by Ian McNicholl, male domestic abuse survivor and Honorary Patron of ManKind
On Monday 8th December 2014, BBC Panorama featured a programme on “Domestic Abuse.” Or did it?
Having watched the Documentary, undertaken a period of reflection and reviewed the Documentary once again, I would encourage you to watch the Documentary and ask the following question:
“What message did the BBC and the Producer(s) of Panorama seek to deliver?”
It is unclear as to what influence certain well known groups had over the final content and if this was influential to their “Terms of Engagement.” Furthermore, it also remains unclear if the professional opinions expressed within the Documentary were edited. However, it is evident that as a direct result of conscious decision making by those in an influential position connected to the end product, that comparable, and influential statistical information was withheld. For example, “”80 Women were killed” and “1 in 4 Women will experience Domestic Abuse.” The inclusion of comparable statistics would have aided balance and increased awareness.
As a Male Survivor of Domestic Abuse, I must give immense credit to the brave women who featured in the Documentary and I am confident that their individual and collective contribution will encourage many more Female Victims to come forward and escape their abuser.
Looking forward, I remain of the view that the Media will continue to play a pivotal role in the delivery of “Public Policy” and it is this policy that that will continue to influence society’s perception of “Domestic Abuse.” We must all remember that as Victims of Domestic Abuse launch their personal escape bids, it is the “Public” who facilitate many valuable assists and this intervention is certainly life changing if not life saving. Has Panorama supported or placed barriers in the way of these escape bids?
Despite a period of reflection, I remain of the view that the Panorama Documentary simply reinforced the stereotypical view that Domestic Abuse is experienced by Females at the hands of Males. This is deeply worrying. For example, t he “White Ribbon Campaign” seeks to end “Male Violence Against Women.” Have we forgotten about the poor females experiencing Domestic Abuse within same sex intimate partner relationships?
Panorama has, in my opinion, failed in its “Duty of Care” as the message the Documentary delivered was in direct conflict with the introduction. The introduction did not indicate that the Documentary was an insight/investigation into Female Victims of Domestic Abuse. Furthermore, Panorama has failed to support the many professionals working tirelessly to encourage all victims of Domestic Abuse to take their very first brave steps on the road to recovery. Disappointingly, Panorama has simply watered the seeds of exclusion.
Whatever the aims and objectives of Panorama, the BBC have failed on numerous counts by giving air time to a Subject Matter that affects many within our Neighbourhoods and Communities by presenting a Gender Bias (therefore lazy and misguided,) view, of Domestic Abuse which can only negatively influence the perception of society further.
This will no doubt place additional barriers in the way of support for those perceived as “minority victim groups.”
Panorama needed to send out a clear and concise message:
Domestic Abuse is everyone’s business, FULL STOP.
Annex 1: Reply from the Producer of Panorama to my complaint
Thank you for taking the time to write to BBC Panorama.
I am the Producer Director of Domestic Abuse: Caught on Camera. I wanted you to know that I have read your email, Mr McNicholl…
Our initial research into domestic abuse was conducted with an open mind. The eventual decision by the Panorama programme to focus on the experience particularly of women of what is called “coercive control” does not diminish or deflect from the fact that men can suffer violence at the hands of women, or that women can also be controlling. However those latter issues were not what this programme chose to focus on. Domestic abuse is a very complex and multifaceted area. There are a number of subjects we would have liked to touch on but were not able to in a single film.
But, the programme did include the script line, “Women can be violent or controlling too and same sex relationships can be abusive. Too often domestic abuse against anyone is only tackled once someone is hurt”. We were careful to use gender neutral language (e.g. “people”; “partner”; “abusive partner”; “violent partner”; “abusers” etc) where possible and relevant.
Also, the online piece for the BBC news website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30330669) associated with our film, written by BBC reporter Victoria Derbyshire included the line, “That’s because – irrespective of whether the abuser is male or female….”.
Across the balance of its coverage the BBC and BBC News and Current Affairs has endeavoured to tell a range of stories about the important issue of domestic abuse, from different angles.
For example, on the Friday before our Panorama film was broadcast a Newsbeat reporter Nomia Iqbal did cover the issue of men experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of women: http://m.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30303405. The Victoria Derbyshire show has done an hour long programme about men talking about their experiences of emotional and physical abuse (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01yszr4), BBC News has repeatedly done pieces, particularly locally (just one example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-29108616). Women’s Hour has featured the abuse of men as well. There has been a relatively recent piece on one group of men (Asian men) who have suffered domestic abuse (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw0gr).
We note that from the relevant organisation Mankind Initiative’s own tally of media coverage which included male victims between 7th Dec 2007 – 4th Dec 2013, over 50% was BBC produced coverage. (http://www.mankind.org.uk/pdfs/(4)%202007%20to%20Dec%202013.pdf).
We are confident that we have overall taken a balanced look at these issues, as a Corporation.