EastEnders and Coronation Street are shining a light on coercive control
PUBLISHED: 09:56 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:56 07 February 2020
Leeway's chief executive Mandy Proctor looks at the positive impact that recent soap storylines surrounding domestic abuse have had
In my time as chief executive at Leeway, it has been fantastic to see how far awareness of domestic abuse has come and how the understanding of it has improved.
This has been made possible thanks to some excellent campaigning at local and national levels, supported by an increasing media coverage given to domestic abuse.
It has been encouraging to see some excellent documentaries with survivors in the past year and, more recently, some domestic abuse storylines in television programmes.
Both EastEnders and Coronation Street have explored stories focusing on domestic abuse and coercive control in recent months, shining a light on an important topic.
It is fantastic to see the soaps tackle this in a sensitive and accurate manner, raising awareness and encouraging conversation on domestic abuse - which can be a difficult issue to address.
To ensure they got the storyline right, EastEnders worked closely with national charities Women's Aid and Refuge, who helped with scripting and introduced survivors of domestic abuse to the cast.
The attention to detail in the storylines has been fantastic and has provided an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be in an abusive relationship.
In EastEnders, we have seen Chantelle become withdrawn from her family and friends, as well as making excuses for injuries inflicted by Gray, her partner.
As the storyline has developed, it has become clear how Chantelle has become visibly scared of upsetting her partner and the impact that his controlling behaviour has had.
The abuse has been ongoing for many months, during which she has found herself unable to confide in anyone for support and has become increasingly isolated.
When discussing domestic abuse, a popular question we hear is "why doesn't she just leave?" Storylines like this provide a perfect insight and challenge to this, highlighting the difficulties that many people will face.
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It allows someone, who may have never had a personal experience of domestic abuse, to put themselves in the shoes of someone who has and realise just how hard it can be to leave.
Soaps are a fantastic medium to tackle important issues as the characters are often relatable and the programmes are often viewed by several million people each day.
Raising awareness of domestic abuse and coercive control to millions of people is a massive positive and acting can help to illustrate this in ways that delivering a presentation on the topic cannot.
Seeing coercive control in action has probably helped many people to appreciate what it is, as well as the impact that it has on those that experience it.
There may even be some people watching that will recognise a family member or friend in a similar relationship, or possibly even their own relationship.
If storylines like this help people to access support for themselves or encourage others to help friends or family that need support, then it has had a positive impact.
The more aware people are of domestic abuse and the support available, they will hopefully come forward earlier and receive the help that they need.
Statistics show that it will take an average of 35 separate incidents of abuse before someone will contact a support organisation - for many people they will have experienced it for years.
This reiterates the importance of continuing to raise awareness on a national and local level, whether that's through documentaries, campaigning, events or training.
The Domestic Abuse Bill also has a big role to play, hopefully delivering much needed protections for those experiencing domestic abuse and encouraging those experiencing it to access support.
I have been quite vocal on the Bill because it is a landmark piece of legislation that will benefit many people nationally and here in Norfolk too.
In the last year, Leeway supported over 11,500 people across services in Norfolk and Suffolk, highlighting why the Bill is needed and its potential impact.
There will be many more people experiencing domestic abuse that have not come forward for support though and some may not even realise that they are in an abusive relationship.
By encouraging people to have conversations about domestic abuse and increasing awareness of it, I hope that we are on the way to changing this.