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Lauredhel is an Australian woman and mother with a disability. She blogs about disability and accessibility, social and reproductive justice, gender, freedom from violence, the uses and misuses of language, medical science, otters, gardening, and cooking.

This author has written 1621 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Lauredhel »

57 responses to ““If only”? New child abuse campaign.”

  1. Zoe

    Pardon my language, but that is just fucking stupid. How does it help survivors or educate anyone? Whoever thought up the campaign is either dense or on crack, and possibly both.

  2. Rayedish

    The ad is awful. Too much like she’s dad’s property being handed from one man to another. The jocular atmosphere doesn’t work at all. Maybe if there was shocked silence from the guests or something. The ad is just plain wrong.

  3. fuckpoliteness

    My biggest problem: ‘after *sex*’. No, you mean after raping your daughter.

  4. Fine

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/lifematters/stories/2009/2484066.htm

    This is a link to an interview with people involved in the making of the TVC here. I think they have a strong argument, but I have mixed feelings about it. It opens up a wider discussion about how horrific issuses can/should be represented .

  5. Kirsten

    Gaaah.

    It doesn’t work. The ad does not portray a world in which child abuse is ‘easy to get over’, but one in which it’s treated as a trivial matter, something with no negative consequences for the perpetrators. Which I can’t imagine is something the ASCA wants.

    And it’s potentially triggering for survivors.

  6. Helen

    I would say extremely triggering, if ones’ mates kind of guffaw at it in a shallow way and then tell you to lighten up if you don’t do the same.

  7. Beppie

    I’d say that this fails in what they were attempting to do, but it does highlight the creepy sexual undertones present in the whole “father giving daughter away to husband” thing. Not that most people watching this ad would get that.

  8. Y

    As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I find that ad repulsive. It’s not giving the issue the seriousness it deserves. With 1 in 10 (?) girls sexually assaulted by a family member, it’s just not a laughing matter.
    So call me a humourless feminist.

  9. Anonymous

    I hope you’ll excuse me using an anonymous moniker. I don’t want to say this stuff with my regular username.

    I am of two minds about this ad. As someone who was abused as a kid, there are three things I would like to see in an ad to raise awareness:

    1) It forces people to address the subject. When I was a kid, there must have been hundreds of teachers, doctors, parents of friends, family members, and so on who saw enough signs to know what was going on. Nobody ever did a single thing, not even try to talk to me about it, and in fact many adults responded to the signs with hostility. Apparently nobody cared. Sorry I’m so bitter about this.

    I don’t care about myself anymore and it’s in the past now, but there are children out there who this is happening to now and people need to quit sweeping this under the carpet and actually address it. So the most important thing an ad like this needs to do is wake people the hell up. It needs to make a strong impact.

    2) It shows us that these are completely normal people living normal lives. Abuse isn’t some far away thing that happens on soap operas or something. It’s happening now, and is most likely nearby. If you work with children or know a lot of children, I would bet you know at least one kid who is being abused.

    3) It shows that this isn’t something you just “get over.” It shows that it is cruel and unreasonable when people expect it to be.

    This ad accomplished all these things, despite the concerns mentioned above by others. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m not sure how #1 could be accomplished without raising those concerns. It’s making me think that perhaps an ad like this really needs to go ahead and be offensive in order to get people to actually address this issue and how awful it is.

    Then again, I was never abused sexually, so maybe I’m not in the position to judge this ad.

  10. Anna

    All I’m hearing when I listen to this is the next catch-line for the latest round of rape-jokes.

  11. “If Only?” I Think Not. : The Curvature

    [...] Like Lauredhel, I think that the Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) almost certainly meant well by this PSA.  I don’t know how else they could have meant.  But somehow, that doesn’t really matter to me while I’m watching it, at all. [...]

  12. Lalaroo

    I didn’t watch it, but reading it made me want to vomit.

  13. blue milk

    I find everyone’s reactions here very compelling but I’m going to come out and say that I have a quite different one….

