Gender Matters - Manual on Gender based Violence Affecting Young People
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Summary of activities

Kati’s story

“I’m the one you love to hate.”


Level 4

Group size

10 to 20


60 minutes


This activity strengthens empathy towards victims of interpersonal or relationship violence, and uses a symbol to raise awareness of the highly limited space and possibilities available to battered women. Furthermore, this activity demonstrates that leaving a violent relationship takes place in stages. Helpers will inevitably see only a small part of the development, which leads the person being abused to remove him- or herself from the violent situation.


  • To identify the stages of a typical battering relationship
  • To develop understanding for the lengthy process of leaving a violent relationship
  • To discuss the role of third persons (friends, family members, professional helpers, etc.) in helping a person remove him- or herself from a violent relationship


  • An enclosed space large enough for your group to stand in a circle around a chair with doors that can be closed.
  • One chair for the middle of the room
  • Nine light blankets or bed sheets big enough to fully cover an adult


Familiarise yourself with the issue of violence in relationships and battery before undertaking the facilitation of this exercise. Chapter 2 of this manual, especially the sections dealing with domestic violence and abuse, is particularly helpful in clarifying the differences in various kinds of violence. Refer also to Compass[5] pp. 354 to 357, for specific information on the human rights dimension of this issue.

Agree in your team, or with the other people who usually facilitate your group, who will be your co-facilitator. If you train alone, ask a participant to act as your co-facilitator. Check in the group if anyone has experienced this activity before. If so, ask one of these participants to act as co-facilitator. Go through the exercise with them in detail and explain their role to them. Make sure they understand what they are supposed to do and that they feel comfortable with it.

In advance of the exercise, approach a participant you consider to be ‘emotionally strong’ and ask them whether they would agree to take on a difficult role in the exercise, that of Kati. Explain the entire exercise to them before they agree to take on the role. Make sure they understand the function of the blankets and what is going to happen to them. Make sure they do not suffer from any form of claustrophobia or anxiety.

Prepare the room by placing one chair in the middle and creating space so everyone can sit in a circle around it or in a semi-circle in front of it. Keep the blankets in a pile close to hand.


  • Introduce the exercise and its objectives. Explain that this activity’s aim is to strengthen empathy towards victims of interpersonal or relationship violence, and that it uses a symbol to raise awareness of the highly limited space and possibilities available to battered women. Furthermore, this activity demonstrates that leaving a violent relationship takes place in stages. Helpers will inevitably see only a small part of the development, which leads the person being abused to removing him- or herself from the violent situation.
  • Ask the participant that you have pre-selected and prepared to take on the role of Kati to come forward. Introduce the participant to the group. Tell the participants that s/he will have a difficult task, but s/he will be safe during the exercise. Tell the volunteer to sit on the chair in the middle of the room. Then introduce your co-facilitator to the group. Explain that this person will assist you in running the exercise.
  • Pass around the blankets or sheets among participants evenly (1 for every 2 or 3 participants). The co-facilitator should get one.
  • Explain to participants that you are going to read out a series of statements. There will be a short pause between each statement being read out. Participants should follow the text closely and especially pay attention to the pauses, as each of them will have a task to do during one or other of the pauses. Also tell them to pay attention to the co-facilitator, as during the first pause s/he will demonstrate what the participants will have to do later. To maintain the surprise effect, it is better not to tell the whole group straight away about the blankets. Explain to participants that the person playing ‘Kati’ has been briefed thoroughly, is fully aware of what is going to happen and has accepted the challenge.
  • Ask participants to be absolutely silent during the active part of the exercise and tell them that if they have questions, they should keep them until the active part of the exercise has been completed. Tell them to take note of their feelings as the exercise goes on. If they have questions of clarification about how the exercise is supposed to proceed, ask them to raise them now, before the active part of the exercise begins.
  • Start reading the story slowly. At the first pause, signal to the co-facilitator to put the first blanket over Kati. Make sure the co-facilitator knows in advance to cover Kati completely. Continue reading the next part of the story.
  • At the next pause, encourage participants to put on another blanket. If participants are hesitant, you can look up, nod your head or signal to the co-facilitator to guide a participant in putting on another blanket.
  • When you get to the part of the story where you ask Kati questions, read especially slowly. When you get to the first pause, signal to the co-facilitator to come forward to remove the first blanket. Again signal to participants that they should follow the example of the co-facilitator at the next pause. Usually participants do not hesitate to remove the blankets, but if they do, signal to the co-facilitator to guide them.
  • After all blankets have been removed, thank the participant who played Kati, and ask her/him to sit back in the circle. Wait a moment before beginning the debriefing while participants settle themselves.

