Allstate, Leo Burnett unveil devastating film about "Financial Abuse"

The #FreeToWalk campaign captures the awful reality of abused women who can't "just leave"

"Why didn’t she just leave?" It’s a common refrain directed at women—particularly mothers—trapped in abusive relationships.  The reasons, of course, are many, including the control an abusive spouse can assert over his victim’s finances. Relocating a family requires money, and abused women often don’t have any.

A new social campaign captures an overlooked fact about domestic abuse— victims don’t often have enough money to get out of their violent environments.

On Tuesday, The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse and Leo Burnett launched a social campaign that seeks to spread awareness of the link between domestic and financial abuse. Titled #FreeToWalk , the campaign centers on a chilling video, "America’s Largest Prison Break," inspired by one survivor’s true story.

"Lori," a mother from Michigan, finally broke out of her abusive relationship after secretly storing money for almost two years. Lori would add small amounts of cash to her checks she wrote at the grocery store. Once at home, she hid the bills inside tampon applicators in her bathroom, and when she had collected enough money, she divorced her husband and left with her children.

According to Leo Burnett, the video is based on a study by the Center for Financial Security which found that 99% of women who experience domestic abuse are also mistreated financially.

"You feel like a jerk when you learn it, at least I felt like a jerk because when you hear about abuse, you wonder why they just don’t leave," said Charley Wickman, EVP and Executive Creative Director at the Publicis agency. "Of course they’d like to leave. Of course they’d like to get out, but they are financially trapped in their situation. If you have no money in your purse and no credit whatsoever, you can’t go anywhere. Money gives options, and that’s the thing that people don’t understand."

It’s the first social campaign for The Allstate Foundation Purple Purse, a charity organization that has provided financial empowerment to more than 800,000 victims of domestic violence. ‘Scandal’ star Kerry Washington serves as ambassador for the foundation. On Tuesday at the United States of Women Summit at the White House, Washington announced her return for her third year.

For the 90-second ad, Leo Burnett uses a jail cell to represent how a home feels when someone cannot leave an abusive environment because of a lack of money, according to Wickman. The ad will run online and on all social channels.  

The goal was to create something "inherently viral" so that people could learn about the financial fears of victims of abuse. "That’s the key—how do I get everyone in America to understand why it’s terrible and to act," said Wickman, "That’s the way to really fix it."

Wickman wants #FreeToWalk to stand above normal PSAs, such as the NFL’s domestic violence ad for nonprofit No More, he said.

"Largely what I see in those efforts is ‘hey, domestic violence is bad’ and everyone goes ‘yeah it’s terrible,’ but nobody knows anything about it," said Wickman, "We can all agree that it’s terrible. The question is, can you understand why the issue is terrible, and then being moved because you understand, to do something about it."

Leo Burnett has previous experience working with the theme of empowerment, especially in the #LikeAGirl campaign for P&G’s Always. In the most recent social campaign in March, the agency called out the stereotypical ways women are represented in emojis and asked girls to post about the emojis they would like to see.

"#LikeaGirl was brilliant and caught on like wildfire, and I think this campaign is just as compelling," said Wickman, "If you want people to reach for their wallets, you have to reach for their hearts."


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