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Graphic domestic abuse PSAs from Calgary
May 21, 2003 6:54 AM   Subscribe

"How do you talk about domestic violence without portraying violence or having some statement about violence?" PSAs about domestic abuse developed by the Calgary-based HomeFront Society have been judged too graphic to show on television. Violent acts from actual domestic-abuse investigations are depicted in public settings: a boardroom, a restaurant. They will not be broadcast, but are available for download online (MPEG format). Warning: These ads are extremely difficult to watch. They hit you like a ton of bricks. But isn't that the point?
posted by mcwetboy (74 comments total)

 
Wow, those are great ads, they should play them during major sporting events!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:03 AM on May 21, 2003


Hmm. They actually *didn't* hit me like a ton of bricks, or like much of anything.

It's not at all that I've been desensitized to violence, but that the ads are so very stagey, so forced and scripted.

I don't like the concept, I don't like the tagline, and all in all my feeling is that the message would much more effectively have been conveyed by a simple, realist depiction *in the domestic context* of exactly what this violence looks like.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:09 AM on May 21, 2003


Reminds me of seeing the stage performance of Clockwork Orange. Small theater, in the round, so no one was more than 10 rows from the stage. You know how violent and upsetting the movie was? Think of the rape scenes taking place 10 feet in front of you, with real people really screaming. VERY diffucult to not jump up and intervene. Powerful.

I think the ads make a good point, and are well made. I wish they'd run.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:11 AM on May 21, 2003


I appreciate what HomeFront is trying to do, but I don't think the ads work and I understand why they were rejected. The violence in the ads is completely gratuitous, which is actually not the case in domestic violence and other VAW (violence against women) situations. Domestic violence takes place in a matrix of power relationships, dependence, and self-image distortions. The ads don't show that matrix at all, and so I don't think they would help people understand the truth about domestic violence.
posted by alms at 7:11 AM on May 21, 2003


These seem pretty mild compared to UK soap operas. I saw Little Mo smack Trevor over the head with an iron and leave him for dead at 7.30pm on Eastenders on the BBC. I also saw Richard 'Killman' Hillman bludgeon Maxine Peacock to death with an iron bar at 8.30pm on Coronation Street on ITV. I presume both these scenes will be shown on Canadian TV at some point.
posted by Summer at 7:19 AM on May 21, 2003


Alms -- huh? Can you please explain what you mean better, because I was shocked by your comment. What does gratuitous mean to you? Unnecessary? Unjustified? Random? So domestic violence is occasionally JUSTIFIED and appropriate? Eh?

Each of these ads shows a situation in which a person feeling disrespected lashes out at another physically. Anyone might feel angry if they were corrected by another in public, AND be angry enough to hit. But the eye of the public NORMALLY protects waitresses and co-workers from this violence, whereas the privacy afforded by the home allows violence to occur.

The whole point of these excellent ads is to DECONTEXTUALIZE the violence by taking it out of the domestic sphere, where it can SEEM normal if you've been exposed to it long enough (viz. the dull reactions of the children in the restaurant), and putting it (the SAME behavior) in front of other people, whose reactions show that it is NOT normal or acceptable.

Adam,I disagree -- I think if we had seen the violence occur in the home, we would think, oh, just another soap opera or an episode of COPS, and lose interest. It is that stereotypical depiction of domestic violence we've become desensitized to, IMHO.
posted by jfwlucy at 7:29 AM on May 21, 2003


Yep.
Thanks, mcwetboy.
Living with the Enemy.
posted by plep at 7:31 AM on May 21, 2003


"Women, suffer in silence?, my wife wails like a banshee whenever I hit her." Not big, not clever, but funny?, that was the intention I believe.
posted by johnnyboy at 7:37 AM on May 21, 2003


simple, realist depiction

And having hot coffee poured over a woman's chest is not realistic in the domestic setting? That seems a bit naive.

Domestic violence takes place in a matrix of power relationships, dependence, and self-image distortions. The ads don't show that matrix at all, and so I don't think they would help people understand the truth about domestic violence.

And what would exactly show that vast matrix in 30 seconds? How about they put a woman on for 30 seconds, topless to show the scars where her husband poured boiling coffee over her chest to talk about how powerless she felt? This isn't a documentary, its a 30 second commercial spot that's going to show between Friends and ER, talking about a power matrix is going to capture very little attention in that space, this will. I'm sure HomeFront is well aware of the gender issues involved with domestic violence.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:38 AM on May 21, 2003


oh and the off the cuff reference to the strongish lager Stella Artios as 'wife beater'.
posted by johnnyboy at 7:39 AM on May 21, 2003


The ads are harsh, as they should be, but no more graphic than your average episode of NYPD Blue. Gauging levels of violence is tricky. We tend to consider a show to be less violent if unsympathetic characters suffer the brunt of it and more violent if nice people suffer. This complicates efforts to identify one TV show as "more violent" than another TV show (or movie).

Did anyone else notice that the little TVs on the Homefont site that you click on to download the videos said "MEFI"?
posted by smrtsch at 7:53 AM on May 21, 2003


The only thing that is "gratuitous" about the ads is the use of profanity. I think they would be more powerful without its use.