Debriefing and evaluation

Start the debriefing by asking for a round of impressions to get an idea of how everyone feels. This is quite an emotionally challenging exercise and participants may feel upset or uncomfortable. Remind participants that they have the right not to say anything. Offer the participant who played Kati the possibility to speak first about her feelings, and continue with others who indicate they want to speak.

During the debriefing, keep the paper with Kati’s story at hand, so that you can refresh participants’ memories of any particulars of the story, as necessary.

The following guiding questions can help you to develop the discussion:

  • How did it feel to put the blankets on Kati? How did it feel to watch others cover her? If you hesitated to cover Kati completely, why did you hesitate?
  • How did you feel about the removal of the blankets?
  • In your observation, how did other participants act during the covering and the removal? Were there differences?
  • What do you think about the story? Can you identify with any of it?
  • Who is responsible for Kati having been covered by so many blankets? Herself, her husband, or other people in the story?
  • Why did we ask participants to cover and uncover her?
  • Why were the blankets removed gradually? Why didn’t we just remove them all at once?
  • What do you think about the questions that Kati was asked when she was covered by nine blankets?
  • In your opinion, what could be the different roles and responsibilities of the people in this story for ending the abuse?
  • What is the responsibility of ‘third parties’, i.e. to individuals not belonging to either side?
  • What is the responsibility of society?
  • What do you think young people, youth workers and youth organisations can do to stop abuse?

Tips for facilitators

This exercise needs a safe environment. It is not an exercise that can be run with a group that has only recently met. If your group works together regularly, this is an exercise for when they already know and trust each other and you (as facilitator). If your group has come together for a one-off residential activity, it is suggested that you run this activity only after the group has worked together for a few days. Participants having trust in the facilitator as well as in each other is crucial for the success of this exercise.

Make sure that no one makes any disturbances during the action. Avoid any coming and going in the room. If you run this exercise after a break or when somebody has left the room, make sure everybody is back in the room before you start.

It is up to you how you choose Kati, but it is strongly suggested that, prior to the exercise, you explain to the participant that s/he will be covered fully by several blankets. The volunteer must be claustrophobia-free and ready to experience some physical hardship during the exercise. You can also decide that a co-facilitator plays Kati. This is advisable if you have not, by this point, had the chance to build a high level of trust and safety in the group.

Some participants may hesitate at putting the blanket over Kati, or will prefer to put it on Kati’s lap rather than over her head. The facilitator and co-facilitator should stay silent during the exercise, so try to encourage participants to perform the act of covering Kati fully by using eye contact and guidance. Bring into the debriefing stage any hesitations or unwillingness to perform, according to how the act of covering Kati is demonstrated.

Remember that you cannot necessarily know, as mentioned in the introduction to the exercises, ‘who is in the room’. Someone may have experienced an abusive relationship and you should avoid causing such people to feel under pressure to disclose something they do not want to speak about with others or in public. Try to formulate the questions you ask in the debriefing in a ‘non-personal’ manner, so that even if they have personal experience, participants do not have to answer by referring to it directly.

Also be aware that such experiences may be painful for participants to be reminded of, and that as a facilitator it will be your responsibility to deal with the emotional consequences of running the exercise in your group. In other words, and in practical terms, if a participant gets upset or starts to cry, you have to be prepared to deal with that on a one to one basis and with the whole group. This may be as simple as taking a break, asking the participant if they want to go to their room to freshen up and telling the rest of the group that the person needed some time out and will speak about it when they are ready, or it may involve addressing the reasons for the participant getting so upset in the discussion in the whole group, with their prior consent, of course.

