LETTER: Ghost women forced to vanish to protect their safety

LETTER: Ghost women forced to vanish to protect their safety

Around the globe, violence against women has increased with spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Sweden, a country often viewed as model of civility and justice; there are today 800 ghost women who have been assisted by society to live underground in order to protect them from their threatening and violent ex-partners.

Their survival is dependent upon their personal information not leaking out to the wider public. Consequently, they dare not shop online, join any cultural, social, cultural or political organization, apply for bank loans, or register on any waiting lists for housing. They must live at secret addresses with fictional life histories. They are forced to leave their hometowns, cut ties with family and friends and try to find new homes and build new lives in new towns for themselves and their children.

An estimated 4,300 children under 18 live with hidden basic personal information, and their numbers grow each year. Children who are frightened they might say the wrong name and uproot their families once more, who dare not use social media or join athletic, cultural or social associations.

These ‘ghost’ women have been determined to be in physical danger and constantly carry that extra burden and responsibility for their own and their children’s safety. Because they are not seen, few know or think that they exist.

Their children are often forced by judicial decision to spend controlled time with the abusers of themselves and their mothers. Almost all these women suffer from serious post-traumatic stress, dizziness, difficulty breathing, loss of hair and rashes. Now, many of these women have had enough and joined together in anonymous protests that entail placing silver painted worn-out shoes in various places around their towns and villages. These beaten silver shoes are intended to remind others of a hidden people who are there among them, unseen – ghost women.

Ulla Ressner

Victoria