Can Social Networking Prevent Domestic Violence?

Rus Hotel, Kiev, Ukraine

Rick Flint and Ekaterina Sitnikova

The second leg of my European Tour is over. It was an extraordinary and great experience.

On 17 June, I ran two seminars for an EU-funded conference in Kiev. The conference focused on Child Abuse and Domestic Violence.

My task was to suggest ways that online social networking could help prevent domestic violence.

I prepared for this fairly seriously, and was given a very helpful briefing by Joanna Lee, a psycho-therapist at The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. She made clear various chains of events which could lead to both child abuse and domestic violence, which then gave me direction in identifying the points in a deteriorating relationship where social networking might be helpful in restoring sanity.

After a week’s work, I came to the surprising conclusion that social networking might make things worse.

Firstly, none of the usual sites, such as Facebook, were ever set up to help battered and bloodied wives. What women and children need is a helpline with a human being at the other end of the phone, who will treat the call in confidence and give practical advice.

Secondly, for many women in Ukraine, getting on to the internet can be extremely difficult. And, thirdly, there’s a good chance their husbands can find out fairly easily what they’ve been doing if the woman doesn’t know how to remove traces of her browsing history. And that will only make things worse.

However, there are plenty of government and NGO sites around the world which offer good examples for Ukraine. We looked at The USA, Australia and The UK. British examples include The NSPCC which hosts Childline, Refuge and Women’s Aid.

We also looked at television advertising in the three countries, which required a tough stomach, especially the Chopper Reid commercial which provoked a vigorous debate.

Ukraine was fairly heavily criticised by Amnesty International in 2006. I had the report with me, but didn’t really need it. Everyone seemed to have read the document and were taking its observations and recommendations seriously.

Finally, at the closing session, I took everyone through the Dove case history. The central insight was that beauty advertising “made ordinary women feel lousy” in the words of Daryl Fielding, who came up with the idea. Most of the delegates at the conference were women, and they loudly applauded Dove’s aim of making women feel great about themselves.

The conference was funded by the EU, and there were, I think twelve speakers, including Rick Flint who was the man responsible for making certain the EU’s money wasn’t wasted. Ekaterina Sitnikova who was the organising genius. Their photo is at the top of the page. I was part of a team of three from The European Association of Communications Agency’s School.

And, if either Rick or Katya are reading this, please remember me when you next organise a conference. I’d love to be involved again. The EU’s money was extremely well spent.

The next leg of my European Tour is Paris 7-8 July, followed by a long anticipated lunch with Karine Marty-Friedberger of Euro RSCG BETC.