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Inside the NO MORE PSA Campaign: An Interview with Maile Zambuto and Rachel Howald
- By Neesha Arter
A year ago, NO MORE launched a national campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault. This courageous movement has garnered attention across the country, from small communities to the Obama Administration. In September of 2013, the Joyful Heart Foundation, as part of the NO MORE movement, launched a captivating PSA campaign to raise national awareness around these pressing issues. Taking on the deeply engrained stigma, shame and victim-blaming culture around these issues, the fearless team behind the PSAs is committed to engaging bystanders and starting the big conversation. I had the chance to sit down with Joyful Heart Foundation’s CEO, Maile Zambuto, and the Creative Director of the NO MORE PSAs, Rachel Howald, to get the behind the scenes look at the campaign.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, as one of the many championing organizations behind the NO MORE movement, took on a leading role in the creation of the PSA campaign. How did you come up with the PSA concept?
Maile Zambuto: For years, it had been a dream of Mariska’s to do a very large-scale PSA campaign at Joyful Heart, so when NO MORE was created and started to gain traction, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to get behind it. We knew we wanted to make the message universal and utilize both men and women in the campaign. We also wanted it to be celebrity-driven because we have extraordinary advocates like Mariska. We haven’t seen something like this before, so we knew that it would be even more effective if there were tons of influential people standing with her on this message, and we really wanted to push the envelope.
NO MORE is about changing people’s attitudes and the stigma that comes with them. It recognizes the progress that has been made over the past 40+ years, but has also established where we still need to go, which is moving this conversation from the margins into the mainstream and turning up the volume.
Rachel Howald: The PSA concept came out of this vast network of high-profile supporters from across a spectrum of industries who have always offered their support to this issue space. The PSAs were the perfect chance to tap into that network. The creative work itself came from the simplicity and truth of the entire NO MORE proposition. In meeting with Joyful Heart and NO MORE members, the words and phrases of what they were saying “no more” to really resonated. The work was created to be as honest, simple and universally true as possible. It's taking what we all say without thinking and playing it back through famous faces and voices to point out—in a non-blaming way—that maybe we should be rethinking the fact that we ignore these issues.
Why do you think people make so many excuses?
MZ: I think these are deeply ingrained, strongly held beliefs that a lot of people have. This is really about people being open to examining their own attitudes and beliefs. It’s not about fault or pointing the finger. I think it’s about what we’re subjected to in the world—in conversations, in socialization, in institutions, in school and in the media. We wanted to challenge people to examine their own attitudes and hold each other accountable.
RH: It's much easier to deny a problem than try to fix it. And those excuses have been passed down for generations, so they are now ingrained in all of us.
How is this campaign going to change people’s attitudes about sexual assault & domestic violence?
MZ: The goal of this campaign is to start a conversation. These issues survive because of silence. So much of our focus has been, "we could make more progress if victims were courageous and came forward." As someone who has done that many times, to be received by people in your life and communities that have these deeply entrenched attitudes makes it really, really hard.
We want to put the focus on society-at-large to take responsibility for their beliefs and attitudes. I think change comes with increasing conversation about zero tolerance for this. And at the end of the day, our goal is the visibility of the NO MORE symbol. Our belief is the movement of standing together, in the way that we’ve seen with breast cancer and HIV/AIDS, is what we hope NO MORE will be to these issues.
RH: This campaign will get people to acknowledge that sexual assault and domestic violence exist. We can't end these problems until we say they are, in fact, real. And this campaign will shed a light on these issues and help draw people's attention to them.
What made you choose the celebrities that were featured in the PSAs?
MZ: We wanted a really diverse mix of men and women because we wanted the PSAs to be gender-neutral. And honestly, this was a group who were willing to stand with us—show up on a Saturday afternoon, not get paid and were committed to put the weight of their image and celebrity behind us. They’ve all gotten behind this message in a big way, and many of them have in other ways, stood up for these issues and others were very new to this. It was quite a mix but we were specific about choosing people who we admire and respect.
It is a common misconception that sexual assault is exclusively a women's issue, how can this campaign help men heal as well?
MZ: Much of the campaign, up until this point, has been focused on men as allies to ending violence against women and children. However, we also recognize that men are victims too. We actually have a long history of addressing that with one of our partners called 1in6. Also, we have in development a new series of print PSAs geared toward male survivors and all the specific attitudes and beliefs that people hold about male victimization. We’re in production now and you will see it very, very soon.
The objective of the campaign is to get the conversation going, but what steps should people take after the conversation has begun?
MZ: I think the biggest call to action for us is NOMORE.org. It’s an exceptional resource and online place where people can come together. It’s a great way to stand with NO MORE and “say it, share it and show it.” Everything we ask you to do is on there, and it’s very simple. What I would also say is people are often so surprised when they are brave enough to have these conversations in whatever circle they’re in. So be that listening ear and bear witness to someone and their experience. We often hear from survivors that the response of those around them is even more important for their healing, their well-being and their triumph over this than what happened to them. Without judgment and without having to be the expert, the act of listening to what someone has suffered through is such a powerful thing to do and can literally save or change someone’s life.
President Obama recently launched a new initiative on sexual assault on college campuses. How do you think this will change society’s perception of the issue?
MZ: I think it’s a huge step. We have been blessed to have Vice President Biden and the Obama Administration as incredible advocates for these issues. We’re very grateful for them absolutely standing with us, with NO MORE. And these conversations are being held at a grassroots level in communities all across the country. Whether it’s one person watching the PSAs on the computer monitor or a community discussion, this is being taken seriously. This demonstrates the level of priority and the need for change at the highest level.
As someone who deals with these heavy topics on a daily basis, what motivates you to remain positive? What do you do when it begins to weigh on you?
MZ: I’ve been doing this work for over twenty years because of my personal connection. I was sexually abused for most of my childhood and raped when I was in college. The commitment to my healing and well-being was what kept me in the thick of this work. To be honest with you, what mostly keeps me doing this work is that I have kids. I have a son and a daughter and I’m inspired to make things different for them.
I’m very hopeful and there are so many people that are doing this work and are in the trenches. We’ve also seen such a change in the past year with NO MORE from the President to the Vice President wearing the pin to the NBA getting behind this. I go to the NO MORE website every night and see what beautiful things people share and it all gives me hope. Mariska gives me a lot of hope too. She is probably the most optimistic, fearless, passionate advocate I’ve met and she is full of inspiration. It’s hard not to feel hopeful when you’re around someone who shines so brightly.
Besides PSAs do you have any other projects in the works? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
MZ: This PSA is a three-year commitment. We have shot and have ready to go two other campaigns that will be released over the next two and a half years, and of course, we’re working on the print campaign geared towards the excuses male survivors hear. We will have a series of events this coming week, which marks the one-year anniversary around the launch of NO MORE, so we’re planning another event in D.C.
We invite you to get involved to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault.
Learn about these issues and talk openly about them. Break the silence. Speak out. Seek help when you see this problem or harassment of any kind in your family, your community, your workplace or school. Upload your photo to the NO MORE gallery and tell us why you say NO MORE.
Help raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault by sharing NO MORE. Share the PSAs. Download the Tools to Say NO MORE and share NO MORE with everyone you know. Facebook it. Tweet it. Instagram it. Pin it.