Don't turn a blind eye

Carly Gail

Professor Ramos

Eng 102


Don’t Look Away

Imagine being a young child and coming from a broken home, where you feared for your safety, your sister or brother’s safety, and even your mother’s safety. Imagine experiencing firsthand the physical manifestations of your own father’s rage, as he beat your mother senselessly before your very own eyes. Imagine the muffled cries of your mother, as she took each and every blow. Imagine this horrific nightmare coming to a screeching halt one night, your mother finally succumbing to your father’s violence. According to the Chicago Tribune, this is the reality that the children of Lakisha Roby, of Chicago, dealt with leading up to their mother’s murder in March of this year. The violence was no secret, and perhaps if more people spoke up and addressed what was happening, these two young children would still have a mother.

A picture says a thousand words but the United Kingdom’s National Women’s Aid Federation only needs three. Released during spring of 2015, the Federation’s “Look At Me Campaign” placed billboards all around London with an image of a beaten and bruised woman, and used facial recognition technology to capture the reactions of people passing by. CBS News furthers on March 10, 2015, if passersby ignore the image, it remains the same, but if people stop to look, the bruises begin to heal. The UK’s Transport Media Website notes the “Look At Me” campaign dominates the UK’s largest financial district in Canary Wharf, and as a result, 128,000 people saw the ad on its premiere date. With this ad being viewed by such a large amount of people, we must ask the question, how does the “Look At Me” campaign contribute to existing rhetoric on gender violence prevention?

The “Look At Me” advertisement, displayed to hundreds of thousands of people in the U.K., takes the form of a massive billboard. The overall effect of the design is plain, dark and understated so that the main focus is on the image and the text. The strategy works; my own focus is immediately drawn to the shocking and gruesome image of a battered, bruised, and bloodied woman. The image makes me ask questions, like “What happened to this woman?” “Who did this to her?” “How dare someone do that to another human being?” It gets a reaction, almost instantly, if we pay attention. “Paying attention” also happens to be one of the goals of this advertisement. The audience for this ad is everyone- anyone who is passing by on the street. It argues that if we all stand together, and practice taking action versus remaining passive, we can put an end to domestic violence.

The advertisement utilizes pathos and ethos in making its’ argument. The image appeals to our emotions, pathos, because of the shock factor. Any person would feel sad looking at a beaten woman. Maybe, some people can relate to the image on a personal level. Maybe some are aware of the issue but have previously chosen to ignore it and are now having it forced upon them, thus inciting a reaction for the first time. Similarly the ad appeals to our sense of decency as a human being, utilizing ethos. Seeing this image may induce a sense of pity on the subject in the photos, and as a good human being, we would want to help this hurt woman. With the promotion of ethos in the attention grabbing image and pathos in the thought provoking text, paired with the motion detecting sensors, the advertisement makes a clear statement that passivity perpetuates abuse.

Chief executive of Women’s Aid Polly Neate told the Marketing Magazine on September 3, 2015, “Domestic violence is still a really taboo [subject] in our society. When women come forward they are not listened to.” Women’s Aid wants bystanders to hear these women loud and clear. The “Look At Me” campaign acts in considerable ways to combat and address the issue of domestic violence. First, the ad decreases victim blaming. On March 7, 2015, CBS explains, the words “Look At Me” are written in large font, and demand the attention of passersby. Nothing on the billboard encourages women to fight back. In fact the billboard, on the other hand, gives the power to viewers, encouraging them to take the first step in combating domestic violence. Second, the ad builds community responsibility. Wired on March 6, 2015 notes, through the use of facial recognition technology, the interactive ad forces an entire community to face domestic violence.  The text on the billboard, “Don’t turn a blind eye,” implies disregard perpetuates assaults, and makes bystanders the first step for action. Finally, the advertisement prevents escalation. The bruises only disappear when a large group of people notice the woman but when people ignore the billboard the bruises form. The ad suggests the bystander becomes an advocate of the abuse by ignoring it. The Wired report explains the ad recognizes urgency is most effective when bystanders take initiative to solve abuse.  The campaign encourages viewers to do more than simply look.

