Esta Soler, CEO of Futures Without Violence
By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleOfSocialChange.org
As the sounds of an abusive husband interrogating his partner intensify off-screen, a camera pans up a flight of stairs.
A young boy, maybe 3, sits in knitted pajamas at the top of the staircase, cradling a plastic yellow truck. He listens intently as the sickening cacophony grows, while his parents’ shadows dance off the walls.
Screams and shouts turn to tears and pleading before the sharp crack of a blow reverberates throughout the house.
Though we never the see the punch, the impact is clear. The boy drops the toy truck, and the camera follows the boy’s stunned and searching face as the screen goes black.
This 30-second “There’s No Excuse for Domestic Violence” ad first ran in the summer of 1994, part of the first national public service campaign aimed at preventing domestic violence.
For longtime domestic violence advocate Esta Soler, the ad that her organization helped produce represents both a historic achievement in the drive to halt domestic violence and a trenchant reminder of the current struggle to recognize and prevent child trauma.
“That little kid on the stairs tells that story really clearly,” Soler said in a recent interview with The Chronicle of Social Change. “We’ve actually been talking about child trauma and exposure to violence in the home going back to the very beginning of when we started to do this work.”
In 1994, when the arrest of footballer and screen celebrity OJ Simpson drew unprecedented attention toward violence against women, Soler sat ready, armed with well-produced television ads and the stories of victims of domestic violence that would enter the zeitgeist at just the right moment to drive sweeping policy reform.