Cannes Lions

ESCape Abuse

UNION, Toronto / INTERVAL HOUSE / 2021

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During COVID-19, domestic violence has increased by over 30%. Women are effectively trapped in their homes with their abusers, and the isolation makes it even harder for them to reach out.

Interval House Women’s Shelter wanted to help. But how could we get lifesaving information into women’s hands without their ever-present abusers finding out?


We created a Lifestyle website that can save lives.

At first glance, “The Way to Live: A Style Guide for the Modern Woman” looks like any other beauty and fashion site. But hold down the ESCAPE key and the site changes to “The Way to Leave: An Escape Plan for the Abused Woman”.

For example, an article about “Essentials for Everyday Life” turns into “Essentials When Running for Your Life”. An article titled “Signs Your Dry Skin Needs Help” turns into “Signs You’re Being Abused and Need Help”.

This secret site is a quick reference to everything she needs to know in order to leave safely, including how to pack an emergency bag, tips on disabling GPS tracking, and the Interval House crisis line. But because it looks like “just another lifestyle site”, her partner will never suspect a thing.


Women in abusive relationships are incredibly isolated. And if their abusers find out they are even thinking of leaving, their lives could be in danger.

We knew that one of the few places we could reach this target group during the pandemic was online.

Yet even there, abusers are constantly monitoring women’s activity.

So by disguising all the information a woman needs as a lifestyle site, we were able to reach women effectively and most importantly, safely.

The call to action was simple – leave your abusive relationship by reaching out to Interval House.


We launched the site in May 2020, when the first COVID lockdown was at its peak.

The goal was to let women know about the site, without alerting their abusers. So we created micro-targeted online ads on sites like Pinterest. We also got the word out through nurses, counsellors, and police officers, who have direct contact with women in abusive relationships, even during the pandemic.

The site was widely shared on a grassroots level, with women sharing this “lifestyle site” with other women, covertly.

It was also featured on sites and talk shows that have a largely female audience.


The campaign has been incredibly effective. Women spent an average of more than 5 minutes on the site, more than double the average.

And most importantly, it has resulted in an 89% increase in women reaching out for help.

In the darkest days of lockdown, we found a way to reach women without alerting their partners, and helped them escape abuse.

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