A lesson in controlling behaviour by the Government of Québec

A lesson in controlling behaviour by the Government of Québec

When I think of domestic abuse, I picture physical aggression, bruises and shouting.

This film definitely shines a light on one of the lesser-known forms of abuse, controlling behaviour.

It starts off with a woman jogging on a scenic bridge. She stops to take a selfie, something my Instagram feed tells me is completely normal for runners. Then, we see the same woman take a series of selfies in more unusual places: a supermarket, a laundromat and outside a University. Her smile looks more and more forced as the ad goes on, and her face changes to show her unhappiness. The reveal is her partner repeatedly messaging her to ask where she is, and expecting photographic proof. No shouting, no bruises, but chilling nonetheless.

UK Women's charity Refuge classifies the behaviour depicted in this film as ‘coercive control’. Teaching people that this is, in fact, abuse is really important. 

The data shows that 74.4% of callers to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline reported ‘controlling behaviour’ as part of their call. Yet, it’s not front of mind when it comes to the sort of domestic abuse most people would think of reporting. Refuge is very clear that coercive control is illegal and perpetrators can be prosecuted. Yes, that’s right, abusers can be prosecuted for sending controlling text messages. I didn’t know that, 'til now. 

When depicting scenes of domestic abuse, the devil really is in the detail.

Domestic abuse covers a wide range of actions from the physical to the emotional, the latter being much harder to explain and certainly harder to prosecute. So, when designing a one-size-fits-all film, it’s even more important that every detail is sweated so as not to alienate an already at-risk audience.

Education is just one of many reasons that this film is successful for me. 

The journey from the comfort of complete normality to sinister sadness leaves no confusion that this behaviour is both malicious and just plain wrong. But also, the storytelling is made even more effective by the casting, wardrobe, and very middle-class scenarios like the nice coffee shop, all of which convey that this could happen to anyone from any background.

The sooner we recognise that technology has become a tool for domestic abusers, the sooner we can use technology to help victims of abuse.

Misinformation, data breaches, AI stealing our jobs and now domestic abuse. Technology’s misuse has never been under more scrutiny. And it’s easy to see how something that makes you so accessible, like a phone, can be used by abusers to control their victims.o

This week is CSW67, the UN Women Commission on the Status of Women, of which I’m a delegate. This year’s theme explores how technology can help women achieve equity. In the UK specifically, ending violence against women and girls is likely to be one of the biggest topics.

As much as I’m looking forward to learning and understanding more about surfacing the problems facing women in the UK, including the one in this film, I’m much more excited about helping to generate solutions. And with roughly 2000 women signed up to attend and engage with various talks and panels, I expect some great thinking to come out of it.

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly email alert and receive a regular curation of the best creative campaigns by creatives themselves.

Published on: