NO MORE, the shadowy organization credited with the NFL’s misleading 2015 Super Bowl public service announcement video, is rapidly accomplishing what it said it was going to do, become the “overarching” symbol of the domestic violence and sexual assault movements. Today is Super Bowl Sunday, and once again NO MORE will make a public service announcement for the NFL during the game.
Ever since Diana Moskovitz declared NO MORE a “sham,” I’ve been trying to figure out who they are. It’s not easy, and they (whoever they are at the moment) tell the public only what they want us to know. For months, I searched the web for more information. A picture of a premeditated, fraudulent campaign to hijack and merge the domestic violence and sexual assault movements has gradually revealed itself. Some of what I present today and over the next few posts is inference, but I’ll give you the facts that support my conclusions and you can decide for yourself.
Historical Context – two separate movements
NO MORE says it’s “been in the making since 2009.” But to understand the significance of NO MORE’s seizure of branding for the two movements, we need to be aware of how the movements started and how they wound up separated. And we need to recognize that the glue that holds them together under the NO MORE regime is money. Today we talk about the beginnings. In future posts I will explain how the seduction of the movements was facilitated by promises and funding.
Both the domestic violence movement and the sexual assault movements were given birth by factions of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Here is a very detailed timeline. Among many resources, two books available for viewing on Google Books add short narrative explanations, Women and Violence 134-146 and Violence Against Women in Kentucky 36-39.
Back then domestic violence was called wife beating and battering and the sexual assault movement was known as the anti-rape movement. Although there was no clear definition of their causes at first, over time it became clear that domestic violence was approached as a family issue and rape was approached as an attack on a woman’s rights, exemplified by “Take back the night” events held since the 1970s demanding that a woman be able to walk alone at night without fear.
Two books from the era demonstrate how the two issues were approached differently, Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, and Dobash and Dobash’s Violence Against Wives. Brownmiller pointed out that there few statistics about who committed rape but police procedures favored the view that rape was most often committed by strangers. Prevailing attitudes, which feminists were fighting to change, didn’t acknowledge that forced sexual activity by a husband on a wife was rape. It was natural, therefore, to approach rape as a distinctly different phenomenon from domestic violence.
The Dobashes made a point on pages 8 and 9 of distinguishing domestic violence from other forms of violence, including other violence within a family:
Considering violence or aggression as a single abstraction is often done in an attempt to create theoretical models which it is mistakenly thought will provide overall explanations for many, if not all, forms of violence. What this in fact does is to obscure or ignore the very real and significant differences between various forms of violent behavior, and this results in confusion rather than clarity.
Just as there are numerous forms of violence outside the family, there are also numerous forms that can occur within it, and it would be equally misleading, inaccurate, and uninformative to refer to all uses of physical force between family members simply as “family” violence or all use of physical force between husbands and wives simply as “marital” or “spousal” violence. … Violence against wives must therefore be studied in its own right and solutions to this problem can be found only if they are based upon an understanding of the issue’s complexities and subtleties.
While the Dobashes were not specifically addressing rape in the above passage, the first quoted passage demonstrates NO MORE’s impropriety in willy nilly combining domestic violence and rape as if they are the same thing. And the absence of a theoretical basis for NO MORE’s joinder of the two issues magnifies the arrogance of the public relations experts who founded NO MORE in taking it upon themselves to combine these two historically separate issues.
September 7, 2011, web conference
Propaganda disseminated on the Internet announced a web conference to be held twice on September 7, 2011, “to preview The NO MORE Project”:
Over the past year and a half, representatives from several domestic violence and sexual assault organizations have been coming together with a small group of funders and private sector volunteers to work on an exciting new effort called The NO MORE Project. The NO MORE Project is about creating a new, overarching visual symbol to help raise public awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.
Highjacking and merging the domestic violence and rape messages
It is clear from the 2011 slides that from Day One, the proponents of NO MORE set out to merge the issues of domestic violence and rape as if they were the same thing. It all started in 2009 at something called “Time to Talk” day, according to slide 3.
“It’s Time to Talk Day” was started in October 2004 by Marie Claire magazine and Liz Claiborne, Inc. as, they proclaimed, one day each year that everyone will talk about domestic violence. Discussion of sexual assault, except by intimate partners, was not part of the announced plan.
Liz Claiborne, co-founder of It’s Time to Talk Day, became Fifth & Pacific which in turn became Kate Spade & Company. Jane Randel was a top executive of all three, as well as the head of Fifth & Pacific Foundation. Randel was one, probably the main one, of the three founders of NO MORE. Her career has been in public relations and repair of broken corporate reputations. It’s no accident she parlayed her role at NO MORE into a big payday – months before the 2015 Super Bowl, Randel became one of three advisers to the NFL on issues of violence against women.
Before 2009, It’s Time to Talk Day was about domestic violence, not sexual assault. The Joyful Heart Foundation joined Liz Claiborne in sponsoring the 2009 Time to Talk Day held in December 2009. The original focus of JHF was sexual assault and child abuse. I believe without knowing for sure that the merger of sexual assault into domestic violence came out of JHF’s participation in the 2009 Time to Talk Day.
Slide 3 from 2011 shows that the merger of rape and domestic violence was the NO MORE mindset from the beginning: “What can we do to move this issue up on the national agenda?” (Bold typeface in these quotes is my emphasis.)
