March 17, 2015 1:10 pm
Updated: March 17, 2015 1:24 pm

Ontario government’s PSA goes viral, urges onlookers to stop sexual assaults

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WATCH ABOVE: Ontario government’s provocative new PSA challenges bystanders to stop sexual assaults

TORONTO – An Ontario government ad urging bystanders to intervene and stop sexual harassment has gone viral, being picked up and subtitled by activists around the world.

The provocative ad features four vignettes of men assaulting women, with the man, in each case, thanking the viewer for not stopping him.

The ad, titled #WhoWillYouHelp, has been viewed nearly 245,000 times on YouTube. It has also been uploaded to the Facebook accounts of activist groups in Turkey and Portugal, where the video has been shared a combined 88,000 times and viewed nearly 4 million times.

In the first vignette, an obviously drunk woman is fondled by one man while being filmed by another. The first man turns to the camera and says “thanks for keeping your mouth shut.”

The second vignette shows a woman working in an office is massaged by a man who appears to be a supervisor. He looks at the camera and says “thanks for minding your own business.”

In the third vignette, a teenager is showing photos of a girl to his friends and says “thanks for not telling my girlfriend.”

In the fourth and last vignette, a man is seen slipping something into a woman’s drink. He turns to the camera and says “thanks for not telling anyone.”

A voiceover says “when you do nothing, you’re helping him… but when you do something, you help her.”

The ad is part of the Ontario government’s “It’s Never Okay” action plan which also includes an investigation of how post-secondary institutions handle complaints about sexual violence.

“I think it’s a powerful ad campaign and it’s long overdue,” Maureen Adams, the director of advocacy and communications for YWCA Toronto said in an interview Tuesday.

Premier Kathleen Wynne screened the ad at the YWCA and Adams said there was a “buzz” in the room about its “powerfulness.”

“It’s difficult, but it’s necessary,” she said.

“This campaign ad is very strong in that area and it covers a number of the kinds of incidents that women experience and it’s pretty graphic. And also it gives hope to people about the importance of bystander intervention,” she continued.

What the ad does well, she said, is highlight the immediate effect that sometimes silent bystanders can have on stopping violence against women.

“Everyone will have a reaction to one of the different images,” Adams said.

Coming forward is one of the barriers to stopping domestic violence; less than one third of domestic violence incidents were reported to police in 2009 down from 36 per cent in 2004, according to a report by the Ontario government.

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