Coronation Street portrays domestic violence

Family|Family Law|Relationships|November 27th 2012

Domestic violence is much in the news at the moment. Millions are gripped by a dramatic storyline in popular TV soap opera Coronation Street, in which character Tyrone Dobbs is repeatedly beaten by fiancée Kirsty Soames.
Actress Natalie Gumede said of recent episodes:

“The level of violence with Kirsty has escalated to a really dangerous point now. Her sense of reality is starting to become quite warped, I think. I think the story is really taking quite a dark turn. It’s been very uncomfortable to film – worthwhile, I think we’re telling a great story – but it’s becoming quite harrowing to be a part of.”

‘Harrowing’ is a word few of us would hesitate to use about domestic violence.  Family law is mostly a civil affair – certainly in the legal sense and occasionally in the behavioural sense too! But domestic violence is the one area in which we family lawyers intersect most starkly with our criminal colleagues. While they attempt to put the perpetrators behind bars, we pick up the pieces and help to deal with the consequences for affected families: divorce, separation, adoption and fostering.

If they think about it at all, many people think of domestic violence as an aberration, something bizarre and unpleasant that happens somewhere else and on women by men. But in fact violence in the home is shockingly prevalent – we read last week that domestic violence accounts for ten per cent of all emergency calls across the country to the police, a rate compiled from Home Office figures. The news is especially dire in Merseyside, where more than one fifth of calls to the police are reportedly related to domestic violence (21.2 per cent).

But whilst I’m pleased that this subject is being played so realistically (and last night’s episode made me shudder) I’m delighted that Corrie has broken with traditional taboos and tackled violence against men.
In the past my own experience of assisting the script writers with storylines in which legal advice has been required is that they do tackle difficult subjects (in my case involving grandparents seeking a residence order of their grandson where the father was alcoholic) and also that they go to great lengths to ensure accuracy. So in this case, where so many commentators on my blog do complain that violence by women against men is consistently ignored by politicians, at last a major TV series has taken notice and done something about it. Unlike perhaps, the majority of (female) politicians who still tend to ignore violence by women.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper for example made the observation:

“Last year the domestic violence rate was twice as high as the burglary rate. Two women every week are killed at the hands of their abuser in England and Wales, yet it still isn’t given enough priority to keep people safe.”
She too therefore, like her colleague Harriet Harman, seem to downplay the potential for women to commit crimes of violence against men. But not Corrie!

Meanwhile, the government on the one hand regularly declares a firm commitment to getting to getting to grips with domestic violence, and on the other hand it continues to slash funding for services. I suppose this is yet another symptom of a wrecked economy, one arguably wrecked long before they took office.

The government has, to be fair, made some positive legislative moves in recent months. In September it announced plans to broaden the definition of domestic violence to include intimidation and coercion.
And now Home Office minister Jeremy Browne has unveiled new practical measures. Alongside new offences relating to stalking, which come into force today, amongst other measures he announced a new funding stream for so-called ‘domestic homicide reviews’, in which authorities involving in tacking domestic violence cases carry out an in-depth assessment of killings in a domestic or family context, in order to try and learn lessons.

These are all steps in the right direction. But clearly there is much more still to be done. In the meantime, all credit to Corrie

Author: Marilyn Stowe

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

Comments(4)

  1. u6c00 says:

    It’s interesting, I recently attended a Separated Parenting Information Programme hosted by Relate. In the room were 6 attendees (3 men, 3 women) and 2 ‘instructors’. The conversation got around to domestic violence and of the people in that room all 3 men and none of the women had been victims of attacks by their exes which had required medical treatment. In my own case my teeth were smashed and my face was cut with a broken bottle. I called the police and my ex partner was arrested and detained. At no point was I ever offered any support after an incident of domestic violence.
    At that point the instructor (who had said at the start that she specialised in working with victims of domestic violence) suggested that violence by women was not as serious as violence by men because it didn’t carry the element of intimidation with it. To back up her argument she picked the largest of the men in the room and said that if he cornered her she would be very intimidated, but if she cornered him that he would probably just laugh at her.
    Aside from the fact that women are much more likely to go for a weapon when becoming violent, this was an disturbing and profoundly mistaken view to take. It was particularly appalling given that the person espousing this view was a Relate trained counsellor who specialised in supporting victims of domestic violence.
    Good on corrie for bringing a clearly misunderstood and underestimated problem to the attention of the general public.

  2. Observer says:

    1. Violence in the home is merely a reflection of the violence perpetrated by the state itself, in its foreign policy, its illegal warmongering, its weapon trafficking, its cutbacks and attacks on education and health, and so on.
    2. The inflated rhetoric around violence in the home and the ongoing criminalization of the poor is merely a strategic means of deflecting attention away from this state violence.
    3. It’s unfortunate that some female politicians who might have opted for truth have simply contributed to the otherwise outdated and patriarchal perception that women are not morally robust enough for public office. (Not to say that men are, but the place of women in public posts is what we are concerned about.)
    4. It is unfortunate that nobody in the media seems intelligent enough to make such observations (or maybe its just more self-censorship), nor to draw any correlation between the inflated barrage of media attention to violence and the demands for changes in family law so that children benefit from both parents.
    5. Ultimately, what business is it of the state, the police and the entire world to get involved when my wife slaps me? No journalist seems to be addressing these much more sinister questions.

  3. Paul Gilson says:

    There’s clearly a line to be drawn with DV, but where? The policy’s all over the place and the police only recognise, beyond lip-service, half the problem anyway.
    Most ‘domestics’ as police so touchingly refer to them, can and ought to be resolved by counselling and not by pushing legions of men into the criminal justice system. That solves nothing. Indeed, it probably makes the problem worse.

  4. Brian Hitchcock says:

    The Men’s Aid Charity offers advice to men who are victims of domestic violence. Our web site address is:
    http://www.mensaid.com
    All to often male victims of DV suffer from Family Law problems. They can lose their home and their children.

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