Both of these ads clearly show ordinary "matri[ces] of power": co-workers in a meeting room and a server waiting on a customer. I believe that these situations draw sufficient parallels to domestic violence to make the audience think about the issue. And that is the true aim of these ads: to make people think about an issue that most people want to pretend doesn't exist.
posted by tommyspoon at 7:54 AM on May 21, 2003


Irreversible has the worst rape scene I have ever watched.

It generally has the most intense violence I have ever witnessed in film.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 7:55 AM on May 21, 2003


Buffy solved this problem last night.

Seriously, what jfwlucy said. Seems to me the violence in the ads was realistic enough. I didn't get a full sense of the victims' role in it, though. I have a hard time knowing what the typical perpetrator response to such ads would be (more denial? deeper repressed anger? shame?), but I fear the only lasting end to domestic violence comes when the victim puts an end to it. Perpetrators can't be counted on to change.
posted by divrsional at 8:06 AM on May 21, 2003


What does gratuitous mean to you?

Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word gratuitous. "Without context" might have been a better phrase. I did not intend to imply that domestic violence is ever justified. It is not.

Domestic violence is tragic and it is complicated. Through my work I've read many stories of survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. They are heartbreaking but not simple. The terror and tragedy of VAW is the mindfuck that goes along with the physical act: the betrayal, the confusion, the loss of self and power, and the patterns of self-destructive behavior that it can lead to in the women who experience the violence.

There is a context. It is about power relationships, it is about physical size, it is about earning ability, it is about providing for one's children, it is about not having any choices in the world.

The reason I called the violence in the ads "gratuitous" was that -- to my viewing -- they showed a physical act, but they didn't show any of the meaning surrounding it. The ads were awful, but not tragic. I don't think they'll help people understand how domestic violence occurs and what consequences it has. And you have to get people to understand that if you want them to recognize violence and stop it.
posted by alms at 8:19 AM on May 21, 2003


These ads seemed slightly absurd to me. I understand that the creators wanted to take domestic violence out of its normal context and show how terrible it is, but I think the message loses some of its impact when the violence is shown in unfamiliar circumstances. If I had watched these ads on TV, I would think they were some sort of anti- "workplace rage" ad or something (until the voiceover at the end, of course). I'm certainly no expert on the subject, but I think showing PSAs with "normal" occurrences of domestic violence, during hours when mainly housewives watch TV, would help a bit more.

And on a somewhat related note, does anyone remember the public service announcement that ran on American TV a few years back, where the camera zoomed in on a crying little boy while his father abused his mother offscreen? A friend of mine is writing a paper on the subject of domestic violence in the media, and we both remember this PSA but can't find it anywhere. Thanks in advance!
posted by xbonesgt at 8:23 AM on May 21, 2003


Here it is. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
posted by tommyspoon at 8:31 AM on May 21, 2003


There is a context. It is about power relationships, it is about physical size, it is about earning ability, it is about providing for one's children, it is about not having any choices in the world.

I still don't see how that is possible to show in a 30 second spot. We don't have time to get to know the characters. They do at least show the reaction of the kids and co-workers, but the depth of the issue is not possible to delve into while at the same time making a point driving and yet attention grabbing 30 second spot. The context here is not a PBS documentary series that can go on for hours and delve into the innermost workings of the characters' psyche and social drives, its 30 seconds, you've got to have instant, recognizable prototypes, waitress, office worker, dad, etc. and you've got to go directly to action, there is no time for exposition here and then bang to the message and that's it. All the other issues would be great to cover and that can be done at the web site or the toll free number, but it can't be done in the 30 seconds you've got to put this subject right in someone's face between mind numbing TV shows.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:37 AM on May 21, 2003


Did anyone else notice that the little TVs on the Homefont site that you click on to download the videos said "MEFI"?

no, I didn't notice, but that's really weirding me out now!
posted by reverendX at 8:39 AM on May 21, 2003


The bitch spilled his coffee. What was he supposed to do? Am I missing something?
posted by Bonzai at 8:48 AM on May 21, 2003


Those that advance the cause of Domestic Violence "awareness" are politicised and gender specific.

It is Anit male as in "There are no male victims" and seeks always to advance the interests of mother and child even when circumstances forcefully warrant otherwise.

I know because I work in child custody, and everytime the term DV is badied about, its really a fanatical push for gender based (Female) supriority in family court. Its funding is primarily from National Organization for Women (which if you read up on them, is no longer for equal rights at all.)

battered women & children are great at raising pathos, and no one should ever be battered, but the underlying agenda here is not as it would first appear.
posted by BentPenguin at 8:50 AM on May 21, 2003


Bonzai: Out of line and entirely unfunny. Get a clue.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:54 AM on May 21, 2003


actually, it's not "MEFI". it's "MEFR" but the end of the R has been cut off. HoMEFRont society.
posted by escher at 9:03 AM on May 21, 2003


Pollomacho: I agree, creating good PSAs is very hard. In general creating social change is hard.

