More than a Black Eye! The Effect of Violence Exposure in Anti-IPV Campaigns: An Abstract
Conceptualized as any physical, psychological or sexual harm by a current or former partner, intimate partner violence (IPV) directly affects one in three women (Walters, Chen & Breiding, 2013). This scenario led the World Health Organization (WHO, 2014) to state intimate partner violence as a global and severe public health issue. Over the last decades, governmental organizations, antiviolence associations and private corporations have put considerable effort into antiviolence campaigns to tackle IPV (Keller & Honea, 2015). One of the primary goals of these campaigns is to raise society awareness about IPV severity and motivate people to engage in the fight against IPV. To attracting viewers’ attention, campaigns commonly use images with strong violence content (victims with physical bruises and with a sad or fearful face) to show the consequences of an IPV episode. These pictures are used to present viewers an unknown reality, increasing empathy and their engagement in the fight against IPV.
This research shows that the strategy of portraying violence can backfire antiviolence campaigns goals. Although images portraying victims with violence marks can indeed increase people attention to the ad, it can also reinforce the belief that IPV means physical aggression. Showing severe physical IPV consequences, despite importance, is distorted from the majority of IPV episodes, which do not involve physical but psychological harassment. This narrow presentation can lead to a biased view that IPV is mainly punctual episodes of strong physical harm; we call it the “not punch = not IPV” belief. Additionally, victims’ image with severe bruises and a hopeless face can increase people’s labels towards victims, such as weak, submissive and with an extremely dysfunctional family environment; we call it the “battered woman stereotype”. This stereotype can lead viewers to isolate victims as women that have some particular characteristics, increasing with that their perceived distance to the victim identity (Zalava, 2010). More importantly, it can decrease people’s perception of IPV severity and their susceptibility to suffer from it.
In the research that follows, we present four studies supporting that the portrayal of violence can increase IPV stereotypes and backfire anti-IPV ad goals. We initially show the dimensions of the stereotype towards IPV victims and further investigate the influence ads portrayal of violence on these judgments. Studies 1a and 1b show the different dimensions (e.g. appearance, personality, social environment) that victims are (miss) judged. Study 2, a quasi-experiment field study, and study 3, a lab replication, show that the portrayal of violence in antiviolence campaigns can reinforce the “battered woman stereotype” and the “not a punch = not IPV” belief. We also demonstrate that showing an ad with violence can lead to lower perceptions of IPV severity and susceptibility. Finally, study 4 shows that the presence of violence in an anti-IPV campaign can mine victims’ intention to talk their violence episode for fearing they will be stigmatized or for not identifying themselves as victims.