    I think the ad worked very well – it is no accident that I find the moment so repulsive, so I should, so I was intended to. I’m not sure who the people are who think that children grow up and ‘get over’ abuse but I’m betting they find the images truly uncomfortable too, which was the whole point.

    Not so long ago our feminist discussion group was discussing how child sexual abuse is discussed in the media and one of the members of the group pointed out that we don’t examine the real sources of danger enough in our community anxiety (because we, and particularly men, don’t want to admit the problem – she suspected) – less hysteria about a pedophile being released from jail under constant police monitoring and more about the real threat – people’s perfectly ordinary fathers/uncles/grandfathers etc.

    People know child sexual abuse when they see it in an ad (a level of familiarity which is de-sensitising) – a solemn grainy image of the tear-streaked cheek of a child, or the dropped teddy bear on the floor – and I think this ad successfully forces the viewer to stop and confront the reality all over again. By completely re-writing the script for the (very predictable) father-of-the-bride moment the ad really makes the point that most child sexual abuse is not committed by a stranger – it is something far more uncomfortable.

    My only question would be, does this ad actually motivate me to do anything (which is also the point) or does it just make me shudder all over again at the horrors of child sexual abuse.

  14. blue milk

    Sorry for the length of that comment.

  15. Mindy

    I’m at work, so I haven’t watched the video but from reading the transcript I think this ad could be more effective than the last anti-child abuse ad I saw. It may only have been on in NSW, but it showed a small boy holding a door closed with his finger, against an older man wearing a singlet and darked rimmed glasses (pretty much your ped stereotype) and said something along the lines of ‘children aren’t superheroes they need us to protect them’. At least this new ad shows child abuse as something that happens in families, not just by creepy stereotypical guys.

  16. Another Anon

    Jesus Christ. That was awful, and super-triggering. It was just awful.

    Public humiliation is a huge reason why people don’t report rapes.

    For me, this doesn’t show that the victim “got over” child abuse, but that the abuser has – something which presumably wasn’t a problem in the first place.

    And I don’t know if a lot of people will connect the offhand comment about having sex to abuse of the girl by the father. I would have assumeed the father was talking about the girl and her boyfriend, without the context of this post.

  17. Y

    I didn’t find it repulsive because it was ‘shocking’ or ‘provoking’, it was because it was so shit.
    Seriously I don’t think this ad is particularly horrifying, the ‘humour’ is what I find revolting.
    People don’t want to look at this, lard knows I told (never explicitly, but enough for someone to know something was wrong and press further if they wanted to) enough adults for someone to intervene but family members would rather not confront their brother/son/uncle with an accusation of that type and told me “it’s not that bad”.
    This seems like trivialising more than anything, I know there is a serious voiceover and everything, but it seems more of a joke than anything else.
    I would prefer an awareness campaign that highlighted how non-abusers can identify and help an abused child, rather than anything about ‘getting over it’. Kids need help and someone who will believe them and act.
    I’m sure there is information like that at the website, but not everyone is going to seek that out, they have a snapshot of time to give a message and instead they made a joke out of it. Ha fucking ha.

  18. Mortisha

    I hate it – it makes me feel ill.

    I really wonder if it will change people attitudes. I don’t know anyone in their right mind that would assume as people who have being sexually abused as a child would just “get over it”.
    The people discussing it seem to be people who are already sensitised to the issue.
    Who are the target audience – would they even notice the ad?
    The national campaigns by the Beyond Blue foundation & Black Dog institute have help to destigmatize mental health issues and seeking help more effectively.

    I have HUGE issues with the word ‘sex’ being substituted for ‘rape’.
    The ad could have read “I remember the first words I ever said to her after I raped her…..”
    It would have been more descriptive of the actual abuse from the victim’s point of view.

  19. M-H

    I agree with blue milk. It takes the familiar and infuses it with horror.