BentPenguin: If you spent some time working with people who have experienced abuse or reading their stories you might realize that for these women the issue is surviving in one piece, not creating fabrications to screw their husbands in child-custody fights. (The fact that some people lie about having experienced x does not mean that everyone who says they've experienced x is lying.)
posted by alms at 9:04 AM on May 21, 2003


It seems like a lot of people are grappling with who the commercial’s intended audience is. If the audience is the perpetrator—and the commercials ‘teach’ that the domestic violence is no more acceptable than non-domestic violence—then I think the commercials make logical sense ... though they’re a waste of time and money if divrsional is correct that perpetrators rarely change. Could victims be the audience? I don’t think so. Surely the real woman who had her head banged on the table knew something was wrong and wanted the violence to stop. I can’t see how this commercial educates victims when it (by necessity) cuts out the complex dynamic alms describes. TVB, on the third hand, will consider only that its audience is all its viewers and would rather honor their “sensibilities” than trust them to understand and accept the commercials’ purpose. (I’m assuming that perpetrators have warped sensibilities that don’t merit coddling.) Sigh. Interesting questions about tv’s responsibility to the common denominator and responsibility to use its influence for positive change.
posted by win_k at 9:29 AM on May 21, 2003


Ugly PSAs is one more reason I love my Tivo. I have a job that I don't like all that much, I'm raising two kids in one of the most expensive urban areas in the nation, my church is busy trying to destroy itself with a partisan brawl over whether or not to dismiss the minister, and I don't get enough time for myself or for spending with my wife.

So, when I do sit down to watch some television that is important to me, I don't want to watch kids getting busted for pot at a concert, raping one another at parties, blowing one another's brains out with dad's gun, child abuse, etc. ad naseum. I fast forward through them, along with all the other ads so that I can get back to my escapism.

There are simply too many things wrong in the world for me to worry about all of them... I care about people, and wish we (as a species) werent so horrible to one another, but I just don't have the time, energy or cash to fix it.
posted by Irontom at 9:45 AM on May 21, 2003


"battered women & children are great at raising pathos"
Yes, they are so great at that. That is one of their great little tricks, isn't it. Part of their agenda. They force someone to beat them so they can raise all that pathos.
BentPenguin, you need to re-examine the issue with an open mind.
posted by Outlawyr at 9:55 AM on May 21, 2003


Since the ads address the viewer with "You wouldn't get away with it" and focus more on the men once the violence starts, then they are clearly meant to target the abuser, and in that context I don't think these ads are going to be effective. Which brings up the question of what kinds of PSAs would make an abuser stop and take stock of his/her actions?
posted by archimago at 9:57 AM on May 21, 2003


The PSA isn't targetted at the abuser in an attempt to shame him into reforming his behavior. That obviously isn't going to work.

They're targetted at the victim. A victim of domestic violence often begins to perceive the violence as a normal part of everyday existence. How and why this happens is part of the 'complex dynamic' of abuse; but it does indeed happen. The ad depicts this kind of everyday abuse into another context, hopefully to shock these victims into the realization that it's not normal, and they have a way out.

Additionally, the ads are targetted at the families and close friends of both the victim and the abuser, who more often than not look the other way because it's "none of their business." In the changed context presented, presumably viewers who are close to families with domestic violence are compelled to help the victim in the ad-- and hopefully they will gain the insight that they should also act to help the actual victims as well.

Overall, I think they're compelling, and I'm disappointed they won't be shown.
posted by Cerebus at 10:02 AM on May 21, 2003


Bonzai: You're not missing a thing, but you might want to be forewarned that MetaFilter is a Dark-Humor-Free Zone... Otherwise, you'll have hilarious cutups like adamgreenfield sending you to sit in the corner with the other misfits.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:08 AM on May 21, 2003


Actually Outlawyr, I came into the issue 10 years ago a pro-ERA male who saw no reason why women shouldn't enjoy precisely the same status in society as men. Equal pay, equal rights etc.

In those 10 years, I have seen, first-hand, that NOW and the rather recent DV movement are perfectly satisfied using disingenuous arguments and worse still, tactics to advance their cause.

That cause, again, I stress is not equal rights for women, but superior rights for women.

I'm not saying wife battering is acceptable in any way. But the DV crowd has no room for anything DV that has anything to do with the father. They don't accept and have no room in their agenda to acceeept and address that sometimes, its the mother that might be emotionally or even physically abusive to spouse or child.

Are they really fighting to stem DV? No. They're fighting to stop DV against women and children, which, IMHO is a rather peculiar place to draw the line in the fight against "Domestic Violence". If you're against DV, be against DV in all its forms. If you're only targeting a sub set, be honest about it, and don't hide your cause behind egalitarian euphimisms like DV.
posted by BentPenguin at 10:12 AM on May 21, 2003


Seriously, BentPenguin, what the hell is wrong with you?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2003


BentPenguin: Excellent points.
posted by trharlan at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2003


"Bonzai: Out of line and entirely unfunny. Get a clue."

Put me in the "I laughed" camp.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2003


Debunking the myth of gender symmetry in domestic violence.
aka, BentPenguin's assertions are based on flawed methodology.
posted by alms at 10:24 AM on May 21, 2003


So BentPenguin, you feel that because NOW doesn't specifically address the issue of battered husbands, the organization is worthless? Come on. Yes, sometimes NOW and similar organizations can come on too strong and sound like they're promoting superiority as opposed to equality. You can chalk that up to millenia worth of male domination of women. And maybe in that light you can cut them a little slack and understand that the good they do far outweigh any damage caused by perceived insensitivity to men's rights.

I thought the ads were very good and regret that they won't be shown. They are unlikely to change the behavior of abusers, but they may be successful in changing the expectations and beliefs of victims and bystanders, and that is where any change will be generated.
posted by widdershins at 10:26 AM on May 21, 2003


I'd invite BentPenguin to come with me to the women's shelter where I volunteer, but with his attitude, he'd undoubtedly bring more suffering and trauma to people who have already been traumatised enough.

