By Patrick Coffee
Powerful #WhatSheWasWearing PSA Illustrates the Shaming of Sexual Assault Victims
Energy BBDO turned a poet's words into a shareable video
Despite the progress our culture may have made on addressing matters of sexual harassment, assault and rape, the vast majority of such attacks continue to go unreported.
A new pro-bono campaign created by advocacy group PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment), actor and spoken word artist Steve Connell and ad agency Energy BBDO explores one reason why: a tendency for women who come forward to be scrutinized, criticized and shamed.
Connell and PAVE founder Angela Rose, who was herself a victim of kidnapping and sexual assault in 1996, first began collaborating years ago—well before the stories of Harvey Weinstein and others sparked a long-delayed cultural shift.
“I was just out in the world and someone saw my work, felt there was a connection and reached out … she and I have been joined at the hip ever since,” he said.
The new project, called What She Was Wearing, aims to encourage survivors of sexual violence to come forward by raising awareness of the challenges they face. It centers on a spoken word piece written and performed by Connell.
Rose told Adweek that PAVE uses this clip and other materials in assault response and survivor training sessions at military bases, high schools and conferences around the country.
“This piece of art speaks to how prevalent victim-blaming is, even by well-meaning family and friends,” she said—and repeated studies show that initial responses to disclosures of harassment and assault can “literally save victims’ lives.”
Energy BBDO worked with PAVE on this year’s #RespectHer Valentine’s Day project, and Rose recently played the Connell performance for the agency while in their Chicago office. “They literally had chills,” she said—and the creative team quickly got to work on developing the longer piece for social media’s 60-second attention span economy.
Senior copywriter Brynna Aylward described the effort as “a new packaging for [Connell’s] performance.” Global creative director Cinzia Crociani said, “It was a quick turnaround. We heard the poem and loved it … in 12 hours we came up with a concept and got people from the agency to help us.”
The team made the video in time squeezed out between meetings, work and an ongoing pitch, said Crociani. And most of the women featured are, in fact, Energy BBDO employees.
The campaign is currently running on Instagram and other social platforms.