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 and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres, is an interactive, multi-media social marketing campaign designed to raise awareness about sexual assault, challenge viewers to speak out against sexually aggressive language, and intervene when they witness aggressive sexual behaviours. DTL images describes incidents and ask the viewer what they would do. Viewers are encouraged to go to the DTL website for more information.

The first study was designed to identify social marketing materials that appeal to students and, so, reinforce the central messages of the Bystander Initiative.

Focus group participants examined DTL posters and postcards, which were strewn around the room, then discussed their reactions to each. Both men and women found the images visually appealing, clear and concise, and the situations depicted easy to relate to. They 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 messages were considered 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 was limited in two ways. First, very few participants noticed the website address on the materials, and those who did saw no reason 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.

Lead researcher: Twiladawn Rutherford

The second study evaluated the extent to which students notice Draw-The-Line materials when displayed around campus and 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, students who frequented these locations were asked if and where they had noticed the images and what messages they took away. Over half of the participants had seen the materials, and said the purpose of the campaign was to (i) raise viewers’ awareness about the frequency and meaning of sexual assault, and (ii) encourage viewers 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 awareness about sexual assault and encourage prosocial bystander behaviour. Some participants said the images had sparked conversations with friends afterwards. When asked about the accompanying DTL 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.

Lead researcher: Chelsea Mclellan