And think about this -- we provide shelters for victims of domestic violence. We're so screwed and backward as a society that we've built up a whole system which has people disrupting their entire lives, running away and hiding behind locked doors, security cameras and walls when they are the victims.

One of the most compelling thoughts I've heard on the topic came from one of the women at the shelter, who had gone beyond the fear to the point at which she was simply enraged at her circumstance. In that rage, she found cogency, and she pointed out that by attaching the word "domestic" to this, we reduce its impact to those who aren't directly involved. We categorise this with a word which means that it is something "in the home" which to many people equates it with something that's "between the husband and wife" and private and not meant for others to get involved with.

But as this angry woman pointed out, sharing a home didn't mean anything to him when he was slamming her into walls in front of their kids. Their marriage wasn't an issue when he hit her in the head with a ceramic beer stein. This was just violence. Where it happened and their relationship to one another didn't mean that she bruised differently or that her bones didn't get broken. It just meant that it was easier for him to hide what he was doing, and harder for her to get help until the impact of the violence was obvious -- when slaps and shoves turned into black eyes and broken arms.

In the states, there was a PSA which showed a couple being married and the wife was asked as part of her vows to agree to a litany of physical and emotional abuses -- the tagline was something like "no one signs on for that." I have no idea who the target was. The Canadian campaign is strong and clear -- "domestic" is really a meaningless label. This is just violence, and it's not acceptable no matter who the players or the location or the motivations behind it.
posted by Dreama at 11:17 AM on May 21, 2003


what kinds of PSAs would make an abuser stop and take stock of his/her actions?

For some that has a history of this, I doubt any ad, no matter how graphic or poignant would do such a task. It would probably take either going to jail (to shock them into it, and yes, I realize that this may even make the problem worse) or some therapy/counseling.

I haven't watched the ads (I'm at work on a comp with no soundcard anyways) but to me one of the largest issues that these or other PSAs might raise with regards to DV is to take the stigma of reporting it away. There are very few crimes that have victims that people feel either uncomfortable or ashamed for reporting, and DV (along with sexual assault/rape) consistently is one of those crimes. Until the stigma behind coming out and saying "Help!" is gone, you're going to have a very low incidence of anything being done. There are plenty of complicated issues though (I know many women/men would be very hesitant to turn in their S.O. knowing the potential consequences and will "take the burden" for the family, which is quite sad).

But the DV crowd has no room for anything DV that has anything to do with the father. They don't accept and have no room in their agenda to acceeept and address that sometimes, its the mother that might be emotionally or even physically abusive to spouse or child.

You're painting the crowd with a very broad brush, Bent Penguin. While I don't doubt for a second that there are many groups such as you describe (and I agree that they are misguided) I think if you did a little research you'd find groups out there that are either attacking it as a whole, or even raising awareness just for female-on-male DV. Don't toss the baby out with the bathwater.

they may be successful in changing the expectations and beliefs of victims and bystanders, and that is where any change will be generated.

Good point. Putting the issue in front of the rest of society that doesn't have to deal with it on a personal (or even secondary) level will help to raise the aforementioned stigma behind it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:27 AM on May 21, 2003


Sounds like it's time for BentPenguin to find a new job.
posted by zaack at 11:32 AM on May 21, 2003


I find it odd how Alms's last link suggests that the methodology is flawed because a man slapping a woman is qualitatively worse than when the roles are reversed.

How often is it necessary for funds for treating abuse situations to be allocated in gender-specific ways? I don't know, but I can't think of any obvious reasons why a facility would have to be for battered wives as opposed to battered spouses in general.

However, the suggestion that a man should accept and endure violence from a woman because she fights like a girl and his life isn't endangered is absurd. If violence is wrong, (and it is), then it's wrong - whether you leave a mark or not.
posted by techgnollogic at 11:34 AM on May 21, 2003


I don't know, but I can't think of any obvious reasons why a facility would have to be for battered wives as opposed to battered spouses in general.

techgnollogic, I'm suspecting that a very good reason could be that many women that have been abused for extended periods of time would have their recouperation period dramatically extended by having an unknown and untrusted male living in the same area as they are (and possibly vice versa for men). The separation can serve as a barrier that could aide recovery and then the process of gaining the ability to trust people can begin. This is one of the very few instances that I can support a "separate but equal" policy.

Agree whole-heartedly with your last statement though.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:47 AM on May 21, 2003


I appreciate that there is some debate over the gender symmetry argument in re domestic violence, and overall I'm impressed with the discussion in this thread.

But I am troubled that moral equivalency arguments are obscuring the point, as they so often do, deliberately or otherwise. (I remember my post about Stalin possibly having been assassinated being derailed by a tangential discussion about whether Hitler or Stalin was "more evil".) This shit does happen; arguing that it happens to men too, while true, isn't the point. Men and women are not competing for prizes in the victimization sweepstakes (viz., my people are way more persecuted than your people, or somesuch).

The ads are not making a deliberately gender-specific argument about domestic abuse (except in that both ads feature male violence, but when you're dealing with something that is inherently an analogy, why quibble about strict representation -- you could claim that upper-class whites are over-represented in comparison with the stats, as well), but they are saying something about the private nature of that abuse [on preview: Dreama is right on the money]; to complain that they're targeting men is quibbling, it's missing the point, and it's reducing a simple albeit effective PSA to the level of a biased political attack ad.

