When getting home safely isn’t safe enough for women

Who: Women’s Shelters Canada, with lg2 for creative and strategy, production by Animals (Yael Staav directing), media by Union Media, casting by Powerhouse, with Saints Editorial, Company3, Darling VFX and Vapor Music for post-production.

What: “More Than,” the first national awareness campaign for the non-profit, which represents more than 550 women’s shelters across Canada. The goal is to reach women living with domestic violence, or anyone who knows a woman who may be experiencing violence at home.

When & Where: The campaign launched today (Jan. 24) and will run for six months. There’s a media buy behind it, along with some donated media. Creative is running on digital, social, and broadcast, with out-of-home and radio to follow.

Why: The goal is to remind women facing abuse and violence that women’s shelters across the country are “more than” a safe place to stay, providing a range of services including counselling, safety planning and children’s programming.

WSC chose now to run the campaign in part because they had strong donations during the pandemic, but also because the need for shelter services has increased during the crisis.

“Violence against women, and the severity of violence that women are facing, has increased during the pandemic,” said Kaitlin Geiger-Bardswich, communications and development manager, for WSC.  “There have been 12 women killed in the first three weeks of 2022, so that’s four per week. Those are numbers we haven’t seen before.”

The pandemic compounded the problem, because women were trapped with a violent partner or were unsure if they could access shelters during lockdown,” said Geiger-Bardswich. “We were just hearing that there was a lot of need for awareness about what was actually available out there.”

How: The campaign is anchored by a 60-second ad that opens with scenes of women on their way home at night, showing the things they do to make themselves feel a little safer: Holding their keys between their fingers, crossing the street to avoid someone walking toward them, and pretending to talk on their phone while walking past men.

The final scene shows a woman walking with a friend. When she arrives at her house, she says goodbye to the friend and her smile fades as she looks toward the door. The music, the Alabama Shakes song “You Ain’t Alone,” stops as she walks inside. “Women go to great lengths to get home safely,” says a super, followed by the message: “Imagine what it’s like to not feel safe inside one.” A voiceover directs viewers to the ShelterSafe.ca website for support.

The idea came during a brainstorming session for the creative team, said Nellie Kim, vice-president and executive creative director at lg2. “We do so much as women to protect ourselves when we’re outside; we’re hyper-vigilant about getting home safely,” she said. But it was “eye-opening” how much the women all knew and had used similar small things to protect themselves while out.

“And then we had that a-ha moment, where it’s like, ‘Holy crap. There are women who do all this to get home safely, but when they get inside their own door, what do they do then? How do they stay safe?” said Kim. “It was just such a jarring twist on the way we think about women and safety.”

When first talking through the concept with WSC,  the initial reaction was that it wasn’t what they wanted to say, said Geiger-Bardswich. “And then when we got to that switch part, it was like ‘Oh, that’s really powerful.'”

And we quote: “This national awareness campaign is so important, especially as we continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and are seeing increasing rates of gender-based violence… Many people don’t realize that you don’t have to move into a shelter or transition house in order to receive services. You can call one for advice, safety planning, and counselling, even if you’re not sure if you’re in an abusive relationship.” —Lise Martin, executive director, WSC

David Brown