A woman is physically abused every nine seconds in the United States. Every day, four women die of injuries from domestic abuse, which is also the leading cause of injuries to women. One out of every four women will experience violence from an intimate partner in her lifetime. Domestic violence is pervasive, dangerous, and yet mostly invisible. Despite the prevalence of violence against women, many people are oblivious, sometimes willfully so. Whether they realize it or not, 74% of Americans personally know a victim of domestic violence. Those who are aware of an abusive situation frequently turn a blind eye or keep their distance for fear of “meddling” or because it’s “none of their business.” However, a problem as rampant and deadly as domestic violence is necessarily everyone’s business. Only 21% of victims ever ask for help from an outside agency. The rest stay silent because they are afraid, or embarrassed, or protective of their abuser, or think the police will do nothing. For these women, a policy of noninterference is untenable.
A French women’s rights group called Ni Putes Ni Soumises, which translates to Neither Whores Nor Submissives, is attempting to face the problem of indifference towards domestic violence with a new ad campaign. The series of ads, which time their debut to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, is entitled “Ce qui tue c’est l’indifference,” or “What kills is indifference.” Each ad features a startling close-up of a bruise with a caption superimposed, as in works of art on display. The caption describes the color of the bruise in terms like “grave green,” “booze brown,” and “rape red.” The gruesome realization that these titles refer to the cause of the bruise as well as the color is heightened by the discovery of smaller letters beneath the caption bearing a woman’s name, birth date, and death date.
The campaign is a powerful and effective attempt to capture attention and heighten awareness of domestic violence. The ads demand acknowledgement and in doing so subvert indifference. A battered woman on a shocking and ubiquitous poster is much harder to ignore than the one who lives next door.