It's akin to the following hypothetical situation: the liquor and firearms industries argue over what kills more people, drunk driving or drive-by shootings, forgetting that either is demonstrably evil sui generis. Now I know that making analogies at online communities is dangerous, because people pick at them while missing the overall point -- Slashdot's really good at that, for example -- but I hope the point is clear: it's strange to complain about PSAs combatting evil behaviour because they focus on only one aspect of that evil, or because another evil is left out. It's possible to compare-and-contrast too much.

As an aside: where is the moral outrage about the laundry, dish detergent, food and diaper ads that focus on Mom? If men are equally beat up, they must be equally doing the dishes . . . or are we picking and choosing our gender-equality battles?
posted by mcwetboy at 11:47 AM on May 21, 2003


what kinds of PSAs would make an abuser stop and take stock of his/her actions?

None. Those kind of people simply do. not. get. better. There will always, always be an excuse--to themselves, to their victims--for their abhorrent behavior. I'd like to believe in redemption as much as the next person, but frankly, for people who think hitting their partner or screwing with their mind is an okay way to have argument, they're simply not going to change.

Which is why I agree with other comments here that the real focus of these PSA's should be:
1) getting the victim to realize how inappropriate this behavior is, in hopes he/she'll dump the abuser
2) raising awareness for bystanders/witnesses so they know what they can and should do legally and emotionally to help.

One of my friends and college roommates was in an abusive relationship a for a year and a half. I don't think your Ivy League education is really complete until you have to take your good friend to the hospital in the middle of the night because the guy she refuses to dump may have fractured her skull this time. The attending doctor in the ER almost burst into tears when she realized that a 20-year-old was in for "domestic violence".

Her problem became my and my other roommates' problem too, because as long as she stayed with him, we were constantly afraid that everytime we walked in the door, she might be there, hurt again (or worse?) and still rationalizing it all away.

It might have been nice to have a PSA or pamphlet or website directed at people like us, explaining our rights in banning him from the house we were renting off campus (we didn't own it, so what happens if one roommate wants Bad Guy in the house for the night and the other three don't?), or whether or not we could file reports with the cops even though we weren't the ones being physically injured, or other legal remedies we could have taken.

(The local cops were terrific, by the way- very sympathetic and itching to arrest the guy. But since she refused to press charges and we never witnessed the violence firsthand, they never could. She eventually did dump him. He ended up in court on charges of assaulting his frat brother a few months later.)
posted by Asparagirl at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2003


she pointed out that by attaching the word "domestic" to this, we reduce its impact to those who aren't directly involved. We categorise this with a word which means that it is something "in the home" which to many people equates it with something that's "between the husband and wife" and private and not meant for others to get involved with.

I don't know that this angry woman you write of is correct.

The thing is Dreama, how can other people help a person in an abusive relationship? I used to have a very close friend who was in the shittiest relationship I've ever witnessed. She refused to seek counselling on her own or even to go to the joint counselling he said he'd be willing to go to - she said she didn't have a problem. She refused to leave, or to spend less time with the man - she said I didn't understand what love was. I helped her throw him out of her place twice, then she married him.

L. got plenty of help, everyone she knew listening to her complain for hours and months and years on end, free legal advice from a friend of mine who is a lawyer, peope she barely knew offering her their apartments to stay in, laws that make it easy to get a restraining order, all of the people who cared about her working very hard at being understanding about her own increasingly hateful, selfish, unfair and inconsiderate behaviour towards others. None of it did the slightest bit of good.

I think plenty of people are willing to help the victim of domestic violence. The support systems are there if either person will seek them out. But ultimately, if the victim or abuser refuse to change their behaviour, what can be done? That's why it's "domestic" - not because no one will involve themselves, but because in the end they can't improve the situation unless the victim or abuser are prepared to help themselves.
posted by orange swan at 12:11 PM on May 21, 2003


If men are equally beat up, they must be equally doing the dishes . . . or are we picking and choosing our gender-equality battles?
Last weeks thread.

None. Those kind of people simply do. not. get. better. There will always, always be an excuse--to themselves, to their victims--for their abhorrent behavior.
Why the police arrest now w/o having the abused pressing charges. In Arlington Texas use profanity in public to your spouse in an argument; the police can/will arrest you at the start. They made this law because the DV rate was so high in their city. The abused need to learn it's a crime that has been committed, that is the start to understanding abusiveness.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2003


"domestic" is really a meaningless label. - Dreama

That's a really good point. I'd never really thought about the memeing before...
posted by dejah420 at 12:22 PM on May 21, 2003


Hey people get off BentPenguin's case!

Domestic violence is a human problem. Women can be victims, men can be victims, children can be victims. Perpetrators can be men, women, or even children. We can argue percentages and likelihoods and gender traits, but each individual case demands justice.

We must treat all victims equally. Gender is irrelevant.

The law is gender-biased towards women unfortunately. Nobody will believe a man if he's been attacked by his wife - I was shocked to read these accounts (the link is to a number of accounts of domestic violence across the board - men to women, women to men, women to women, men to men, parent to child etc). A typical story you will find there in the Abused Men section is where a man is assaulted by his wife, calls the cops, and he is slung in jail. Yes, you read that right - the victim is thrown into jail.

