Viewing Domestic Violence

April 03, 2009

Women’s Aid, a domestic violence organization in the United Kingdom, recently launched a graphic anti-violence ad featuring award winning actress Keira Knightly. Yesterday I read about the ad on several feminist blogs and news sites and found that the discussions tended to focus on whether or not the ad is too graphic.

Please be aware that the video is graphic and may trigger strong emotions.[youtube=]

I just watched the ad for the first time today. My first thought is that the ad is a bit confusing scenario-wise, but that Keira did a good job conveying how a victim may respond to an abuser. My other main thought is that domestic violence often IS graphic. My first encounter with domestic violence was when I was a teenager and a close family member was trapped in an abusive relationship. One time I saw her after a physical attack, and she admonished me to never let a man treat me like that. Her appearance was graphic. The incident stuck with me and influenced my activist pursuits.

Similarly, I think a graphic ad about this topic is going to stick with a viewer longer than an ad that is not, unless it is otherwise extremely compelling. This isn’t to say that all ads must be graphic to convey their message, but an ad now and then that is could really shock people into paying attention. There are far more graphically violent incidents in all forms of media done solely for entertainment purposes. This ad, which depicts a horrific reality far too many people face, is designed to raise awareness. From my perspective, that’s an appropriate use of graphic images.

The one concern I have is that I didn’t see a message at the start of the ad saying it may be triggering for survivors of domestic abuse. This alert is important to add, and such a message could also help parents who are not ready for their kids to learn about such ugly aspects of society.

If you’ve seen the ad, what is your opinion?

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Holly Kearl By:   |   April 03, 2009


  1. Avatar Marian says:

    Jolting. I have no idea how effective this ad is for encouraging contributions. My husband and I donate to our local women’s shelter regularly, and neither of us have been involved in domestic violence. I abhor it and encourage any method that helps decrease it. I am very active in AAUW because I think it is important for women to have equity. Our culture still has a blind eye to what is going on, tends to blame the victim, and supports macho actions. Women are a part of this, so we must speak out.

  2. Avatar Ruth Wahtera says:

    Given that this ad was designed to raise money, not educate or change behavior, I guess we won’t know how effective the ad is until we know how much money it raises.

    Advertising is an art, not a science, and one can’t predict the reaction any one ad will get. Indeed, most social advertising needs to be seen as part of a campaign, not as a stand-alone piece.

    I thought it was well acted, painful, but hard for me to identify with. DV has many faces, almost all of them secret. I think I give more often when I know (or imagine) that the issue effects people I know. Leaving more to my imagination might be a more successful way to move me to action.

    It certainly got the buzz going, though.

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