While your favourite show went on a commercial break this week, you may have caught a PSA from the Ontario government that was so disturbing it made that hour-long depressing drama you were watching seem like an upbeat sitcom.
The ad is creepy and unsettling, but that’s clearly what the ad is going for.
The first part shows a man undressing a drunk woman while his pal records it. He then turns to the camera, and thanks us, the viewers, for keeping our traps shut.
The next scene shows a woman at her desk when a man hovers behind her and begins massaging her shoulders. He addresses the viewers, thanking us for minding our own beeswax.
The third scene shows a teenage boy showing scandalous photos of a girl that isn’t his girlfriend to his friends, thanking us for keeping his secret.
And the fourth shows a man drugging a woman’s drink at a bar, then he thanks us for not telling anyone.
The scenes are real and awful, with a Criminal Minds meets Degrassi undertone. They’re also about as subtle as an anvil being dropped on a coyote’s head. It’s Ontario’s plan to stop sexual violence and harassment by focusing on the root causes: unhealthy attitudes and behaviours, and gender inequality.
But after the icky scene, these messages hit the screen, “When you do nothing, you’re helping him. But when you do something, you help her.” Thankfully the ad takes a turn and this time, the women thank bystanders for stepping in. The PSA ends by forcing viewers to ask themselves: #WhoWillYouHelp?
One in three women will experience some form of sexual assault in her lifetime, according to the government of Ontario. It’s scary to thing that any of the ad’s scenarios would happen and we wouldn’t do anything. Hopefully this is the wake-up call for all of us who may have looked the other way in the past and will no longer think twice about stepping in.
For more information on the initiative and action plan, check out www.ontario.ca/WhoWillYouHelp.