Harrowing PSA Reveals Hidden Prevalence of Domestic Abuse

Harrowing PSA Reveals Hidden Prevalence of Domestic Abuse

Nov. 27, 2020

Despite one in three women experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence at some point in their lives, it can often be difficult to notice when someone is suffering. In order to highlight the hidden prevalence of domestic abuse - and encourage people to help those in need - NO MORE has reunited with MRM and Great Guns for a harrowing new PSA that underscores just how near you may be to someone experiencing violence in their household. Entitled "The Safe Side", the PSA commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.


Directed by Norton, the understated spot begins with a man relaxing, listening to music on his bed. A faint knock from the neighbouring flat catches his attention, and he removes his headphones to listen closer. The film then seamlessly cuts to another household, as a woman enjoying a bath is also interrupted by a noise next door. We cut again to a mother playing with her child, where a louder noise echoes through the wall, shaking the ornaments on her shelf. As she picks up and comforts her child, the camera pans away from the room and into the neighbouring flat, revealing the source of the noise. Smashed plates and objects strewn across the floor signal the aftermath of domestic violence, as the caption reads ‘if you are on the safe side, please help those who aren’t’.

Norton worked closely with NO MORE and MRM to craft the subtly harrowing narrative. Starting with the notion that domestic violence can happen right next door without your knowledge, the team landed on a final script that employed seamless editing and camerawork to drive the message home. The subtle cuts between the first three households hearing the violence highlights just how often domestic abuse occurs, whilst the final panning shot shows just how close you may be to someone experiencing it. Norton also combined his own minimal approach to portraying violence on screen with the recognition that overt depictions of abuse could trigger victims.

Norton comments:

“Back when I lived in New York, I was once approached by detectives regarding a domestic violence incident next door. I was shocked, as I hadn’t picked up on all the signs to realise what was happening until then. I wanted this film to show these different stages of awareness through a compressed timeline, ending with the full reveal. To symbolise how many of us are having similar experiences as neighbours of domestic violence, I thought of this ‘choreography’ that connected the three characters, as if they were one. We’d cut on action between each scene, and cross the wall together with the audience, so that the reveal happened as the characters realised what’s truly behind it.”


Pamela Zaballa, Global Executive Director of NO MORE Foundation, adds:

“As COVID surges and the 16 Days of Activism begin, it’s important to call on everyone to help stop domestic violence that’s occurring literally and figuratively next door. We are extremely grateful to MRM and Great Guns for their incredible work and support.”


Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the team shot everything on separate days and, in some cases, on separate coasts of the US. Aside from the final shot of the film - which was completed last - Norton directed all scenes remotely with varying setups, ranging from watching playback on Facetime to full live monitoring via a connection to the camera. To aid in these new shooting methods, the team sourced DOPs that had multifaceted offerings - location, potential housemates who could act in the film, and quality of work.

In addition to the PSA, the campaign includes complementary posters and a radio spot, which NO MORE and its chapters will share throughout the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

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