The BBC One Panorama documentary Domestic Abuse: Caught on Camera shows footage and evidence of domestic violence that has been a persistent problem in the UK. Domestic violence has accounted for one-third of recorded assaults with injury in Wales and England, as suggested in the report (BBC, 2014). The documentary is striking because it contains real-life footage filmed with the help of body cams worn by the members of police response teams. Looking at what real women, who are wives, mothers, and children, have experienced on a regular basis from males who were supposed to protect them is horrifying because this occurs daily, and many of the voices remain unheard.
The job of first responders to reports of domestic abuse is to determine the severity of the violence, identify the perpetrator, and make sure that the victim does not remain in a threatening environment against their will to get abused further. However, when the police respond to the call made by Dawn, who was beaten by her husband Michael, they see that the victim, although severely bruised, tried to act as if everything was fine despite her calling the police. This sign is crucial to look out for in cases of domestic abuse because it signifies that a victim has been abused physically and verbally, controlled and coerced into supposed ‘obedience.’ Social workers and police are always educated to look for the signs of coercive control, and in the footage, they are apparent even though Michael appears calm and polite in front of law enforcement. When he asked Dawn, “Do you want to speak to them?” she immediately knew that she had to say no because of the question’s tone and framing.
The documentary also shows the educational intervention involving the survivors of domestic abuse. The women are taught to recognize the signs of coercive control in their partners and explain what to do when they want to get out. An important takeaway from the intervention is that the coach says that women should not feel ashamed that they tolerated being abused for a long time. It is common for domestic abusers to be abhorrent with their partners in private but be charming when in public. Behind closed doors, abuse could get severe, but women tend to feel alone and isolated because they do not know how to safely reveal their mistreatment to the world.
What the documentary does well shows that domestic abuse is often overlooked because the evidence that could point to it is hidden and that victims of violence struggle with how they can reveal their experience without getting harmed. By showing real footage and giving victims a voice, the directors of the documentary effectively comment on the fact that domestic abuse can take many forms but that coercive control is often its key part. Besides, stopping abuse from happening is often challenging for law enforcement because when they arrive on the scene, the perpetrator is there, and they prevent the victim by giving an honest and direct statement because they control them. Domestic abuse is a complicated issue because its roots lie in coercive control by the abuser. The stories such as those shown in Domestic Abuse: Caught on Camera shed light on the details that come into play.
BBC. (2014). Domestic abuse: Caught on camera.