"This is Abuse" UK Ad Campaign

There is a new ad campaign in the UK that aims to enlighten British teens about what is and is not appropriate behavior in intimate relationships.  The most powerful of the ads, “If you could see yourself, would you see rape?”, shows the non-forceful rape of a girl by her boyfriend.  If you are a survivor, be warned that it can be triggering.  I’ve watched this ad dozens of times in the past couple of weeks.  It has really gotten into my head.   I think I’m trying to process it by watching it over and over.  Like a 5-year-old watching Cinderella. 

There is a moment at the very end that sends a chill up my spine.  The rape is happening, and the girl is crying.  The boy says, “Shhh Sh”, almost tenderly.  I can’t do it justice here.  But that is the moment where I really, completely get that this guy wouldn’t call what he’s doing rape.  He’s just having sex with his girlfriend who is “being weird” about it.

I love and hate this ad.  It’s terrifying and true.  I believe this is how a lot of rape happens.  And . . . I have two concerns about it:  1) If this is so affecting for me, what is it doing to the teen rape survivors in the UK who are coming across it, with no preparation, during their favorite tv shows?  2) Is there any hope that a guy who would rape his girlfriend like this would see this type of ad, and decide that he shouldn’t do that anymore?  Or is he so deep in his denial that an ad like this could never touch him? So, then who is this ad for?  Girls or boys?  Potential victims, or potential perpetrators? I think there are messages for both here, but I suspect that, in general, the potential victims are more likely to receive the message.  

What do you take away from these ads?


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She has a deep passion for helping survivors of sexual violence.