Some people watch Made In Chelsea, others TOWIE, I watch The Jeremy Kyle Show. It’s a habit, and probably not a good one, but shit happens.
Part 7: Dear Jeremy Kyle
I have a bone to pick with you. It’s been bugging me for a while now and I’ve decided I can’t ignore it anymore. I’m hoping that by addressing this issue, you may consider treating such situations differently – especially since you are a figure in the public eye amongst such discussions.
Let me set the scene. We’re dealing with a couple struggling to trust each other, or perhaps it’s an ‘exes at war’ type scenario. One of the pair comes out on the stage; they’re nervous:
‘Don’t worry about this lot, they should be at work.’
The situation is discussed, an abusive relationship (be it physical, psychological, emotional etc) is described.
‘She headbutted me.’
‘I’m scared of them.’
‘He gave me a black eye.’
‘They control me – I can’t leave the house or see my family.’
And here is where you make your error: ‘If they’re abusive, then why don’t you leave them?’
The problem is not necessarily the question itself, but the implication of the question: ‘You should leave them.’ Obviously no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship, but to leave them? It’s never quite that simple…
So some people would say I’m making a fuss over nothing here. You’re the host of a talk show based on discussion, surely it’s a perfectly valid question – if someone is treating you badly, why would you continue to be around that person? Ignoring the fact that such a question can make you appear to be judging the victim for their decisions, there are other issues to take into account here.
Now, I hate to laden this discussion with statistics, but I’m a mathematician at heart and old habits die hard: research has shown that victims of domestic violence are actually at a higher risk when they leave their partners. Their leaving may cause the perpetrator to lash out or track them down (we all remember the horrific story of …, the hairdresser who was murdered by her abusive ex-partner after she’d left them). Oftentimes victims of domestic violence are actually safer staying with their partners, biding their time until they can leave safely with enough resources to seek the help and possible refuge they may require. Furthermore, on average, victims of domestic abuse will leave their abusive partner, and then take them back seven times. It can take SEVEN attempts at leaving before the cycle of abuse is finally broken… And this is only the start of the survivor’s journey. It can take years for the psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse to be broken: years of belittling, of being judged by the person who claims to love them most, of never being good enough cannot be washed away overnight. This leaving process is a ceremony, if you will, it requires preparation and time.
So it may seem like I’m being rather harsh – in fact it’s quite a common mistake to suggest that a victim of domestic abuse should ‘get out of that relationship’ – but there’s a reason I’m not giving you an inch here.
Weekdays at 9:25 on ITV, smack in between Lorraine and This Morning. Double (or is it triple these days?) bills on ITV2 in the afternoons – and I’m not including The Jeremy Kyle Show USA. If I should so wish, then in one week off on holiday, I could easily watch 15 hours of relationship drama, people storming off the stage, families at war, lectures on contraception. the importance of a biological father’s name being put on the birth certificate… And you asking victims of domestic abuse why they choose not to leave their partner.
You, a figure in the public’s eye, with millions of viewers on this side of the Atlantic alone implying, (albeit probably unintentionally) with your choice of words, that victims of domestic abuse should leave their partners without truly discussing possible repercussions is not okay – not with the power of your influence, not with your number of viewers.
If your viewers are under the impression that abusive relationships are simple enough to just ‘leave’, then you are the only one with the power to educate them.
One in six men are victims of domestic abuse. As a women in the United Kingdom you are more likely to die at the hands of an abusive partner than you are to die from heart disease. In England and Wales alone, on average two women are murdered every week as a result of domestic violence. Thirty men a year are murdered as a result of domestic violence. This is the truth. Domestic abuse is everywhere, and to fight it, we need to educate the public about it. It’s not a pleasant discussion, but it’s one we need to have and it’s one you have the power to address more so than most. So next time a victim of domestic abuse sits on your stage, please don’t ask them why they haven’t left their abuser, but perhaps instead ask them if they do want to leave them, and if so why they have a right to feel that way, discuss with them the struggles of leaving the perpetrator, and impress the importance of getting out of the relationship as safely as possible, even if it takes some time.
Jeremy, if you read this, I would love a response. Please help change the way that the public perceives domestic violence.