Leo Burnett Beirut and gender equality non-profit organisation ABAAD have collaborated with artist Remie Akl to create Dirty Laundry, a poignant film that highlights the culture of shaming rape victims in the country.
The film is based on the idea that survivors of sexual abuse in Lebanon are taught to “hide their dirty laundry” and made to feel as though they’re responsible for upholding the honour and dignity of the family, which in turn ensures their silence. But Akl and the women who feature in the spot call out the dirty laundry for what it really is: a crime.
Akl previously worked with Leo Burnett and ABAAD on the 2021 Cannes Lions award-winning campaign Baklava Got Legs, which highlighted the misogyny and harassment women are subjected to on the street.
The concept for Dirty Laundry was inspired by research conducted by ABAAD in 2022 which found that 60% of women who were sexually assaulted did not report the crime because they felt ashamed or pressured not to tarnish the honour of the family.
Alongside the study, a campaign was launched by the charity as part of UN Women’s 16 days of Activism last November, called #NoShameNoBlame. The campaign called for the sentences of these crimes to be as serious as the crimes themselves.
“Unfortunately, sexual assault crimes in Lebanon are still linked to honour, dignity and shame,” says Ghida Anani, founder and director of ABAAD. “It’s important to address these crimes independently from society’s deep-rooted stereotypes and to deal with them firmly.”
Nada Abi Saleh, head of Leo Burnett Beirut, agrees and says the goal is to change the law, but inciting change requires thoughtfulness. “To influence tangible change in the Arab region, you need to disrupt your way into the public’s mind, which we’ve done with Dirty Laundry,” she says. “This film is a poetic yet bold and provocative manifesto of women empowerment, the first of its kind to dare emerge in the Middle East.”
Dirty Laundy is accompanied by a webseries hosted by Lebanese model and influencer Nour Arida who has shared her platform with four rape survivors so they can tell their stories.