    M-H’s last blog post..Thanks

  20. Arctic Firefox

    In addition to some of the other points made on this thread, I was shocked by what I saw as an (obviously unintentional) implication that child abuse would be okay under other circumstances. In the sense of “if only it was this easy to get over, it wouldn’t be a such problem.” That doesn’t seem to address the fact that it’s wrong in the first place.

  21. su

    I agree with a lot of what you have said Bluemilk. I am ambivalent but I don’t think any ad about CSA would make you say “yes that is perfect” and I too am sick of the dark and gloomy ads about the “horrors” of abuse. Sorry for the scare quotes but I think that one of the many target groups for this ad (and maybe they are trying to do too many things with this one ad) is actual adults who have been abused but have not made contact with support organisations or disclosed and the dark andgloomy approach can actually deter people from making that contact. Denial is protective and if the damage of CSA is overly catastrophized then people may choose denial and even a narrow semblance of a normal life over acknowledgement and disclosure. When you disclose things get much much worse for quite a long time and I think that people who are yet to disclose understand that instinctively.

    As Ita Buttrose says on the link from Fine, the sad thing is that many, many families do expect you to smile, stay connected to the abuser, get the hell over it and just shut up. They expect you to live out that scene and the script which sounds confronting when spoken aloud, is implicit in the conditions of that life where everyone knows but you are expected to continue on as if it is no big deal. I have a really well educated family but not once since I disclosed has one of my siblings a) rung to ask if I want to talk, b) said that they believe and support me (I know they do but they just can’t say it) c) said that they would come to the police/court for moral support if I choose to make a formal complaint. My mother was in the habit of dropping the abuser’s name in conversation and invited his mother to stay in my home. When I protested, she said she was going to ring them so they could get legal advice as she thought I was going to make a complaint to the police. I love and understand my mother and know why she is so screwed up on this issue – my disclosure threatened her own denial, denial about her own childhood which was Dickensian in its cruelty, and her only choice was to attack me. But I no longer have any contact with her because it would be like the kilkenny cats since I can’t live without talking about this and she can’t live unless she stays silent, we would scratch each other to death. At least two of my siblings were also abused so the same goes for them. They can’t support me because they are too busy surviving in their own way. Living as someone who has disclosed in a family of deniers is every bit as crazy as that scene. I think that many people who have been abused would feel a wry sense of recognition when viewing this ad.

    That said I can see the concern because if you are really enmeshed in your family, you may well believe that you have to forgive and that nothing is more important than maintaining the family bonds and it is very common for the person who was abused to take on that responsibility – to feel like it is up to them to keep everyone else happy. That after all is their training, they are there for other’s comfort and pleasure. I think this danger would have been in the minds of the people from ASCA and that their testing amongst people who were abused has lead them to believe that the danger is outweighed by the potential benefit. It is a really difficult call.

    One last thing before I climb down from my soapbox. It really shits me off when people make the kind of apologetic warning like the one at the beginning of that Life Matters piece “many of you are going to find this confronting”. It just makes me think Jaysus, if people who have experienced it can confront it then you can too so stop being a fucking precious little snowflake.

    I’ll transcribe it Lauredhel. Might take a little while .

  22. fuckpoliteness

    Yes Mortisha, that’s my biggest beef. That they are willing to use ‘shock tactics’ so far, but apparently calling rape rape is far too shocking and socially unacceptable. I don’t comprehend this, that it could POSSIBLY be deemed as more socially acceptable to have a dad referring to having sex with his child than raping her – since that is, under any definition what he did.

  23. su

    Holy fuck. I didn’t mean that to go on so long.

  24. Jet

    I saw this on the Age website with no commentary, just a “controversial new ad” tagline, and wanted a break from reading fire coverage. Mistake.

    What I hated about it was its message that this is what “getting over it” looks like. “Getting over it” apparently looks like every. single. person. present. thinking it’s a big joke, and the nauseating power dynamic between the father and daughter remaining the same. The rapist is held up as the subject of the ad, not the survivor, and so as others have noted, the result is that the rapist ‘got over it’, not the survivor. That’s completely ignoring the rape not sex issue, and that by having the daughter character and the rapist character give the punchline together, it reinforces the idea that the abuse is consensual and “asked for”.

