I came across a really important Women’s Aid advertisement whilst researching a specific section of my dissertation: violence against older women. A Teeside University report states, despite a 48% rise in older women accessing domestic abuse services in the last 12 months, there is a lack of services tailored specifically towards them. Misconceptions are continually perpetuated by both film and television dramas, insinuating domestic violence is only experienced by younger women. The British public are misconstrued into believing older women in long-term relationships are stable, domesticated and problem-free. Yet, this creates an incredibly damaging stigma in which there is an ‘insurmountable pressure to maintain the fiction of a happy marriage’. Paul Andrew Williams’ advert, a collaboration between Women’s Aid and RSA Films, is vital in portraying experiences of ‘forgotten victims of domestic abuse’ and highlighting the physical and emotional traumas of older women. Despite the time constraints of 1:50, it effectively manages to include a range of important scenarios that arise within an abusive relationship, whilst relating it specifically to experiences of older women.
Trigger warning: threatening, verbal abuse towards a female and a strong depiction of physical violence.
Playing out repetitively, with the scenario between victim and abuser occurring both forward and backward, the advert creates an unnerving cycle of abuse that perfectly represents the routine nature of domestic violence. We witness the verbal and physical abuse towards the elder woman, her attempts to cover-up the effects of the violence away from her daughter and grandchildren, and her husband’s attempts at an apology: and then the scene plays back again, from a distorted perspective.
The advert features Tessa Peake-Jones from Only Fools and Horses, critically acclaimed television and stage actress Anne-Marie Duff and Phil Davis from notable dramas Whitechapel and Broadchurch: all faces UK viewers are able to recognise. The decision to include three notable actors serves to attract viewers attention to the brief advertisement whilst providing an important degree of familiarity to the scenario taking place on screen. The longevity requires audiences to immediately notice the abuse on screen, and Do You See Her? successfully does this without sensationalising or dramatising the situation.
The title of the advert also demands audience’s answer an uncomfortable question: do you see the older victims of domestic abuse within our society? Or do you subconsciously perpetuate stereotypes onto older women and continue to silence their experiences? By boldly highlighting the physical and emotional trauma an older female may experience in a long-term relationship, Women’s Aid creates an important platform of visibility that could save the lives of women.
Women’s Aid campaigns regarding domestic abuse repeatedly use techniques to demand spectators participation, effectively drawing people into the situation and creating an environment where they are forced to care. For example, the international Look At Me billboard campaign used interactive technology to allow passerby’s to ‘activate the transitions’ of the images on screen. For example, the more people paying attention to the advertisement causes the injuries of the female to decrease; whereas those refusing to pay attention insight more injuries. The campaign, epitomised in their slogan ‘if you see it, you can change it’, is perfect at forcing people to understand they have the power to create positive change. Another advert featured in UK cinemas, Chris Vincze’s Bling Eye (2012), used 3D stereoscopic technology to create an interactive advert. Audiences, depending on their choice of right or left eye, can witness two very different scenarios: a women experiencing abuse at the hands of her partner or the same female alone in her kitchen.