The Problem With The Directgov "This Is Abuse" Campaign

I have tried to avoid anything too trigger-y in what I've written, but I'm putting a trigger warning here any way, just in case.

For anyone who just wants the contact details for the groups involved in the ad campaign;

 The Directgov form for sending complaints to them.

The email to contact the Violence Against Women and Girls Campaigns group directly;

I'm awaiting a reply from the above email before I hit OfCom/The Advertising Standards Agency, but if anyone would like to go to them too; ASA's online contact form


Response from ASA


[UPDATE 3; ASA are no help, contact CAP]

This campaign is back and on our screens, unchanged until the end of January. Please, everyone, hit them again. It took only 160 odd complaints for them to start an investigation into ASDA's sexist Christmas ad. We can get them to do something about This Is Abuse.

Directgov (bless you, wikipedia) is the go-to place for digital information on and services from the UK government. It's got everything from help with working out your council tax band to how to start on the road to adoption. They also run public information campaigns and are currently running a very powerful one on rape that is aimed at not the victims but the perpetrators.

This is brilliant and maybe even a first, at least in the UK. No more "don't go out alone at night" or "don't wear short skirts". It's about telling the people how not to rape someone. Huzzah, no more victim blaming.

The television ad is very powerful. So much so that it is upsetting the very people it is setting out to protect. It is one massive trigger and there is NO warning on this advert. I thought that perhaps the creators believed this would detract from the impact and could do with a nudge or two from people, saying that it REALLY needs a trigger warning. So I and @LClayr set about finding out how to contact the creators.

As it's a Directgov site, direct (lulz) contact is problematic. There is a "Have Your Say" page, but many people might want to avoid the site altogether, so it's not much use. Also, it's more there for people who want to discuss the topic and get advice from others who have been through similar situations. @LClayr says it's also a pit of victim blaming, so I'm avoiding it on grounds of ANGRYRAGE. This is one area I do not get involved in online debates over.

I did post a comment last night, asking about a trigger warning being added. However, all comments have to be screened (which makes me wonder how any victim blaming shit got on there), and my post isn't up yet. However, @LClayr scoured the comments and found a few people had asked about the same thing and got replies. @LClayr was kind enough to screen grab one and let me use it here;

Yes, because we're all going to email about this before we've ever seen the advert and then spend the rest of the month checking the list and avoiding the television at this time. Just because the TV regulatory body doesn't find anything wrong with showing this ad without a warning doesn't mean it's okay. Hell, the water aid and famine ads get a "contains scenes some may find upsetting" before they're shown.
Oh, middle class sensitive types need a warning but people who have been sexually assaulted should have to do the work to avoid triggers themselves.


But I don't need to tell you all this, I hope, I'm just venting.

@Anonymoosh provided the online form for contacting Directgov over various things. There's an option for "A complaint about Directgov content or services" so that's a good start.

Having looked up the VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) Campaign I've found their Feb 2012 launch briefing (PDF). It states that the campaign is aimed at 13-16 and 18-21 year olds (why the gap between 16 and 18 I don't know), with two separate but linked campaigns. This is great in one way; addressing the issues of pressuring someone into sex with teenagers before they start doing it is A Good Thing.

However, this is not only a television campaign. The various ads are being run on television, at the cinema and on teen centred websites from 5th March to 29th April.

The cinema? The CINEMA?! Erm, does no one else see a problem here? At least on TV and the internet you're in the comfort of your own home and not in a big dark room filled with strangers.


So yeah, I'm asking everyone to please, please contact the people behind this campaign, either through the Directgov's form or the VAWG campaign email; It's a great campaign, but the adverts NEED a trigger warning. The excuse of "time constraints" doesn't fly; a text warning could easily be placed in a corner, or run at the bottom of the screen for the first ten-fifteen seconds of the ad. That would suffice.

I'd rather anything you say be in your own words, but if you're unsure how to put your thoughts into words; copy/paste away (change what you like)...

To whom it may concern,

I have recently seen the This Is Abuse, If You Could See Yourself advert. It's very well done, completely free of victim blaming, which is brilliant. However, because it is so well done and very powerful it is a terrible trigger for anyone who has been in such a situation. I see that others have brought up this problem on the Directgov site and have been told that the TV advertising regulatory body has given it the okay and that a trigger warning before hand is not possible due to time constraints. People have been directed to email this address to request times and places the ad is being run so that they can avoid seeing it in the future.

This is not good enough. First it does not prevent people who have been through abuse and sexual assault from seeing it in the first time, and once is more than enough. Second, people should not be expected to do the work themselves of avoiding triggers in this manner. That burden should be on those who created and show such content.

Time constraints are not a good enough excuse for not using a trigger warning either. A mere second or two, as happens with the water aid and famine charity campaign adverts would suffice. If those two seconds really cannot be shaved then a simple line of text placed at the foot of the screen or in a corner for the first ten to fifteen seconds would also work.

I have also seen that this ad will be run in cinemas. I think that this is a terrible idea, with or without a trigger warning. How many people who have been sexually assaulted will have to sit through a re-enactment of their attack, writ large across a massive screen in a dark room, filled with strangers?

Please consider all those who have already been affected by sexual violence who might come across this advert. This campaign is fantastic, but it is also harrowing and hurting those it is seeking to help and protect. Please add a trigger warning to the advert on television and pull it from cinemas.

Yours Sincerely,


@LClayr has also done a post on this, if you'd like to get another person's perspective.
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