Friday, 21 March 2014

Freedom in Holby

I’ve been attending a local Freedom Programme and have found it really helpful. The Freedom Programme was designed by Pat Craven and is based on and accompanied by her book "Living with the Dominator." In this book Craven explains abusive behaviours by breaking them down into different characters who are all abusers. That’s not to say each abuser is just one of these characters, most have characteristics from all of them it’s just a simple way of describing the different patterns of behaviour that abusers have in common.

Cravens book at times seems to stereotype abusive men and describes mostly their more obvious abuse. For example of the Headworker she writes “He tells us we are too fat, thin, tall, small old etc. Our tits are too big, or too small and they sag” Many abusers won’t be so obvious, like my husband they’ll say things like “if you ever want a boob job to put them back where they used to be I don’t mind paying, I will pay anything to help you boost your confidence” or they’ll go out and buy you a bag full of gym clothes and gym membership when you have made it clear you don’t want to go to the gym saying “I love you just the way you are but you were so much happier when you were thinner” The book doesn’t always fully explain that these cleverer more subtle forms of abuse which leave the victim feeling the same way are part of this. It may be more validating to read a book that recognised those painful exchanges you find difficult to explain to others as abusive, that you explained away on a daily basis.

However, the book is designed to be discussed as well as read, to open the conversation up for women to support each other through these things. It’s designed to communicate the basics of abusive behaviour in an easy to read accessible to all format. Some of the women I have talked to on the Freedom Programme tell me they are glad it wasn’t more detailed in it’s description of abuse because they already found it painful to think about. In addition not everyone has the time or desire to pour over an in depth book. This book successfully defines abuse and tells us how to spot it and the effects it has on women and children and I would recommend it for anyone who wants something quick and easy to read to learn about the subject.
I don’t know if the creators of Holby City have read Craven’s book or just have a really good understanding of abusive behaviours, but if anyone saw the story line about Rics daughter Jess being abused by her husband the last two weeks they’d have seen many of the characters Craven writes about.

“The Jailer” kept Jess isolated so she had to make excuses to her father for not visiting; he undermined Jess and Rics relationship in an attempt to drive a wedge between them. “The Liar”  minimized what he’d done to Jess, told her he’d take care of her if she left hospital early and made himself out to be the victim. “The Persuader” insisted that he loved Jess, that he would do anything in his power to make her happy. He told her over and over that they were “meant to be together” and that he was sorry and would never hurt her again. We also see the persuader in his threatening to use the police to cause her harm by making a malicious report against her or her father. There are many more characters in the book such as ‘The Headworker’ and ‘the Badfather’ and the majority of them made an appearance in the show to build a pretty realistic view of an abuser.

I liked that the BBC had the guts to show an abuser as more than just physically violent, when it was revealed that Jess had horrific personal injuries I thought we were going to see a stereotypical ‘wife batterer’ storyline but rather we were given a bigger picture of the subtleties of abuse, something most people, victims included often aren’t even aware of.

I feel that the programme could have gone further than it did to show that the emotional abuse was worse, particularly when Jess’s husband was threatening her with a malicious police report, in my experience this was the most horrific thing my husband did and had a profound effect on me. It would have been more realistic to see Jess react with more disbelief and horror that the man she loves and trusts would do that instead of her appearing unsurprised at his malice. Similarly at the end when she left him and said she no longer loved him, I feel the program could have shown more of the traumatic bonds created in the victim, it’s unlikely that at this point she’d realise the full extent of what he had done and she’d probably feel that she loved him for quite a long time after leaving.  I also felt it was unrealistic that she was able to make him back down by threatening to report him and that the child would end up in care, most abusers don’t really care if their children end up in care and most don’t think they’re doing anything wrong so will carry on their malicious actions without fear of reprisals, or at least that’s been my experience.  I’d also have liked to have heard something about the effects of the abuse on the child, even if Jess just made a few comments about her child’s fears and behaviours to her father. There’s a common misconception that a man can abuse a mother and it doesn’t affect the children and the BBC missed an opportunity to challenge this.

Finally I found the show incredibly difficult to watch due to the memories it triggered. If you did too or if you are still in an abusive relationship you can find help and advice on the BBC Actionline website

The BBC may have been able to go further to portray the effects of abuse better, but overall they painted a really rounded picture of an abuser and it was good to see domestic violence being spoken about on such a popular TV show and I hope it has provoked thought. It will be interesting to see if Jess makes a further appearance a few months/years down the line and if so if they’ll show the continuing effects but give hope that life gets better.

Pat Craven does fantastic work to end abuse. She has worked with both victims and perpetrators of abuse and you can find out about her work and her book here (including details of where to buy the book) I would recommend this book to everyone as a starting point for understanding abuse.

1 comment:

  1. Wow Sarah, a great overview..I will def check out this book xx


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