Marilyn Williams
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Salvation Army makes a point with #thedress

Provocative PSA highlights violence against women

When most of us think of the Salvation Army, we think of “bell-ringers for the poor” (as a colleague of mine put it), or the place you unload your old stuff so it gets a second life and you get a tax write off.

Well, think again.

Remember the viral frenzy over the dress last week? After a barrage of grim and gloomy news, a fun Friday story about a chameleon-like piece of clothing was refreshing. The Salvation Army’s South Africa arm took #thedress buzz that gripped the universe last week (Is it blue and black? Is it white and gold? Lavender? I’m freaking out!) into serious territory and made a powerful point about violence against women. 

The image is of a bruised woman modeling the now-iconic dress. “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?” the headline says. The text reads, “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.” The agency is Ireland Davenport, Ad Age reports.


The marriage of the Salvation Army and awareness of violence against women seemed surprising to many, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. “We salute the Salvation Army in South Africa for raising awareness about domestic violence in such a timely way,” Salvation Army USA said in an emailed statement to MarketWatch. “Nearly 4.8 million women in the U.S experience domestic violence every year. The Salvation Army is the second-largest provider of shelter to victims of such abuse, with 18 shelters across the country.”

Relationship violence is an important issue. The National Domestic Violence Hotlineestimates that every minute in the U.S., “24 people are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner...more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.”

In the past, the Salvation Army, which is a religious organization, has taken heat for its stances on abortion, drugs and alcohol, gambling, as well as homosexuality. On its website, the Salvation Army says it does not discriminate, and specifically highlights work it’s done in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. It’s also involved in hunger relief, camps for kids, provides services for the elderly and fights against human trafficking, its website says.

And they managed to get another less-fun, but arguably more important Friday story out of #thedress.

Angela Moore