Bystander Initiative | Draw the Line
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Draw the Line



Two studies have affirmed the usefulness of Draw-the-Line campaign materials to expand the reach of the Bystander Initiative and reinforce its prosocial bystander message.  DTL, created by Action ontarienne contre la violence faite aux femmes (AOcVF) and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres (OCRCC), is an interactive, multi-media social marketing campaign designed to raise awareness about sexual assault, and challenges viewers to speak out against sexually aggressive language and intervene when they witness inappropriate sexual behaviours. Each DTL image describes an incident and asks the viewer what they would do? Viewers are encouraged to go to the DTL website for more information; DTL postcards provide more information on the back.


Study 1


Lead researcher: Twiladawn Rutherford


Purpose: To select social marketing campaign materials that appeal to students and enhance their bystander awareness.


Male and female students who participated in focus groups were attracted to the Draw-The-Line social marketing materials. Students examined DTL posters and postcards, which were strewn around the room, then discussed their reactions to each. Overall, the images were described as visually appealing, clear and concise, and the situations depicted were ones they could relate to. Focus group participants were also drawn to the bold format, which asked the reader what they would do if faced with a particular situation, e.g., “A friend sends you a naked picture of a girl he knows” followed by “Is it a big deal to share it with others?” Some images were described as more appealing than others; however, lack of appeal did not mean lack of engagement – the images that appealed least provoked a great deal of discussion, which is the overall purpose of the DTL campaign.


Engagement with the DTL campaign was limited in two ways. First, very few participants noticed the website address on the materials (, and those who did expressed no need to visit the site. Secondly, participants who handled the postcards failed to turn them over, so did not see the more extensive information about sexual assault prevention printed on the back of the cards.


Study 2


Lead researcher: Chelsea Mclellan


Purpose:  To evaluate the extent to which students notice Draw-The-Line materials when they are displayed around campus and determine whether students take away the messages intended by the campaign’s creators.


DTL posters were displayed in five high-traffic locations around campus. In some locations, zap banners were used; in others, the messages were presented on TV and computer screens. Five weeks later, using intercept methodology, students who frequented these locations were asked if and where they had noticed the DTL images and what messages they took away. Over half of the participants had seen the materials. In their view, the purpose of the campaign was to raise viewers’ awareness about the frequency and meaning of sexual assault, and encourage them to take action in the situations depicted. None of the students who viewed the materials visited the DTL website for more information.


The messages students took away were explored further in a series of focus groups. Participants said they paid attention to the zap banner displays because they looked official and were attractive. When asked about the meaning or purpose of the images, the majority of participants provided messages that were consistent with the DTL developers’ intentions, i.e., to increase awarenss about sexual assault and encourage prosocial bystander behaviour. All of the groups said the posters were trying to get viewers to think about sexual assault and take action. A number of participants thought the messages were effective because they asked viewers when they would intervene, and some of the participants referred to “bystanders” when they described the DTL’s action messages. A few participants reported that the images sparked conversations with friends afterwards. When asked about the accompanying website (, most participants said that they did not notice it and likely would not visit the website because they had no reason to do so.