I just feel a lot of people here need to be less pigeon-holing and see that all victims deserve justice, not just the ones who fit the stereotype of victimhood.

Is someone going to argue against me that all victims of violence don't deserve justice?
posted by SpaceCadet at 12:30 PM on May 21, 2003


PSA's should be:
1) getting the victim to realize how inappropriate this behavior is, in hopes he/she'll dump the abuser
2) raising awareness for bystanders/witnesses so they know what they can and should do legally and emotionally to help.


I'm totally with you on this asparagirl. Commercials aren't going to get through to these jerks (male or female), because, well, they are jerks, they already demonstrate that reason is not important to them, however, the victims (male or female) and by-standers may realize that this behavior is not acceptable in ANY context, particularly when examples such as these are shown out of the domestic context.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2003


I think plenty of people are willing to help the victim of domestic violence. The support systems are there if either person will seek them out. But ultimately, if the victim or abuser refuse to change their behaviour, what can be done? That's why it's "domestic" - not because no one will involve themselves, but because in the end they can't improve the situation unless the victim or abuser are prepared to help themselves.

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

The situation is not usually that the victim has nowhere to go and no one to turn to, but simply that he/she simply will not put his/her foot down and say "enough". Without that first step, nothing else can be done, and so all the battered women's shelters, restraining orders, and arrest warrants are completely useless. Especially once the victims get into a pattern of forgiving the abusers and restarting the cycle. It's absolutely maddening to watch. The best analogy I have for it is watching an addict who has not yet hit rock bottom.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:32 PM on May 21, 2003


[Which is] Why the police arrest now w/o having the abused pressing charges. In Arlington Texas use profanity in public to your spouse in an argument; the police can/will arrest you at the start. They made this law because the DV rate was so high in their city. The abused need to learn it's a crime that has been committed, that is the start to understanding abusiveness.

I think those kinds of laws are a great idea- that, and mandatory reporting for hospitals. The impetus for change in an abusive relationship remains with the victim, who may never come around and see that what is happening is wrong, but at least if the abuser racks up a few arrests and has to spend some time in jail, he/she won't be around the absuer and may be more likely to snap out of it.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:38 PM on May 21, 2003


The law is gender-biased towards women unfortunately.

That is simply not true. The law mentions no gender restrictions. It is exactly as illegal to beat your husband as your wife in the US and Canada. Whether people believe you or not may be a different story, but the law is the same.

Is someone going to argue against me that all victims of violence don't deserve justice?

Of course not, don't be ridiculous. Who has? The FACT that women are more often the victim has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not all victims deserve equal protection under the law. NOW has chosen to attack this issue because it often is a crime against women, but no one, NOW included has ever argued that domestic violence is purely a women's, and adult or even purely heterosexual issue. That is ditto head, anti-"feminazi" horse shit and anyone who spots it better be able to back it up better than that they heard it on Rush this morning.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:39 PM on May 21, 2003


Pollomacho-- How about: "Many of the campaigns, resources and enforcement efforts directed toward preventing and punishing domestic violence disproportionately benefit women"?
posted by trharlan at 12:49 PM on May 21, 2003


trharlan, how about: "Many of the campaigns, resources and enforcement efforts directed toward preventing and punishing domestic violence disproportionately benefit women because domestic disproportionately affects women"?
posted by orange swan at 12:51 PM on May 21, 2003


trharlan, how about: "Many of the campaigns, resources and enforcement efforts directed toward preventing and punishing domestic violence disproportionately benefit women because domestic violence disproportionately affects women"?
posted by orange swan at 12:52 PM on May 21, 2003


Exactly OS, women ARE more often the victims and men ARE more often the perpetrators, thus they would surely be more disproportionately the benefactors of campaigns.

Is a prostate cancer campaign wrong simply because more men get prostate cancer (yes, I know women don't have a prostate, silly)? How about an anti sickle cell campaign? Would it then be wrong for the NAACP to sponsor and support an anti-sickle cell campaign? How about Major League Baseball, an all male organization, sponsoring an anti-prostate cancer push? Is this not the equivalent of NOW fighting domestic violence?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:59 PM on May 21, 2003


It's troubling to me that some people, when watching these ads, see a feminist agenda rather than a social problem -- or a human being (albeit in dramatized form) in trouble.

I also notice that while many of us know of women in abusive relationships, and are providing anecdotes of it here, I don't recall anyone providing anecdotal evidence of female-on-male domestic violence in this thread: we're linking and quoting but we're not witnessing, in other words.

My own feeling, based in part on my own experience, is that female-on-male abuse is less likely to be outright physical assault and more likely to involve the other forms of control/mindfucking that are part and parcel of abusive behaviour. Not to say that it doesn't exist, and I don't doubt it's underreported, just that, to follow some of the feminist research into gendered relationship-building, women may be using other weapons in their arsenal besides brute force.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:00 PM on May 21, 2003


I'm with orange swan. I'll reconsider when you show me the large numbers of men who are murdered by their female partners or who show up in emergency rooms with broken arms and ribs and pelvis's from fights with their wives. The population just doesn't exist.
posted by alms at 1:01 PM on May 21, 2003


Well, alms, you shouldn't say it "doesn't exist," it surely does in some number, but that may be small.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:23 PM on May 21, 2003


Yes, mcwetboy, there are differences between male-on-female abuse and female-on-male abuse.

