#LookForThem: A Global Campaign to protect women from Domestic Violence during the Pandemic, 2020

By Dr. Vani Khare

#LookForThem, a campaign that uses the power of social media and neighborhood watch networks, was designed during the pandemic to identify and support victims of domestic violence in the local Singapore community. Founded by human rights advocate and activist Dr. Vani Khare who noticed a rise in domestic violence cases during lockdown, the program quickly activated service centers, shelter homes and intervention agencies across the city that provided immediate assistance and reliefs to victims. The campaign disseminates information through infographics via social media, building noticeboards and WhatsApp with easy-to-follow steps for citizens to spot and report violence in the neighborhood.

Speaking on the subject Vani recalls, “During the initial days of COVID-19, many survivors were locked with their perpetrators and domestic violence incidents were on the rise. I personally received reports of screams, loud banging, and beating noises from many neighbors and some survivors also found a way to personally reach out to me, sharing their stories, along with pictures of their battered faces and blood-soaked clothes. In those instances, I called the emergency contact number 999 and within minutes, the police arrived and investigated the cases. They also told me about the new government initiatives pertaining to domestic violence that were being rolled out and I felt it was my duty to educate my neighbors about the same, especially the ones suffering in silence. That’s where the idea for #lookforthem was born. I partnered with Women in Asia and Sanrakshan organizations and we began creating citizen watch communities across Singapore, to reach as many people as we possibly can.”

The campaign refuses to look at victims as just another statistic, and each case is dealt with extreme confidentiality and seriousness. Vani credits a lot of the campaign’s success to the brilliant team of citizen rescuers who are friends, colleagues, family members and sometimes neighbors of the victims. Recalling a recent incident, Vani says, “There was once a woman who called us wanting to help a friend. The friend was locked in the house and her partner was outside waiting for the door to open, after having severely beaten her the same morning. The victim was certain that if she let him in, he would hurt her again. Like in most cases, the survivor was not comfortable talking to an organization or a stranger. Her girlfriend who knew about our campaign reached out to us and sought support. We worked together and eventually encouraged the survivor to report her abuser to the police. If it wasn’t for her friend, I don’t know what would have happened to our survivor.”

The campaign has had global reach with concerned citizens reporting cases from around the world via social media. Vani and her team form quick-action response teams with local authorities to help extract and rehabilitate victims, while also making sure the perpetrators are brought to justice.

#Lookforthem is a true example of the importance of community and the resilience of the human spirit. Sometimes strangers can become heroes, helping people around them who are suffering. During unprecedented times, #lookforthem provided a safe haven to these most in need.

If you or anybody you know are victims of domestic violence, reach out the helpline: