The People Opposing Women Abuse advert encourages the public to report domestic violence  and not to complain only when noise affects them.

Johannesburg -

Four years ago, it went viral. It had everyone talking and was deemed powerful by the more than 500 000 people who viewed it on YouTube.

And it’s an issue advocacy group People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) still feel is as relevant today - and that’s why its advert promoting domestic violence awareness is back on the screens.

The advert - done pro bono for Powa by advertising agency Ogilvy - was an actual experiment by the company done at an upmarket Joburg townhouse complex.

It starts off with a young man playing his drums loudly in his living room at night. A security guard knocks on his door to deliver a complaint from neighbours.

The voice of a neighbour is heard also complaining about the noise.

The next day, the drumming continues, and so do the complaints by the neighbours.

However, on a different night, when the man plays a recording of a man and woman having what is very audibly a violent fight, none of the neighbours complain about the noise.

“Since the advert was done in 2010, we’ve been constantly using it in our campaigns to say neighbours need to take a stand against domestic violence,” said Nhlanhla Mokwena, a director at Powa.

Mokwena said the recent focus on the trial of Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, was an impetus to having the ad run again.

While the State has built its case to show that Pistorius pumped bullets into Steenkamp in a fit of rage following an argument, Pistorius’s version has been that he mistook her for an intruder.

The State called a handful of neighbours who said they heard screaming voices or noises at Pistorius’s Silver Woods Country Estate on the night of the shooting.

“It could be that other neighbours didn’t want to get involved, a lot of people don’t want to be witnesses, and the justice system is so scary. But we need good men and women to be those witnesses,” Mokwena said.

She added that in 2010, the advert became such a hit that it invoked discussions on all sorts of platforms, particularly the media.

Mokwena said she hoped it would rouse the same kind of dialogue and create more awareness.

“And for those who are afraid of a neighbour turning their violence on them, you can be creative in creating distractions for the perpetrator so that the survivor can get away,” she added.

Sonke Gender Justice Network spokesman Mbuyiselo Botha echoed Mokwena’s sentiments.

“Domestic violence has become normalised… society is so desensitised these days. People have an attitude of ‘I will not get involved’, whereas if one could just call 10111 and alert the police anonymously, it would make a difference,” he said.

The advert, which ends off with the tagline “1 400 women are killed every year by their partners”, will run on DStv channels for a month.

“Sometimes you’d rather be wrong about a situation than right. Sometimes it just takes alerting security, who will knock on the fighting couple’s door to cool them off, even if the argument was not violent,” Botha said.

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The Star