Unsettling Spot From Ireland Highlights Rise in Domestic Abuse During Quarantine

TBWA\Dublin created the campaign for the country's Department of Justice and Equality

Screenshot of a FaceTime call next to black text that says, 'If your home isn't safe, support is still here'
The ad uses an interrupted FaceTime call to show how domestic abusers often control their partners' access to communication. Department of Justice & Equality
Headshot of Mary Emily O

It’s a familiar scene to everyone under stay-at-home orders: a pair of friends catching up on a FaceTime call, with a living room as the backdrop. But the scene quickly darkens as keys are heard in the door, and one of the women on the call jumps off in fear before being interrogated by her controlling partner until she breaks down in tears.

The real-time video was created by Ireland’s TBWA\Dublin to help advertise the Department of Justice and Equality’s new #StillHere campaign that offers resources to people experiencing domestic abuse during the pandemic. The 30-second spot will run on Irish television and launched across social channels on Thursday.

NOTE: This video could be disturbing to some viewers, especially survivors of intimate partner violence and abuse.

TBWA\Dublin and Ireland Department of Justice & Equality

“At a time when we have all been asked to stay at home, I am very conscious that for victims of domestic or sexual abuse, home can be anything but a safe place,” said Ireland’s minister for justice and equality Charlie Flanagan in a statement.

In addition to the video, TBWA\Dublin also created two radio commercials for the #StillHere outreach campaign. One of the radio spots features a woman trying to evade her abuser, and the other features a male victim of domestic abuse.

“This is an issue that concerned us once the COVID-19 crisis set in. Stats from around the world confirmed that incidences of domestic violence were on the increase, so we wanted to respond,” said Yvonne Caplice, business director at TBWA\Dublin. “We feel privileged to have been involved in this campaign with the Department of Justice and Equality in getting this message of support out to those who need it.”

Due to shelter-in-place orders, domestic abuse is surging worldwide. According to an April 6 report by the United Nations, calls to domestic violence helplines have tripled in China and doubled in Malaysia and Lebanon. In Australia, Google searches for domestic violence help is at the highest rate seen in five years. In a video posted to Twitter earlier this month, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for a “ceasefire” on intimate partner abuse of women and girls in their homes.

In the U.S., police departments across the country reported increases of up to 22% in domestic violence calls alleging assault and battery. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on Wednesday announced a letter to Congress asking for increased funding for programs that serve survivors.

The COVID-19 quarantine presents unique ways that abusers can manipulate and control partners, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Those may include withholding safety supplies, misinforming partners about the pandemic in order to create fear and using the virus to isolate partners from their children. In addition, restrictions on travel could lead some victims of domestic abuse to feel that they have nowhere to go.

TBWA\Dublin executive creative director Des Creedon said even producing the spot during quarantine was challenging due to restrictions. The agency cast two actors who already live together in an attempt to adhere to social distancing rules. “Hopefully, it’s a campaign that ensures that if people are in violent domestic situations, they know that there’s help and support available to them and their family,” Creedon said.

If you are experiencing abuse at home, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or visit thehotline.org to chat online in English or Español.

@MaryEmilyOHara maryemily.ohara@adweek.com Mary Emily O'Hara is a diversity and inclusion reporter. They specialize in covering LGBTQ+ issues and other underrepresented communities.