Instead of blaming and shaming women for their mistreatment, this ad is putting the onus directly on those who actually commit the offences and more importantly the circumstances that encourage such behaviour.
‘Save the boy child and our girls won’t need saving’ is the message Delhi-based advertising company FCB Ulka (Finally Change Begins) wants to put across in their latest campaign.
Their advertising agencies new video, ‘Save The Boy Child,’ is an attempt to flip the script on rape culture and the mistreatment of women and urges for a change in the way society views and treats sexual abuse cases. The short video packs a punch by showing a group of young boy children pleading with their fathers to save them from becoming ‘rapists, misogynists, wife beaters, stalkers and molesters’ by teaching them correct values and setting positive examples. It suggests that by doing so, girls will be saved from sexual abuse.
Here’s the video:
In today’s world it’s hard to fathom why the female, or the victim of sexual assault, is the one that often ends up being scrutinized, often to the point of persecution. The blaming and shaming of girls and women who come forward in cases of sexual abuse is a global problem. In the majority of sexual offence cases, females gets blasted across the news; What was she wearing? Was she drinking? Could her behaviour have enticed the situation? Meanwhile we rarely get a glimpse of the perpetrator of the crime.
The campaign is the agencies attempt to challenge that. It says that it is time we prioritised our attention dealing with the problem itself i.e. the individual who has committed the crime rather than trying to blame and shame the victim. Importantly, it calls out the part of Indian culture that has allowed such attitudes to manifest in such harmful ways and calls for people to do their bit in helping to tackle it. The message in the campaign stresses that it’s time we focused less on policing women’s behaviour and more so on stopping sexual abuse from happening in the first place by tackling the problem at it’s roots and working to prevent sexual abuse as opposed to just responding to it.
The language used by the young boys in the campaign, ‘please save me,’ runs contrary to mainstream ideals on who the victims are in sexual abuse cases. The abuser is never seen as a victim. But this campaign implies that abusers can be victims too. Furthermore it suggests that sexual offenders are often individuals who as children were corrupted or led astray by immoral influences and distorted norms of behaviour, which ultimately have led them to committing such crimes. It’s almost as if the perpetrator is not to blame but a victim of their own behaviour.
There has been much research, in the West especially, that has explored this view of offenders being victims too. It is now widely understood that violence is the result of factors and not simply because some individuals are ‘just bad people.’ As a response to such thinking, rehabilitation of offenders is widely practiced and is a method that has been adopted into the penal systems of many countries across the globe. Rehabilitation doesn’t devoid the individual of personal accountability, however it has a core assumption that crime is determined, or at least heavily influenced, by a person’s social surroundings, psychological development, or biological makeup thus the individual can be changed or ‘saved’ from committing criminal acts.
Halden prison in Norway aka ‘the world’s most humane prison’ is an example of a system using this approach in its response to the country’s crime. The country relies on a concept called “restorative justice,” a type of rehabilitation which aims to repair the harm caused by crime rather than punish people. Halden has been criticised (mostly from non-Norwegians) for being a holiday camp for criminals with it’s facilities like those of a modern hotel.
But with the the lowest criminal re-offence rates in the world at 20%, and with an incarceration rate of just 75 per 100,000 people, Halden must be getting something right.
It is difficult, however, to think of such an example in the context of the message upholding the ‘Save the Boy Child’ campaign. That being, if behaviour is influenced by external factors then with the right stimuli we can put an end to sexual abuse altogether and save women from becoming victims of mistreatment and sexual abuse. It may be even more difficult to conceive that perhaps before individuals became perpetrators of sexual abuse, they were once children that were let down by their families and society.
Although the reality of sexual abuse is more complex, the campaign does hone in on a critical point. We, as individuals who make up society, have a collective duty to do our utmost to teach our children the best and most moral way to live. To raise them, using our actions and not just our words, to become adults of outstanding character who treat all others with dignity and respect. To protect them from erroneous views and damaging ideals by demonstrating correct behavioural standards.
Maybe then we could save both our boy children and our girl children.