Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

Despite clear legal prohibitions, sexual violence remains widespread and prevalent during armed conflicts and other situations of violence, as well as in detention. It occurs in various contexts and has grave humanitarian consequences. Sexual violence is often utilized as a tactical or strategic means of overwhelming and weakening the adversary, whether directly or indirectly, by targeting the civilian population.

Client: International Committee of the Red Cross
Director – Illustrator – Animator: Ellen Andries
Written by: David Gough
Edit – Sound Design: Thomas Maddens

When ICRC approached us to make a short, cinematic PSA on this important and sensitive topic, they asked us to find a way to communicate that “sexual violence is used as an instrument of war, across all genders, ages and ethnicities.” We recognized the importance of this creative challenge and advised them animation was the best way to visualize this issue clearly in a short running time. Our main challenge was to design a character that could represent male, female, boy, girl, x-gender and with no recognizable ethnicity or specific age. The viewer is taken on a brutal journey with our character who is faced with various forms of abuse and sexual violence in armed conflict (rape, child marriage, trafficking, prostitution…) and is eventually aided by ICRC, showing the work ICRC does in the field to absorb some of the horrible impacts sexual violence in armed conflict has on individuals and communities.

We wrote a script without words – just actions – which was a creative choice, to focus the viewer on the non-specific nature of the violence taking place, but it was also a practical advantage, by-passing the issue of language versions and subtitling for cinematic distribution.

The initial animation was specifically made to be viewed in theaters: wide-screen format, with 5.1 surround sound mixed for cinematic release. At a later stage, because it was such an effective piece, ICRC asked us to make a web/social version of this animation. We then adapted the animation to a video for social media. Integrating text on screen to point out the specific issues discussed, knowing most people have their sound off when viewing social media content.

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