And alms, I didn't say/mean that there aren't abused men, only that women are more often abused and in a more extreme and physical way - men can usually defend themselves if they choose to, but sometimes they can't, or sometimes, just like women, they choose not to.

I do have quite a few anecdotes about abused men. Here is one:

A male friend of mine had an abusive girlfriend some years ago - she raped him and beat him with a weapon.

I told my abused friend L. (see previous comment about her) that I had a male friend who had been raped. She got a big grin on her face, laughed and said, "You're kidding!" She also laughed when she told me about a friend of hers who had been chased by a baseball-wielding girlfriend. He reported the incident to the police, who laughed at him and refused to do anything.

Her attitude made me very, very angry. If a woman got beaten up she'd scream and rant about how horrible it was. But if a man got abused by a woman, he probably deserved it anyway, could have gotten away if he'd tried, and it was just a big joke.

L. was a train wreck of a person, no question about it. But I see shades of her attitude in almost every discussion of domestic violence, and I wish there was some way to way to exorcise it. Some people treat others badly. Some people let others treat them badly. Can we not work together to make things better rather than elevating the pain of one victim over another's or letting gender politics make the whole issue into a circus?
posted by orange swan at 1:26 PM on May 21, 2003


Is this not the equivalent of NOW fighting domestic violence?

NOW is a private organization, and should be able to do whatever it wants to. But women sometimes abuse men.

You want anecdotes?

Read the stories. Men call the police because they're being abused, police blame the men. If I knew I would be blamed for being beaten, I sure wouldn't report it. And I sure as hell wouldn't defend myself, for fear of being too effective. Walk around your office and ask ten men if they've ever been struck by a woman. Did any of them press charges? It's embarrassing. It carries a stigma. It's easier to try to forget about it.

It's my contention, and I linked to it earlier in the thread, that men are often victims of abuse. But when was the last time you saw an ad campaign where the man was the victim? There are even novel legal defenses that excuse women for violence against men, despite a lack of overwhelming evidence of the "abuse."

Is a prostate cancer campaign wrong simply because more men get prostate cancer?

If prostate cancer were less lethal and its research were more heavily funded than breast cancer, absolutely.

The federal government spends four times as much on breast cancer research as prostate cancer research, and the money raised by private charities for breast cancer is estimated to outnumber that for prostate cancer 20 to 1.

That is institutionalized sexism.
posted by trharlan at 1:29 PM on May 21, 2003


The ads are obviously powerful and I think that they're also effective -- the fact that in those ads the violence against women happens out of the usual domestic context gives you a surprise effect. I agree that there's more effective stuff around when it comes to PSAs
My favorite, probably all-time, the recent Rio Ferdinand (soccer champion) ad promoting the Special Olympics:

Titled Rio, the film features Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand and Barry Cairns Jr, a Special Olympics GB athlete who has Down Syndrome. The spot (...) sees Fedinand in the dressing room in his football kit speaking to the camera.
“If something happened before I was born,” he asks, “If I was slightly different to how I am now. Do you think I’d love football less? Do you think I wouldn’t want to win? Do you think I’d try less hard to be the best footballer I possibly could?” As he talks and revolves, his face reappears as Barry Cairns Jr (a Special Olympics GB athlete who has Down Syndrome). He is still wearing his football kit and smiles and answers the earlier questions: ‘I don’t think so’.

That's really powerful, moving stuff for me.

(the perfect director for a "violence against women" public service ad is of course David Lynch)

The Jesse Helms: agreed, the Irreversible movie _is_ unwatchable (I quit) -- and this from a Peckinpah fan
posted by matteo at 1:37 PM on May 21, 2003


That is institutionalized sexism.

That is a great marketing scheme. And by the way, it is far less lethal, if detected earlier.

NOW is a private organization, and should be able to do whatever it wants to. But women sometimes abuse men.

What's your point? Italians sometimes get sickle cell, but that doesn't mean that its mostly an African disorder.

Men call the police because they're being abused, police blame the men. If I knew I would be blamed for being beaten, I sure wouldn't report it.

Women call the police because they're being beaten (or worse), police blame the women. Again, what is your point? People get beaten, often by loved ones, this sucks, equally, particularly when no one cares. Happens a lot more often with women in the sentence then men though, just numerically speaking, doesn't mean it sucks more or less though. I got sexually harassed by a professor in college too, I'm male by the way, didn't report it, neither did any of the other guys he harassed and touched inappropriately. That isn't any worse than it happening to a female student, but it still doesn't change the fact that it happens a hell of a lot more often to them.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:43 PM on May 21, 2003


but that doesn't mean that its mostly an African disorder.

Um, please throw a "not" in there somewhere, oops.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:44 PM on May 21, 2003


matteo, got a link to that ad, you tease?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2003


pollomacho,

I wish, but I could only find the page I linked. It's all over MTV Europe these last two weeks but I can't tape it 'cause I only have a PS2, no VCR, but I hope it becomes available for download somewhere online -- I'd love to keep the MPEG -- it's brilliant, effective and honest stuff, not preachy and not condescending in the least

the ad goes exactly like the story says: as Ferdinand's revolving, his head morphs, very smoothly, the (admittedly not impossible-to-do) technical stuff is done flawlessly, and Cairns has the "I don't think so" last line. If I ever find it online, I'll e-mail you the link
posted by matteo at 3:04 PM on May 21, 2003


The law is gender-biased towards women unfortunately.