    I agree with Anna, I think we’ll be hearing “don’t tell mum har har har” in jokes for awhile now. Which isn’t necessarily the fault of the ad, of course, but … ugh.

  25. Y

    The familiar is already infused with horror for survivors of child hood abuse. Who are they trying to convince?
    If you are providing a service to adult survivors they don’t need to know it’s not easy to get over, they don’t need to know the horror of having everyone around them ignore abuse.
    They are well aware.

  26. fuckpoliteness

    Su, our comments crossed over. I’m sorry to hear about your experiences and the lack of support in your family.

  27. su

    I appreciate that FP. Hoyden is a great and supportive community but I just want to say (at the risk of stating the obvious, something to which I’m partial : ) ) that I talk about it not for sympathy but because it is a political act to speak and claim the experience. I want to do my part to dismantle the stigma and help make what can be a mystifying phenomenon more concrete to people who don’t have the same experience. Also I’m only speaking for me and I respect all other opinions from people who have been abused and from those with other perspectives. I won’t fall in a heap if someone tells me I’m dead wrong with how I see this ad. IOW No kid gloves required . : )

  28. Deus Ex Macintosh

    I can see what they were trying to do, but it would have worked much better if you had the audience cringing and him doing it as the ‘embarrassing dad’s speech’.

    (And why did they have to give her my name…)

    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Illegal abduction for peaceful protest

  29. Another Anon

    I don’t know anyone in their right mind that would assume as people who have being sexually abused as a child would just “get over it”.

    Surprisingly, many, especially subsequent sexual partners.

  30. belledame222

    …the fuck??

  31. su

    It shows how risky any kind of ‘humor’ is as a weapon since it can backfire so easily. Especially with an ad campaign where the audience is so remote and the intended effects so ill defined. Maybe there is a problem with ” awareness raising” in general. If your only aim is to make people think then you would have to expect that people will think a whole range of things in response and some of those will be antithetical to your aims.

  32. Lalaroo

    Sydney shows that whilst it would be nice if people could just joke and be at ease about the terrible things that have happened to them, unfortunately they can’t. “

    Lauredhel, this really reaffirms what I spent a while trying to word in my first post, but finally gave up on. I was bothered by this phrase in the ad:
    If only it was this easy to get over child abuse. For more than 2 million Australians, it isn’t.
    As in, for some people it is, but there are 2 million Australians who are big babies and need extra help. Why don’t we help them out a bit?

    Shouldn’t the real point be “If only child abuse didn’t happen?” Not, “Given that child abuse will always be around and is totally expected, it sure would be great if the victims weren’t always whining about how much it hurt them, wouldn’t it?”

  33. Bene

    While I could appreciate the ad if it was meant to play up the sheer sickness factor of abuse, I find it pretty triggering as well–and I wasn’t physically abused, just emotionally. The ad agency’s statement seems to me that they aren’t entirely missing the point, but they aren’t able to articulate it worth a damn, which is a big problem.

    I also think the sheer oh my god I can’t believe that was on telly reaction that a lot of people would have to the ad would be far more prevalent than direct disgust towards abuse itself.

  34. Um…hi, I think ur doin it wrong… « random babble…

    [...] you can not watch this video for whatever reason, Lauredhel has a transcript.  I am not a rape/incest survivor, and I had to switch to the transcript just a [...]

  35. eibhear

    Another Anon: quite true!

  36. ASCA child abuse “Wedding” ad followup: transcript of the “Life Matters” discussion — Hoyden About Town

    [...] on the recently-launched ASCA child sexual abuse awareness advertisement campaign, as linked by Fine in comments on our post on the TV “Wedding” ad, “If only”? New child abuse [...]

