What can we learn from campaigns to market taboo items?

 Dear Engaged Bystander: I think that some of my best work is when I step out of the sexual violence prevention world and see how others are making a difference. I am on a social marketing list serve which talks about how to use private sector marketing concepts (e.g., the 4 Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and  promotion) to make the world a better place. I recently saw a posting by Craig Lefebvre about how “social taboos suppress discussion of many details about life: bodily functions, sexual problems, and other socially stigmatizing conditions. Discomfort with these topics compromises our health and short-circuits our quality of life by keeping important information in the dark.” 

Sounds a lot like the issues we face in our field. 
Craig goes on to say that our “Taboos also create social isolation. When forced to navigate forbidden areas, people often find that they have little information and are reluctant to experiment or explore. This may translate into untapped opportunities…”  He then linked to a fabulous posting on this very subject by Fast Company's Co.Design newsletter
It is definitely worth looking at this newsletter. I find the idea of untapped opportunities key to our work with engaging bystanders. However, if you don’t have the time, here are their tips for designing a campaign about an issue no one wants to talk about. Ignore the business terms, the value is in what they are suggesting for our work. 
1. Know the taboos
By listening carefully, you can be early to discover subjects that carry social stigma in your particular business domain. What topics are discussed only behind closed doors?
2. Respect embarrassment
Create brands that initiate discussion, build trust, and share information. Design activities, forums, or tools that engage the full emotional range.
3. Reframe social stigmas
Break with social convention and give people permission to engage taboo topics in new and invigorating ways. Supply them with new language to name their needs.
4. Allow for avoidance
Not everyone is yearning to be liberated from a taboo. Give people alternatives that accommodate the distance they’d like to maintain.
As I read through this short list, I think that we DO know the taboos that people face around sexual violence and I think that we are getting much better about creating opportunities for safe dialogues that fit a variety of audiences.  I have seen some great examples where people have been able to reframe social stigmas. Certainly the campaigns that target men have done just that: Men Can Stop Rape, Mentors in Violence Prevention , and Boys Talk are just a few of them. VAWA  has a great resource list to learn more about these and other programs. 
But in this field, we don’t do as good a job on the last point, “Allow for Avoidance.”   In our own urgency to get people to see the magnitude of sexual violence, we forget that to be truly engaged, people need to decide to see this issue in their own timeframe. What would that mean in this field? It may mean waiting for the right time and place to say something – or waiting for the best person to do something. I don’t suggest waiting when the violence is being perpetrated. I do think it would be helpful to promote some strategic thinking about how and when and who responds when we may see some risky behaviors. 
So read the article and let me know if you find some information of value here. 
Warmly
Joan