Salvation Army Uses That Goddamn Dress in an Anti-Domestic Violence Ad


We will never be rid of The Dress; it will dog our steps, invade our dreams and haunt our thinkpieces from now until Judgment Day. Now, the South African branch of the Salvation Army is using the non-existent white and gold version in a PSA against domestic violence.

The ad features a photo of a young, white, blonde woman with cuts and bruises on her arms, legs and face, wearing what’s meant to be the dress that divided the Internet. The copy reads, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?” followed by, “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.”

This is actually one of two ads released recently featuring a gruesomely injured woman: the other, as AdWeek reports, is an interactive billboard in London; the woman’s facial injuries appear to “heal” as more and more passersby look at the ad.

Let’s start with the positives first: unlike, say, the utterly meaningless “No More” domestic violence campaign/PR face-saving effort rolled out by the NFL, these ads are meant to drive attention and donations towards actual charities that work to end domestic violence and operate shelters: the Salvation Army and Women’s Aid, a UK-based group.

But it took me several minutes to actually notice that the Salvation Army ad features — in the tiniest letters possible — an actual hotline for domestic violence victims to call. And it’s unclear from looking at the mockups of the Women’s Aid ad how often passersby will actually be able to see the number you can text to donate money to the charity. There’s also the fact that most domestic violence simply doesn’t look like this: who wouldn’t intervene if you saw a visibly injured woman, eyes blackened and mouth bleeding? It would be nice, for once, to see, say, common signs of abuse blasted across billboards, next to safety and escape plans for battered people.

“Awareness” is a laudible goal when it comes to domestic violence, I guess, but it’s also a pretty fuzzy one: domestic violence ads have been urging people to notice and pay attention to the problem for at least 20 years, since the Ad Council released TV ads with taglines like, “It is your business.” And unlike the Ad Council ads — which make the point that you should pay attention when your neighbors are viciously arguing, and perhaps call 911 or seek other help if you hear something that concerns you — it’s not quite clear what we’re meant to do with these images of dreadfully hurt women, besides stop and stare.

Image via Salvation Army/Twitter

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