I’ve just finished watching BBC’s shocking drama ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’, which tells the true story of a seventeen year old girl, who becomes a victim of domestic violence. This sixty minute drama gives us an insight into Ashley and Reece’s four year abusive relationship; from their very first meeting right up until Reece brutally murders Ashley with his fists and an ironing board. Poignant and gripping, it’s safe to say that this drama left me feeling emotional and physically sick, and spurned me on to write my first blog post. At the end of the programme, we are left with the words “It took 4 years for Ashley to die. In that time, at least 229 other women in Britain were murdered as a result of domestic violence.” This shocking statistic reiterates just how common domestic violence continues to be, and highlights how it can often go on unnoticed for years. In this drama, Ashley’s friends continuously beg her to leave Reece, and the police are frequently called by neighbours, friends, and Ashley herself. Yet her death was still not prevented. So why was this case? And why are so many women still being murdered as a result of domestic violence?
Women’s Aid suggest that one reason for this is because domestic violence is still a ‘hidden crime’, with many women often attempting to hide signs of abuse from their friends and family. They propose a possible list of reasons, including self-blaming and fear, both of which are portrayed in ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’. At several points during this drama, Ashley tells her friend that she provoked Reece, and continues to defend him because he’s a ‘good father’ to their daughter. This therefore raises a major issue of domestic abuse, that leads to many cases going unnoticed, or being unreported.
In particular for me, it was scary how much this drama resonated familiar moments from past relationships. Fortunately, I have never been a victim of physical domestic violence, however I have been a victim of verbal abuse by an ex boyfriend, which often made me fearful for my physical safety. According to domesticviolence.org, “verbal domestic abuse is one of the most serious forms of domestic violence”, and can have damaging psychological effects for the victim. During this one relationship, I was constantly criticized by my boyfriend, and was subjected to name calling, swearing and disrespect. As is common with most victims, I blamed myself for everything, and would continue to focus on the positives of the relationship, despite feeling utterly miserable. One example in particular of my ex boyfriend turning his bad behaviour around onto me, was when he would flirt and meet up with other girls behind my back. Understandably, this led me to become more paranoid, and I would go through his phone where I continued to find inappropriate messages from girls and I would bring it up with him. He would then shout at me, and made the argument about me going through his phone, which is still a violation of privacy yes, but does not justify his bad behaviour. This situation was mirrored exactly in ‘Murdered by My Boyfriend’, when Ashley found texts from another girl on Reece’s phone, informing her of his affair. Yet, similarly to my ex boyfriend, Reece turned the situation onto Ashley, and reminded her how ‘well he treated her’, bringing to light a further issue experienced by victims; feeling guilty. During this moment, Reece constantly interrogates Ashley, asking her ‘do I give you money?’ ‘Do I babysit while you’re out?’ before arguing that he treats her ‘like a princess’. Chillingly, this reflects my past situation with my ex, with him using the exact same line ‘I treat you like a princess’, in an attempt to prove how well he treated me when I accused him of treating me badly. Therefore a major problem felt by all victims of domestic abuse is that of self-blame and guilt, caused by a cruel psychological entrapment from the perpetrator.
Thankfully, as I said, I was never subjected to abuse on a more serious level, and I can only empathise to some extent with the poor women who become victims to domestic abuse, and frighteningly, death. This drama was very powerful in its message of domestic abuse, as it demonstrates the harmful effects of both verbal and physical violence; which according to The Guardian, “More than 1.1 million or 7% of women and 720,000 or 4% of men have been victims of…in the past year”. Shockingly, domestic abuse is still one of the most commonly reported crimes in the UK, and not everyone is lucky enough to escape from an abusive relationship. Ashley was only 17 when she met Reece, a hardworking college student with her whole life ahead of her. A life that was painfully cut short by someone she loved. How many more victims will there be?