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Church Chat: Partnering with major corporations, Romania’s latest campaign against domestic violence has different angle

Church Chat: Partnering with major corporations, Romania’s latest campaign against domestic violence has different angle

ADRA Romania held a two-month campaign that raised awareness of domestic violence using the symbol of a blue scarf as a gift for men who treat their wives in a loving way. Above, a church member distributes a campaign pamphlet at a mall in Bucharest. [photo courtesy ADRA Romania]

Goleanu says ADRA’s ‘True Man’ initiative shows care, loving actions

February 18, 2014 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN

For years the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Romania has promoted campaigns against domestic violence, but its most recent initiative in the Eastern European country had a new twist—showing good behavior instead of the usual depiction of violence and injuries.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Romania partnered with Adventist Church organizations, government agencies and corporations to launch a nationwide “True Man” initiative, which began in December and ran through the end of January.

Organizers chose the symbol of a blue scarf that women would give to a “true man” who showed care and love. The two-month appeal included partnerships with nearly 20 national and local media outlets, as well as posters and some 250,000 pamphlets distributed through partnering retailers.

The series of several campaigns over the years hasn’t just raised awareness of the issue throughout the nation, it has helped change laws to empower victims and also given the Adventist Church major recognition in a country where it finds itself a little-known minority.

The Adventist Church in Romania is one of many local administrative units that heavily promote messages against domestic violence. The focus saw resurgence after the denomination launched its first official worldwide abuse-prevention initiative in 2001.

In an interview, ADRA Romania director Sorin Goleanu explained why he thinks the benefits outweigh the risks of partnering with outside entitles. The 38-year-old also discussed what he’s learned to do differently since the first campaign and the importance of knowing when to use professional help.

Edited excerpts:

Adventist News Network: Why did you think it was beneficial to show kind behavior instead of the usual method of depicting domestic violence?

Sorin Goleanu: All other campaigns against domestic violence use specific violent words, sounds and images in order to transmit their message. Basically they show a constant re-victimization—the victims are always placed in humiliating situations, and men, in general, are portrayed as permanent aggressors. We think these generalizations bring damage both to the victims and to the general confidence in men as sensitive human beings interested in the well-being of their family.

ANN: How do you know this kind of message is needed?

Goleanu: According to data received from the national emergency number 112 (the equivalent of 911 in the U.S.), from January 1, 2012, until October 9, 2013, there were almost 140,000 confirmed cases of domestic violence nationwide. Unfortunately, these data do not necessarily reflect reality—many cases of violence remain unreported for various reasons such as shame, fear of being left without economic support, cultural and religious pressure, the victim is convinced that it was her fault or that it is an isolated case.

ANN: What has ADRA Romania done in previous campaigns?

Goleanu: There was one that featured Romanian boxing champion Leonard Doroftei and the slogan “You like to hit? Choose the right opponent!” Another one had the slogan “Shut out loud!,” in order to encourage women who are abused to take action and notify the authorities.

ANN: How have you built on the momentum of previous campaigns?

Goleanu: From our point of view, even each of our preceding campaigns was a success and helped us, image-wise, become the most visible organization among those who address this problem. This year’s campaign surpassed even our own expectations. And when I say this I’m referring specifically to our partnerships: Carrefour is one of the most important retailers in the country, with millions of customers every day. SanoVita is the biggest health-food company in Romania. They signed a strategic partnership with us, and they have on all their products stickers with ADRA Romania’s projects.

ANN: What was the reaction?

Goleanu: Three national television networks chose to double the broadcasting period—up to two months—and the TV spot was seen daily by millions of Romanians. Really, the reactions were amazing. Representatives of many public institutions, and, also, many people from the public had only nice words to say. For example, two partner institutions, City Hall of Bucharest and the Bucharest Police, said, “We are proud that we are your partners in such a big campaign against domestic violence.”

ANN: Are there any plans for similar campaigns in the future?

Goleanu: Certainly! All our actions must be supported by actual work as well as promoting an image. We are involved and interested in getting into society. Sure, not all of our campaigns have the same level because they have different audiences. In a few days we will launch a new campaign to raise 2 percent—in Romania, each employee can choose a direction for 2 percent of their total income tax. In previous years, because of our promotion of the issue, our revenues tripled for this initiative.

ANN: What have you learned over the years regarding how to make your campaigns more effective? In other words, what do you wish you would have known the first time you did this?

Goleanu: I learned that it is best to be professionals and to aim higher. Of course we’re grateful for our volunteers and it’s important to mobilize them, but in some areas you really need professionals. Sure, it costs more, but the benefits are much higher in the end. We know how to be thrifty, to save, but never save in quality or trust in God. Also, we are usually more inclined to keep work inside the church, but we chose to go outside the church much more. Though it could have been dangerous, and some people were suspicious, God has helped us to prove the contrary. Now we have numerous partnerships with major institutions and large companies. That allows us to invest more in the development of people and society without weighing down the church and to maintain serious partnerships with the society in which we live.

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