Coercive control is insidious. It can be hard to spot – all the more so because perpetrators disguise it as caring and begin softly before they tighten the rope over time.
Engine Creative’s commercial for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 makes the signs of coercive control obvious. It is styled as a bright and brash TV quiz show called Spot The Abuse being held before a cheering studio audience. The spot features three smiling female contestants – Jade from Bournemouth, Aisha from London and Kate from Hertfordshire – being asked questions about relationships by a gameshow host.
The aim of the campaign is to educate people about the signs of coercive control by using the popular format of a TV game show to demonstrate that women often don’t realise their relationship is abusive and that they’re victims of coercive control, as their partners tell them that their controlling behaviour is normal. The advert, which will run across social channels, aims to highlight that domestic abuse isn’t always physical and that coercive control can happen gradually in a relationship with a pattern of behaviours that you may not initially identify as abusive, but when put together create a web of control.
While it has been illegal since December 2015, records of coercive control offences have been rising steadily. Police recorded 24,856 coercive control offences in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020, a huge rise of more than 50% from the 16,679 recorded the previous year. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. Within the first two weeks of lockdown alone, there was a 41% increase in users visiting the Women’s Aid Live Chat site to seek help on the issue.
Research by Women’s Aid and Cosmopolitan in 2019 found that over a third of teenage girls had been in abusive relationships and more shocking still, when the remaining two-thirds were asked about their relationships, 64% had been in abusive relationships without even realising it.
Farah Nazeer, chief executive of Women’s Aid, stated, “This advert shows that if you are in an abusive relationship, your partner is not going to tell you that it is abusive – and coercive control is still not widely understood, despite being against the law since 2015 in England and Wales. We hope this advert will raise awareness and start important conversations about controlling behaviour in relationships. Greater awareness and understanding of the behaviours that make up coercive control means that more people will be able to identify it, prevent it and prosecute it.”
Christopher Ringsell, creative director at Engine Creative, commented,“Educating people about Coercive Control through the lens of a Gameshow is an unusual and powerful juxtaposition.
The glitzy lights, cheesy soundtrack and shiny world is not the normal place to communicate the harsh realities of domestic abuse but the format is perfect to land questions and answers around controlling behaviours. Many women could be living with this form of abuse without even being aware so hopefully this jarring and arresting approach will make it memorable and will help women question things that might not be right in their own relationships.”
The spot was made for Women’s Aid pro bono by Engine.
Agency: Engine Creative
Creative Director: Christopher Ringsell & Jo Moore
Creative: Antonia Clayton
Head of Film: Melody Sylvester
Senior Producer: Laura Melville
Producer: Sabrina May
Assistant Producer: Henry Davies
Logo Design: Hugo Isaacs
Account Management: Marianne Roberts & Eve Bui
Senior Strategist: Katherine Morris
Production Company: Missing Link Films
Director: Alicia MacDonald
Producer: Ben Link
Executive Producer: Heather Link
Production Manager: Sorcha O’Sullivan
DOP: Sam Goldie
1st AD: Tom Reynolds
Production Designer: Matthew Rice
Hair & Make up: Holly Miller
Costume: Joanna Valmai Wills
Casting: Sasha Robertson Casting
Editor: Rachael Spann/Rebecca Quinn @Work Editorial
Colour: Juliette Wileman
2D Artist: Ben Robards
Animation: Lawrence Scanlon & Hugh Loughrey
Executive Producer: Sally Heath
Producer: Ollie Ireland
Sound Engineer: Ben Leeves
Music: Audio Network