Let’s talk about: making jokes about domestic violence

Snapchat is not exactly known for tact. The app itself is used to exchange snappy messages, often with embarrassing photos or filters that somebody might not want to keep around for too long. I’m sure they’re now wishing their own ads had disappeared quickly. The one in question cost them four per cent of their stock in less than 48 hours. When you’re working in 100s of dollars like we are that light not seem like too much but when you’re a powerful and wealthy company like Snapchat four per cent adds up to about a billion dollars. Imagine what you could do with that money.

All Snapchat got for it was an add for an app that gave you the option to “slap Rihanna or punch Chris brown.” Analyzing the costs against the benefits, it wasn’t worth the press coverage.

Rihanna used to date Chris Brown but stopped after a very famous domestic violence incident in 2009. The punishment for Brown was light, despite photos of Rihanna after the attack making their way around the media. His career has suffered surprisingly little. Rihanna has gone on to even greater success both as a musician and an advocate for the rights of women. When this powerful woman saw this ad, which she said was making light of domestic violence, she called Snapchat out. Within 48 hours of her post, the social media company had seen the drop in their stocks. Somebody made a pretty big mistake.Screen_Shot_2018_03_15_at_12.12.18_PM

Some might say that the mistake was pissing off an important person, but the issue goes deeper than that. While the social media giant wasn’t around in 2009, it’s the same type of reaction that almost always results from domestic violence claims. It somehow becomes a joke or a game of “did  they deserve it?” as in the 2016 case of Amber Heard and husband Johnny Depp. She filed for divorce and took out a restraining order against the actor, claiming (again with photos) that he had attacked her, but the media either made a joke of it or tried to dig up every bit of dirt they could in the actress in an attempt to prove that Depp was not guilty because she wasn’t a perfect human. His career was not affected.

Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence as it is often termed, is a serious problem. As such it should be addressed seriously in the media. According to Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on Victimization, most recently dated 2009, six percent of people with a current or former spouse reported having been physically or sexually victimized by that spouse in the previous five years, and 64 per cent of people who had children and had experienced violence at the hands of an ex-spouse noted that their children had seen or heard it happening.

The survey also showed that less than 25 per cent of people who experience this type of violence report it to police. It is estimated that the Canadian government spends about $7.6 billion every year because of family violence.

Domestic violence is often looked at as a family problem. For generations, even in my own family, people have talked about how something like that is just something that happens and couples should ‘work through’ their problems and ‘stay together for the kids.’ Perpetrators are often punished only with court mandated anger management classes that only help for a little while, or with nothing at all if their victims are not able to report them.

Snapchat’s choice to make a joke out of this serious and prevalent problem only adds to the stigma surrounding domestic violence victims and survivors. Not everyone is Rihanna. Not everyone can speak up for themselves and cost a multi-billion dollar company nine figures. Lots of people who experience domestic violence are trapped in their situation for years, never manage to escape, or end up as one of the 70 or so Canadians who are murdered by their spouse in Canada each year. Maybe Snapchat should stick to what they’re good at, and add more breeds to the dog face filter instead of joking about serious social issues.

The company later removed the ad and issued a statement via the BBC saying “the advert was reviewed and approved in error, as it violates our advertising guidelines. We immediately removed the ad last weekend, once we became aware. We are sorry that this happened.”


Domestic violence can happen to anyone,
regardless of the race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, level of education (or any number of other factors) of either the victim or the perpetrator. It can be a difficult situation to admit to or get out of, but if you, or someone you know, is experiencing physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner, there are services available that can help.You can reach Brock’s Sexual Violence Response and Education Coordinator by visiting Decew 214, calling 905 688 5550 x4387, or sending an email to acadwallader@brocku.ca. You can also seek out Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Programs at both the St. Catharines General hospital (905 378 4647 x45300) and the Juravinski and Hamilton General Hospitals (905 521 2100 x73557). You can also reach Brock University’s 24-hour emergency security services at x3200. For help by text, reach A Safer Brock, the university’s sexual violence text support line at 289-990-7233, available 24-hours.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger,
call 911 right away.


‘Let’s Talk About’ is a weekly column about major social issues affecting Brock students and the community at large. We seek to hear from everyone in the community about the issues that affect them personally.  If you have an issue that you’d like to write about, including feminist issues, LGBTQ+ issues, racism, sexism, ableism, etc., please send us your opinions. For submissions and guidelines for publication, please inquire at opinion@brockpress.com.

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