By stressing that bystanders are catalysts for change Women’s Aid initiates intervention for a problem traditionally thought should be solved by victims. This presents us with two conclusions: social identification and forced intervention. By joining the performance, passerby’s become a part of the message rather than just a viewer.  Northwestern University Professor Marcela Fuentes suggests in the November 2014 Text and Performance Quarterly, mass groups of people are likely to fight for causes they can relate to. By displaying the people’s reactions at the bottom of the billboard, the viewers are able to relate to more than just a picture of domestic violence; the abuse is easier to identify because they are visible on the screen. Fuentes continues, individuals are more inclined to recognize social concerns when the communicative gap between the victim and the bystander is filled. The ad suggests, for the first time victims of abuse are no longer facing the tragedy of violence alone.

Women’s Aid: Look At Me interactive billboard displayed in Canary Wharf.

The aforementioned UK’s Transport Media Website points out, 79% of commuters respond to ads they see while traveling through Canary Wharf.  In response to the billboard, Twitter user Tandi A wrote on March 16, 2015, “This is brilliant. Should be up everywhere.” In contrast, fellow user Mr. Serious Business tweeted “Yes ladies, you can stop it; Know when to shut up.” By coercing potential advocates, Women’s Aid takes away the choice of passivity. But for some who don’t see themselves as the problem, they may feel expected to take action and entrench resistance to a plea already ignored.

When I first saw this advertisement, I immediately had a reaction. I would think and hope that the same was true for every person walking down the street and seeing that billboard in person. The image brings to our attention an issue that has commonly been swept under the rug, and it makes people uncomfortable in seeing it out in the open like this. I think that aspect is essential to getting this message across. It gets people thinking, and gets people talking. This issue is real, and the solution lies in the voices and actions of society as a whole. Polly Neate tells Wired of March 6, 2015, women who experience domestic violence “live in an invisible prison: controlled and harmed by the person who should love them the most.” We can free these women from the invisible prison, as long as we don’t turn a blind eye.


Annotated Bibliography

  1. Flitcraft, Anne H., et al. “A Medical Response to Domestic Violence.” Arch Fam Med, vol. 1, Sept. 1992, doi: This article outlines what qualifies as domestic violence and abuse, and what signs and symptoms are present in victims. It also goes in to detail on the possible effects abuse can have on its victims. I plan to use this information to support my analysis of the “Look At Me” campaign. It is credible because all of the information is compiled by scientific experts and MDs.
  2. Marwood, Susie. “16 Days: Look at Me.” Womens Aid, 9 Dec. 2015, This website is the Women’s Aid link to the “Look At Me” campaign itself. I am using this to support my analysis, in gathering information on their cause and the mindset behind the campaign. It also will give me insight to this campaign. It is credible because they are the creators of the ad that I chose for this analysis.
  3. Vaisvilas, Frank. “’This Could’ve Been Me’: Vigil Remembers Woman Police Say Was Killed by Estranged Husband.” com, 18 Mar. 2018, This article is the story of a woman in Chicago who was murdered by her estranged husband, with a history of domestic violence plaguing their relationship. It speaks of her two children who are now motherless thanks to their father’s actions and the silence of the people in their life who knew of the issue. I used this story to inspire my own little story I wrote for the intro of my essay.
  4. “Domestic Violence Billboard Dares People Not to Look Away.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 26 Sept. 2015, This is just another perspective on the advertisement. It is a video discussing the ad itself and what it is about. I am just using this as another viewpoint to add to my analysis of the ad.
  5. Temperton, James. “Interactive Advert Makes People Face Domestic Abuse.” WIRED, WIRED UK, 4 Oct. 2017, This article talks about the campaign’s plans and goals. It also discussing the logistics of the campaign, and what its creator has to say about the ad and issue itself. I will use this in my essay to quote the campaign’s creator and provide more in depth information about this ad.
  6. Fuentes, Marcela. Performance Constellations: Memory and Event in Digitally Enabled Protest.” Text and Performance Quarterly. Vol. 35, No. 1, January 2015, pp. 24-42. This publication talks about human psychology and how to get people to stand together and back an issue. I am using an excerpt from this journal to support my analysis in saying that people are likely to stand together for a cause they can relate to, and how this ad accomplishes just that. Fuentes is a professor so I find her credible.