Variations on this exercise exist. You can alter the story to fit the environment you are working in. You can also make 6 to 8 steps rather than 9. Be sure, however, that you have an equal number of story steps for both the first phase and the second phase of the exercise (i.e. putting on and taking off blankets). Do not go above nine steps; staying under the blankets is no fun!

Suggestions for follow-up

It is possible to work with variations on this exercise by using a different ‘story’ to exemplify Kati’s situation. You will find relevant case studies on the following website:

Check the Internet or local organisations that offer crisis intervention to battered women or other persons exposed to ongoing relational violence. Find out what support they give to victims. If possible, invite the representative of such an organisation to explain what they do to help in ‘removing Kati’s blankets’.

Have a look at the exercise ‘Domestic Affairs’ p. 114 to develop the theme of domestic violence and ‘Power Station’ p. 198 to develop the theme of how power and violence are related. Both exercises are from Compass[6].

Ideas for action

Consider providing information about domestic and relationship violence to your own target group. If you have not been active in the field of gender-based violence before, consult an NGO dealing with these issues for advice on how best to inform your target group about the problem, and raise their awareness as to how they can help themselves or others affected by it. Involve your group in the preparation of the information materials (e.g. flyers, blog, etc).


Kati’s story

Kati is 28. She married Zoli when she was 20 and he was 23. They have two children, who are 3 and 7 years of age.

Co-facilitator covers “Kati” with first blanket.

When Kati was a child, she often saw her father beating her mother. It happened several times a week. Kati remembers that sometimes her mother had to go to the hospital because of her injuries.

Immediately after they get married, Zoli tells Kati that he will take care of the family income, because Kati does not know how to save. He tells her she will get from him only enough money to buy food and household items. He tells her she will have to show him receipts to prove that she spent the money on what she asked the money for and that he approved.

Kati gets pregnant in the first year of their marriage. Zoli starts to tell Kati regularly that she does not know how to run a household and that she is very lucky to have him, because nobody else would want her for a wife.

After the birth of their first child, Zoli starts to beat Kati. He accuses her of loving the child more than him.

Kati goes to her mother and tells her about being beaten by Zoli. Her mother tells her that this is part of marriage and she should learn to put up with it. According to her mother, “a woman has to stick with her husband”.

As their first son grows older, Zoli threatens and beats him too. Kati is worried, but at the same time she believes that it can be very harmful to children to separate them from their fathers.

Kati tells one of her co-workers that she is regularly beaten by Zoli, and that she needs help. Her colleague tells the others at her workplace, and now everybody is talking about her.

Kati begins to miss more and more time from work without a proper excuse, so she gets fired. Now she does not have a job or an income of her own.

(Question to the person in the middle and to mark the transition from covering to uncovering Kati)

Kati, why do you have to live like this? (Pause) Why don’t you leave your husband? (Pause)

Kati reads a story in a magazine about a battered woman who manages to leave an abusive relationship. The article contains the phone numbers of hotlines, shelters, and drop-in centres for abused women.

Co-facilitator removes one blanket

Kati decides that she cannot bear being abused any longer. She called a hotline where she had a long discussion with a woman who told her that she is one of many women experiencing domestic violence.

For the first time Kati has an open discussion with her older son about their shared fear of their violent husband and father.

After a few weeks of thinking and planning, Kati calls her sister and asks her whether she could move to her place with her sons for a short period. Her sister had long given up hope that Kati would ever leave her violent husband and now she is very glad to be of help.

One afternoon Kati packs up their everyday belongings and moves with her sons to her sister’s place.

She starts to look for a job. Her sister helps by asking friends if they know of any opportunities, and they look through the job advertisements together.

Kati visits a lawyer to get information about custody and child visitation issues and advice about how the truth about Zoli’s violence towards them can be revealed. They also discuss divorce procedures.

Kati finds a job she likes, and moves into a rented apartment with her sons. She visits Child Welfare Services and finds out that her older son can enrol in a support group for children who have fled from violent homes.

Kati finds a self-help group of women who have survived domestic violence. Through sharing and listening she learns to understand how and why her romantic relationship developed into an abusive one. She decides that once she feels she is back on her feet, she will join a group to support battered women herself.