  37. lucinda

    I appreciate what they are trying to do, but as someone who was raped repeatedly in childhood by a family member, I find it extremely nauseating that they are using the word “sex”. Not to mention triggering. We did not have sex. He raped me. He. raped. me. In the linked Life Matters transcript, they have no issues with using the word bashing in the radio ad. But apparently not so with the tv ad. They just can’t seem to call rape, rape. The fact that this is coming from the ASCA, of all places, frightens me immensely.

  38. Laura the Explora

    De-lurking to comment – as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I find this horrifying and very triggering. I can almost believe that the use of ‘sex’ instead of ‘rape’ is about using the language that a rapist would use – so I can (sort of) accept it as a matter of authenticity.
    But I can’t accept the ‘get over it’ message, even if that wasn’t what was intended. The whole scene, with the wedding reminded me of the movie “Festen”, about a man who confronts his father and family about the child sexual abuse he and his sister experienced at the hands of his father. He gets up and makes a ‘birthday toast’ where he makes a big speech about what happened, to this whole big table of people, and the whole family denies it. It’s horrifying to watch, but I think that something similar could have been used to better ends – it would have placed the bride at the centre of the issue, not her rapist. Even if everyone else was laughing and being horrible, she could have been serious… Her laughter is what hits hardest, because it’s such an unreasonable expectation from anywhere, let alone a survivor’s group, to say that we should all aspire to laugh it off with our rapists. I can’t imagine survivors who need support seeing this ad and thinking ‘that’s the service for me!’ Being told it ought to be easy to get over abuse doesn’t condemn the abuse itself; seeing people laughing at your pain doesn’t make you laugh too, just retreat further. I already know that no one gives a damn, that I need to shut up and get over it and reconcile with my abusers and blah blah blah. This just feels like salt in a wound coming from an unlikely source.

  39. QoT

    I hate to potentially show gross ignorance here, but in the transcript we get the line:

    we are particularly tackling a myth, a pervasive myth that it’s easy to get over child abuse and ASCA, Adults Surviving Child Abuse, is here to tell the Australian public and the government that it isn’t.

    Is there such a myth? And if there is, is the idea that child abuse is easy to get over actually a more pervasive problem, more worthy of paid ad time, than child abuse itself? There just seems to be a lot more repetition of the, “If only it was this easy to get over child abuse” line, which is just so problematic.

  40. redfiesta

    Interestingly, the print ad used the word RAPE, not sex: (from the ASCA website)

    I wonder why the difference?

    http://www.asca.org.au/associations/8549/files/TVC/ASCA%20Print%20T-Shirt.pdf

    The other print ads and radio ads are on there as well.

    I think there are valid comments here but the reality is I’ve encountered more random people talking about adults who have been abused as children than ever before. Maybe that’s a coincidence. Isn’t this level of debate a good thing?

  41. m

    coming from someone who was abused by her father, I find the ad very hard to swallow.

    yes an ad campaign needs to be directed at the general public to look for signs of abuse and to know that it can be anyone and how the victims lives can turn out if nothing is done.

    I don’t think making a joke of it would make anyone take it seriously enough to provoke them into action.

  42. The Tenth Down Under Feminists’ Carnival « Ideologically Impure

    [...] imply drunk chicks deserve what they get. Honest it doesn’t. Hoyden About Town covers the “If only”? New child abuse campaign, with it’s … fairly problematic tagline. Great discussion in the comments, [...]

  43. Complaints shift ASCA “Wedding” child abuse ad to late-night — Hoyden About Town

    [...] * Hoyden About Town: “If only”? New child abuse campaign. [...]

  44. Rachael

    I’m really suprised at the responses here. Obviously the advert doesn’t treat child abuse as a joke. It uses humour, not to belittle the issue, but to shock people. It was great to see the advert taking a new approach to the issue, instead of offering up the usual grim depiction of the ‘horrors’ of abuse.

    This ad bites through the taboo around incest. It’s designed to engage the general community – people that know nothing about abuse, and don’t want to – and I think it does that well. And for me, as a feminist, it offers up a pretty sharp satire on the traditional, patriarchal wedding to boot.