The project was based on “one idea,” slide 4 says: “Create a symbol, or ‘brand,’ for this cause: a unifying, overarching visual symbol to represent concern about domestic violence and sexual assault.” There was a disclaimer, which recent history refutes: Its purpose was to “Augment and connect the logos/brands of organizations working in this field.” This issue, this cause, this field should have been these issues, causes, and fields. And, instead of augmenting others, NO MORE is rapidly becoming the logo/brand, supplanting all brands, including the purple ribbon, in both “fields.”
VJR Consulting – VJR who?
NO MORE has made it extremely difficult to get to the truth about its origins and purposes, even, apparently, to the point of conning domestic violence and sexual assault groups at the 2011 web conference about who did what. Maybe the video of the conference would clear up the VJR Consulting issue. But VJR’s name is never mentioned in the 2011 slides, a conspicuous and suspicious omission.
I figured out who VJR was and its role in NO MORE by laboriously trolling on Google. After I discovered VJR, I quickly found slides from a 2013 webinar, which featured VJR and its boss, Vicky Rideout. It is more than puzzling that VJR wasn’t mentioned in the 2011 slides when VJR claims to have done most of what’s described in them.
According to its website, “VJR Consulting is an independent consulting firm specializing in research, policy, and strategic communications work for non-profits.” VJR takes credit for virtually everything that happened in the NO MORE project between the December 2009 It’s Time to Talk Day and the September 2011 web conference at which the slides were revealed:
In December 2009, a group of some of the country’s leading funders and activists in the domestic violence and sexual assault movement came together to talk about how to take their issues higher on the national agenda: to raise the visibility of their cause, bring it out of the shadows and into the light. They came up with an idea: to create a “brand” – a visual icon – for members of the public to use to express their concern about the issue. Then they hired VJR Consulting to help make that vision a reality. We organized “think tanks” with leaders from the worlds of branding, marketing, and media; developed criteria and goals for the new symbol; brought a leading brand design firm on board; established an organizational structure for the effort; conducted consumer research, and developed a strategic plan for implementation.
Their claims cover just about everything in the slides. I’ll get to that, but first consider the mindset already in place: “funders and activists in the domestic violence and sexual assault movement came together.” There was no domestic violence and sexual assault movement for anyone to gather. NO MORE created it, and VJR perpetuates NO MORE’s lie that such a joint movement already existed; VJR compounded the error by using terms like “their cause” and “the issue.”
Note, also, the misleading description of the 2009 It’s Time to Talk Day as a gathering of domestic violence and sexual assault funders and activists. Time to Talk was about domestic violence. Joyful Heart Foundation’s short announcement of its plan to join Liz Claiborne in sponsoring the 2009 event mentions domestic violence five times and dating violence twice. Neither “sexual assault” nor any variation or synonym for it appears anywhere in the announcement.
Now, back to VJR and the 2011 slides.
Think tank – movers and shakers, but all PR
The 2011 slides indicate that at an unspecified time, the organizers of “the No More project” formed a think tank. Apparently, in keeping with the original purpose of the project of creating a “unifying, overarching visual symbol” for domestic violence and sexual assault, only professionals in public relations, advertising, branding, marketing, and media participated in the think tank. You have to hand it to Jane Randel’s handful of organizers (apparently VJR was already on the payroll); they put together a team of heavy hitters to brainstorm on the symbol and presumably the NO MORE campaign itself. Here’s the list:
- Kevin Allen, Kevin Allen Partners : Advertising and author, The Hidden Agenda
- Lisa Caputo, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Travelers Group
- Ben Davis, Words, Pictures, Ideas: Marketing
- Alison Byrne Fields, DDB Issues and Advocacy: Advertising and marketing
- Betsy Gleick, Executive Editor, People Magazine
- Erin Kanaley, Facebook
- Brett King, Founder, Brei (BreV?) King Media: (I don’t know who he is)
- Kelli Richardson Lawson, K4 & Company: Brands and marketing
- Christine Mau, Brand Design Director, Family Care Brands, Kimberly-Clark
- Dee Dee Myers, Glover Park Group: Strategic communications and governmental affairs; former White House press secretary
- Christina Norman, Black Voices, Huffington Post: Executive editor
- Robin Raj, Citizen: Marketing
- Jeff Ralls, Social Twist: Marketing and advertising
- Anjeli Sharma, IDEO: Marketing and advertising
- Tamsin Smith, Slipstream Strategy: “social entrepreneur who works with brands, non-profits, and individuals”
- Liz Sutton, SYPartners: graphic design
- Kristen Morrissey Thied, Google
- Marty Weiss, Meter Industries: Branding
- Ruth Wooden, Public Agenda: Nonpartisan, nonprofit dealing with issues and policies
Two main points to draw from the make-up of the think tank roster:
- This is an unprecedented assemblage of powerhouse professionals in marketing, advertising, branding, and media for the purpose of creating a symbol and a marketing strategy for a “cause.”
- There were no experts on domestic violence or sexual assault. Not one. That leads to two conclusions: (a) whoever created the think tank had already decided to merge domestic violence and sexual assault, and (b) because their minds were made up, the resulting market research was skewed toward validating the merger of domestic violence with rape.
In a later post, I will talk in more detail about the preconceived notions presented to the think tank and what they came up with as well as the skewed market research.
It is enough today, Super Bowl Sunday 2016, to see that when NO MORE started, its organizers were not experts in domestic violence or sexual assault and the “think tank” they put together consisted entirely of PR folks whose goal was to develop a campaign to combine two separate movements without acknowledging that a merger was their goal, and to make NO MORE the “overarching” symbol for both movements.
In the future I will discuss the market research VJR conducted to bolster the preconceived merger, the people and organizations behind NO MORE, and the financial benefits some in the anti-rape and domestic violence fields realized from supporting the No More Project.