The Woman in This PSA Is Free but Still Trapped in a Prison and Can’t Just Leave

A situation more common than you know

Headshot of T.L. Stanley

Lori, an abused wife and mom in Michigan, spent two years squirreling away money—hiding bills in a tampon box—until she had the means to escape her violent partner. 

Her story is the basis of a new campaign, #FreeToWalk, from the Allstate Foundation and ad agency Leo Burnett, with a stark and chilling video as its centerpiece. 

The short film, called "America's Largest Prison Break," paints an everyday suburban home as a jail where the victim of domestic violence can't "just leave" because her abuser controls the purse strings. The victim is seen pacing around a cell, with the abuser's insults and threats used as a taunting voiceover. 

TRIGGER WARNING: domestic abuse.

Focusing on the reality of dollars-and-cents dependence makes the film slightly different from other domestic abuse PSAs, with stats to back up the approach. Data from the nonprofit says that in 99 percent of domestic violence cases, victims also experience financial abuse, which includes ruined credit and lost jobs. 

Financial abuse is the No. 1 reason why victims stay in or return to abusive relationships, according to the foundation's Purple Purse initiative. "Financial abuse is an invisible weapon that's just as effective as a lock and key in controlling victims," Vicky Dinges, svp of corporate responsibility at Allstate Insurance, said in a statement.

In the dozen or so years that the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse has existed, it's helped over 800,000 domestic violence survivors with financial education, job training and other tools to help rebuild their lives. Kerry Washington, star of ABC's Scandal, just re-signed for her third year as ambassador for the program, which aims to raise awareness and funds for emergency shelters and other domestic violence programs around the country. 


Client: Allstate Foundation

Agency: MSLGROUP/Leo Burnett

Campaign: Purple Purse

Name of Ad: America's Largest Prison Break

CCO: Britt Nolan

Executive Creative Director: Charley Wickman

Creative Director: John Kistner, Scott Smith, Mikal Pittman

Art Director: Denison Kusano, Lindsay Stevens

Copywriter: Jeremy Adams, Melanie Sawyer

Group Executive Producer: Veronica Puc

Producer: Leah Karabenick

Production Company: Greenhouse

Director: Mikal Pittman

DP: Paul Cameron

Line Producer: Jonathan Becker

Editorial: Greenhouse

Editor: Greg Somerlot

Color: Filmworkers

Colorist: Jeff Altman

VFX: Ang Puglise

Music: Human

Recording Studio: Another Country

Account: Varsha Kaura, Sheila Berlman, Kelly Chuipek, Josh Crost

PR: Amy Cheronis, Lynsey Elve, Lily Merritt

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.