  45. paulina

    A friend told me that The Gruen Transfer looked at this ad tonight. Apparently one can watch the episode on the ABC website, but I can’t get the darn thing to play on my computer!

    Just wondering if any Hoydens watched it?

  46. Purrdence

    @ redfiesta: I wonder if it had been a woman in the print ad, would the advertisers used ‘sex’ instead of ‘rape’? I have noticed lately that the new stories and such that use ‘sex’ when they should be using ‘rape’ have been about when the victim has been female.

  47. P.P.

    Paulina, I saw it. I wasn’t paying close attention, but overall their reactions were very negative. One of them kept trying to point out that the ad was supposed to get people to talk about child sexual abuse, but nobody was really buying that I don’t think.
    Their deconstruction had nowhere near the clarity and insight that this thread has, unfortunately.

  48. Casey

    I think it also articulates an aspect of incest and child abuse that gets little attention. That is the insanity of being asked to behave normally while it goes on. Obvs to the viewer the situation is insane – that a father would joke about sex (read rape) with his daughter as he hands her over to the husband and the audience supports his statements with laughter. But thats a perfect metaphor for the reality of the world of the child victim.

    Being asked to behave normally while this goes on is for them, like being asked to walk a tightrope between insanity and sanity – and some dont make it. If they are able to they can still brush their teeth, go to dance classes, go to school, have friends, do their homework, and get abused and get told its love and get told not to tell. How insane is that for a child to manage? If they are not able they present with selective mutism and failure to thrive and conduct disorders. Or become alcoholics from the age of 11 as one of my friends did, to cope. Even then it doesn’t often get picked up.

    But the seamless conflation in this ad, of the very well known patriarchal ritual of handing over of the bride, coupled with the repulsion of incest as a normal part of familial relations – its making people recoil on this thread, – as it should. It makes no sense to any reasonable person, but it also makes perfect sense to some of those who were forced to accommodate the two worlds when they were way to young to psychologically cope with such an insane situation – a situation an adult could not tolerate let alone a child. Yet its exactly what child victims are expected to do – they are expected to integrate the every day with the insanity of abuse behind closed doors.

    It also articulates exactly how an abuser thinks. Its sex, not rape. She is his object to do with as he wants. He can take her and he can hand her over. I think its powerful for this reason.

    I would like to affirm all the responses here for the record. What works for some repels others and is too painful for others. I can only tell you my friend found it cathartic. She said to me this – “Welcome to the world, the world of my childhood”. If the silences could be filled with a narrative, this is the kind insanity that she endured – the conflation of the insanity of incest/abuse with the mundanity of every day life.

  49. tigtog

    @ Casey:

    What works for some repels others and is too painful for others.

    Your friend’s response is interesting, Casey, and reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from a TV show (after a murder): “Don’t you let anyone tell you that what you’re feeling is inappropriate. What happened is not an “appropriate” event.”

    From what I’ve read, the majority of public survivor responses to this ad are negative, expressing outrage at feeling their trauma triggered and trivialised. That doesn’t mean that your friend’s response is inappropriate. Sexual abuse, particularly as a child, is not an “appropriate” experience.

  50. Casey

    I know Tigtog. The people I’ve spoken to about it, hated the ad. But for some people Ive also spoken to, silence was as bad as the abuse. And in their lives, the shiny public face of the abuser remained intact. So in a way this ad rehearses the outing of the abuser and the way an abuser rationalises the abuse, and this ad presents it to the public for inspection, – and that is a deep relief to some. And the reaction of the public to the ad btw, the recoiling, the outrage at the lack of feeling for the victims feelings, – that also is a relief – because this also rehearses what a survivor who has not confronted the abuser cannot get – judgement and condemnation of the abuser via this ad. I mean its the disgusting father figure we are all recoiling from isnt it and the collusion that goes on all around him? People are complex and each situation is different. Let me again say that each and every response on this thread is completely valid. As you also say.

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