That is simply not true. The law mentions no gender restrictions. It is exactly as illegal to beat your husband as your wife in the US and Canada. Whether people believe you or not may be a different story, but the law is the same.


Perhaps I should have been clearer. The way the law is applied is clearly gender-biased towards women.

I speak anecdotally of a friend:- When it comes to custody rights and any mention of DV in the family (whoever is to blame), the father is the Big Bad Wolf in the eyes of the law. A woman can simply say "I'm scared of him" and that can be enough for him to lose access to his kids (applying the "lingering doubt" rule). The mother has the law eating out of her hands. There are cruelties happening in family much less subtle than the ads this thread is talking about:-
Malicious Mother Syndrome, Parental Alienation Syndrome to name but two horrors of abuse inflicted on completely innocent people.

The law is not working. The power imbalance is being abused by mothers taking advantage of victimhood stereotypes that no-one dare question for fear of the PC straight-jacket loosening.

We should be blind to a victim's profile (gender, race etc) and just treat the victim.
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:17 PM on May 21, 2003


Walk around your office and ask ten men if they've ever been struck by a woman. Did any of them press charges? It's embarrassing. It carries a stigma. It's easier to try to forget about it.

Have had girlfriends hit/bite/scratch me, the laugh was more than the pain but really left shocked. Yet the comment above with my experience makes me wonder, how many woman think it is ok to hit a man, because we are stronger? DV is whom hit who first in the end.(not trying to angle the DV against men deal) The incident with the girls' hazing made me think this too. Is a lack of basic human manners a cause of this.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:18 PM on May 21, 2003


alms has tried to explain that this random public violence doesn't illuminate the real underlying dynamics of domestic violence, and I agree.

It's kind of like the difference between the rapist who jumps out of the bushes and attacks a jogger, and the guys who date rapes the girl he's asked out. There's more than just physical violence taking place. There's betrayal, subterfuge, coercion. Domestic violence is a cycle. Not just a random phenomenon.

But perhaps the ads are not intended to explode and solve those underlying dynamics. I think people are still free to hate each other if they wish. But by casting the mere physical violence itself in a strange context, the producers show just how bizarre and unacceptable the violence is.

We need that strangeness to wake us up. We're familiar with domestic violence. We know how to categorize it. We think it's horrible, but it's ingrained in our society, and we're not shocked by the mere fact of it any more, though we may deplore it.

I think the disjunction employed by the ads is effective. At least for some it would be. There's no silver bullet for domestic violence. Certainly not in short PSA.
posted by scarabic at 4:26 PM on May 21, 2003


The Jesse Helms: agreed, the Irreversible movie _is_ unwatchable (I quit) -- and this from a Peckinpah fan

At the cinema, I certainly covered my eyes and averted my head quite a bit, but my girlfriend and I both made it past the rape scene (after which the movie tones down quite a bit and there are some really great, uplifting scenes). I'm glad I made it through as it's an experience I'm unlikely to forget. That said, I probably won't watch it again.

after doing a review of it on my blog, i've been getting all kinds of google searches for people looking for pics and vidcaps of the rape scene. Let's hope they're just curious. This being the interweb, I doubt it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:39 PM on May 21, 2003


JollyWanker, and mr_crash_davis by extension: there's dark humor, and there's idiotic trolling - which I all too often, admittedly, fall for.

My sense of humor is quite robust, thank you so very much, I just don't appreciate it when morons make weak sallies that are neither particularly funny nor particularly pointed.

Or maybe you genuinely thought that was a real knee-slapper. You probably wouldn't if you'd spent much time working in trauma care - and you can't say those folks don't have a sense of humor.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:10 PM on May 21, 2003


After all of this discussion... is this a bad time to bring up that the tagline of this whole campaign was derived from work that my brother-in-law and I did for the student competition of the Calgary Advertising awards (the Ad Rodeo)?

These spots were created by Ogilvy Calgary, the annual sponsor of the student competition. In 2000, we entered a campaign for the non-profit Action Against Violence. AAV is a group that is trying to curb violence in children and teens. Our ads revolved around a man getting his ass kicked at work... the payoff was that you don't tolerate violence at work, so why should your kids tolerate it at school?

We did win the competition, but our ads were never produced.

I can't be mad, I did sign a release after all, but it kills me to see the same idea in full production 3 years later from the same agency. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Damn.
posted by damclean2 at 11:58 PM on May 21, 2003


Stop Abuse for Everyone 'is a human rights organization that provides services, publications, and training to serve those who typically fall between the cracks of domestic violence services. These groups include men, gays and lesbians, teens, the elderly, and immigrants.'
posted by plep at 12:26 AM on May 22, 2003


I just don't appreciate it when morons make weak sallies that are neither particularly funny nor particularly pointed.

I'm with adamgreenfield on this one, FWIW.

My sense of humour, I must add, though, would include laughing uproariously while kicking the ever-loving shit out of the husband of a Korean TV comedienne who was recently given three months probation after breaking (if I recall correctly) three of her ribs, her arm, and her pelvis with a baseball bat while their children and her mother sat in the next room, were I given the opportunity.

Cycle of violence? Fuck yeah. Bring it on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:25 AM on May 22, 2003


Cycle of violence? Fuck yeah. Bring it on.
include laughing uproariously while kicking the ever-loving shit out of the husband
...maybe a cycle of protection.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2003


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