THE BLOG

Panorama Shows 'Why She Doesn't Leave'

08/12/2014 09:55 GMT | Updated 07/02/2015 10:59 GMT

There is a wall of ignorance standing between victims of domestic violence and the rest of us. The constant question "why doesn't she just leave him?" has such a simple answer: she fears she will be killed. The two women a week who are killed, on average, by a partner or former partner, bear silent witness to this. Yet still the misunderstanding persists.

It is at the root of victims' unwillingness to come forward and therefore at the root of the difficulty of providing help much sooner to them and their children. And the same fear, all-powerful and all-controlling, is exactly what perpetrators use so expertly. It lies beneath our belief at Women's Aid that coercive control must be made a criminal offence.

It is our mission to dismantle this wall bit by bit until women and children are safe. We have been working closely with Panorama on a programme to be broadcast this evening at 8.30pm to ensure the reality of domestic violence is portrayed.

We are confident this programme reflects that reality. Using exclusive access to film from police body-worn cameras, it shows the power perpetrators can wield, the extreme fear victims experience: the facts we as a society must confront about male coercion, control, dominance and violence that turn women into tortured prisoners for whom the choice to leave simply isn't real.

If coercive control is to be a crime, a significant culture change will be needed, not only in the police but far more widely too. Victims themselves need the language to name what they are experiencing and acknowledge it as something the law says we, as a society, do not condone. Perpetrators too should understand what the law means, or they will not fear it.

This programme shows that coercive control isn't a label to use when your own sense of entitlement is threatened, like 'nagging' or 'whining'. It's the deliberate use of fear - and a fear which your victim knows all too well is justified - to enforce your entitlement and demands.

As things stand, ignorance and the victim-blaming it so quickly leads to are the protection we, as a society, are giving to perpetrators of domestic violence. Watch this programme to see why that has to stop now.

Panorama airs on Monday, 8 December at 8.30pm.