When video of NFLer Ray Rice knocking his partner, Janay Parker, out cold in the presumed privacy of an elevator surfaced online, the conversation around domestic violence was given a fuel-injection boost. Pundits weighed in, the NFL issued a suspension and then was chided for its tepid response, and column-inches were dedicated to discussions around why she didn’t leave a toxic situation. Amid all of the attention, however, few solutions were offered.
This increased focus on the topic, and the seeming lack of positive discourse, led agency KBS Toronto to want to add something constructive to the conversation so the agency partnered with Interval House, Toronto’s oldest women’s shelter, to create "Alternate Ending."
"Alternate Ending" shows a couple as they step behind the closed doors of an elevator. Clearly in the midst of an argument, the increasingly intense—and potentially violent—situation is diffused when the doors open, another woman steps in, and the would-be abused woman leaves with her.
Created via KBS’s Cause Company—a newly launched division with the objective of creating work that has a positive impact on society—the spot is a direct response to the media attention the Rice case was drawing, says Cause Company’s Marie Magnin. "The idea came up from our creative department after they were noticing this blast of content around violence against women and the fact that none of it was going anywhere that they felt was particularly positive. We felt this was an opportunity to harness awareness we were seeing online and take it to a place where we could have a positive impact."
The spot, says KBS Toronto CCO Matt Hassell, "is a reminder to people that they can do something about violence against women."
And such a reminder is necessary, says Sandra Hawkin Diaz, Interval House’s director, engagement and partnerships, who calls violence against women "the best-kept secret" in Canada and the U.S.
"We, as a society, don’t feel really comfortable and safe talking about violence against women but it’s happening behind closed doors of elevators, but also hotel rooms and suburban homes and high-rise apartment buildings," Hawkin Diaz says. "We might know that it’s happening to someone in our life but we kind of think what happens in the home stays in the home, and we don’t really think of what to do. That’s compounded by the fact that we’re in a culture that sometimes has an orientation around victim blaming. Like, when the Ray Rice video came out, so many people were saying ‘Why did she marry him?’ ‘Why did she stay?’ instead of asking ‘Why did he abuse her and how can we end this?’ The questions that we ask are often not oriented to getting at the core of the problem or really appreciating how widespread it is."
Hawkin Diaz says the opportunity to be affiliated with "Alternate Ending," which Cause Company presented to Interval House and created completely pro bono in the course of a week, allowed them to engage with the public while the topic of domestic violence was already on their minds.
"It’s only when there is some celebrity attention that this topic is in the spotlight. It captures the spirit of the conversation so it instantaneously reminds people what everyone’s been talking about," says Hawkin Diaz, noting that as an organization Interval House also hopes this spot raises awareness about the shelter’s work, encouraging people to contribute to their work, or, when needed, turn to them for help.
"The goal for us is to seize this moment in time and amplify the conversation and redirect it to get people thinking about how to end violence against women," Hawkin Diaz adds. "We like that [this spot] is hopeful, that we’re creating and alternation ending and we’re not just resigned to the fact that domestic violence happens. And rather than being voyeurs to someone being brutally abused, we’re showing a different ending—the one we wish had happened."