Powerful #WhatSheWasWearing PSA Illustrates the Shaming of Sexual Assault Victims

Energy BBDO turned a poet's words into a shareable video

Most of the women who appear in the video are Energy BBDO employees. PAVE
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

Despite the progress our culture may have made on addressing matters of sexual harassment, assault and rape, the vast majority of such attacks continue to go unreported.

A new pro-bono campaign created by advocacy group PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment), actor and spoken word artist Steve Connell and ad agency Energy BBDO explores one reason why: a tendency for women who come forward to be scrutinized, criticized and shamed.

Connell and PAVE founder Angela Rose, who was herself a victim of kidnapping and sexual assault in 1996, first began collaborating years ago—well before the stories of Harvey Weinstein and others sparked a long-delayed cultural shift.

“I was just out in the world and someone saw my work, felt there was a connection and reached out … she and I have been joined at the hip ever since,” he said.

The new project, called What She Was Wearing, aims to encourage survivors of sexual violence to come forward by raising awareness of the challenges they face. It centers on a spoken word piece written and performed by Connell.

Rose told Adweek that PAVE uses this clip and other materials in assault response and survivor training sessions at military bases, high schools and conferences around the country.

“This piece of art speaks to how prevalent victim-blaming is, even by well-meaning family and friends,” she said—and repeated studies show that initial responses to disclosures of harassment and assault can “literally save victims’ lives.”

Energy BBDO worked with PAVE on this year’s #RespectHer Valentine’s Day project, and Rose recently played the Connell performance for the agency while in their Chicago office. “They literally had chills,” she said—and the creative team quickly got to work on developing the longer piece for social media’s 60-second attention span economy.

Senior copywriter Brynna Aylward described the effort as “a new packaging for [Connell’s] performance.” Global creative director Cinzia Crociani said, “It was a quick turnaround. We heard the poem and loved it … in 12 hours we came up with a concept and got people from the agency to help us.”

The team made the video in time squeezed out between meetings, work and an ongoing pitch, said Crociani. And most of the women featured are, in fact, Energy BBDO employees.

The campaign is currently running on Instagram and other social platforms.

Connell said that Bill Cosby’s recent conviction on sexual assault charges marked “a turning point” in the global conversation about sexual violence.

“I think we’ve come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” said Rose, who has been a professional advocate for more than two decades. “I was kidnapped by a man on parole … and was asked what I was wearing and accused of lying. I know those things are still happening and it’s still very difficult for people to come forward.”

She also said that, while the #MeToo movement has had great influence, it has also been “very triggering” for some survivors.

In addition to pro-bono work like this campaign, Rose often collaborates on projects with similar advocacy organizations across the country. One example is an art exhibit consisting of clothing that victims were wearing when they were assaulted.

Meanwhile, Connell plans to continue performing works in the series that spawned the campaign. “I’m somebody who makes his living with his voice, and Angela makes hers reminding people how important their voices are,” he said.

The full version of his performance is below.


Agency: Energy BBDO
Client: PAVE
Campaign: “What She Was Wearing”

Talent: Writing and Performance by Steve Connell

Chief Creative Officer: Andrés Ordóñez
Executive Creative Director: Josh Gross
Executive Creative Director: Pedro Pérez
Creative Director: Cinzia Crociani
Associate Creative Director: Brynna Aylward

Executive Producer: Matt Scoville
Digital Content Producer: Sarah James

Production Company: Flare Chicago
Executive Producer: Mitch Monzon
Senior Post Producer: Jenny McDonald
Managing Editor: Casey Cobler
Junior Preditor: Geoffrey Neal
Studio/Post-Production Intern: Desmond Penn

Production: Company 3 Chicago
Head of Production: Lauren Roth
Producer: Joanna Woods
Colorist: Tyler Roth

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: May 2, 2018 https://dev.adweek.com/agencies/powerful-whatshewaswearing-psa-illustrates-the-shaming-of-sexual-assault-victims/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT