivors of violence related to the war, particularly sexual violence. Survivors of this type of violence often fear seeking help. Therefore, in addition to addressing the consequences of such violence, ongoing awareness-raising efforts are being carried out, and the film "Behind the Silence" is an integral part of these efforts.

Photo: © UNFPA, Stas Kartashov

"As of May, the police have received 82 reports of rape and other sexual crimes committed by Russian military personnel against civilians. However, this number does not reflect the real picture, as there are individuals who are afraid to seek help, some still reside in occupied territories and are unable to receive comprehensive support, or they understand the risk of persecution by the occupying authorities. Nevertheless, we are witnessing an increase in trust towards law enforcement. We believe that this is achieved through a people-centric approach that police officers adhere to today. We are confident that trust will become even stronger after everyone working with CRSV survivors completes a special online training developed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs", emphasized Katerina Pavlichenko, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs.

If you or your loved ones need qualified assistance, please find the contact information of support services on the UNFPA website.

To watch the documentary online, please visit the YouTube channel UNFPA Ukraine.  

The creation of the documentary was made possible with the support of the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), and the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund.

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Population Fund

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