Welsh language soap shines a light on male domestic abuse

This blog post is taken from an article published in the Wales on Sunday on 17 July 2016.

The Welsh language soap Pobol y Cwm has gripped the nation in recent weeks as it continues to explore the volatile relationship between characters Ed and Sioned.

Portraying such a sensitive issue on screen would not have been possible without the help of Safer Wales, a charity which provides support and advice to those experiencing both psychological and physical abuse in their daily lives.

Events in the show came to a head in Monday night’s episode when Sioned’s character spat in Ed’s face during an argument. It was the first time any physical abuse has occurred in the couple’s storyline so far, but the plot will develop over the next month as their relationship deteriorates.

The Safer Wales team and a client worked closely with the producers and actors at BBC Cymru Wales in the development of the storyline to ensure the treatment Ed experiences at the hands of Sioned is portrayed realistically. They drew from knowledge gained during their work with real domestic abuse victims to identify the common behavior traits expressed in such situations.

Discussing domestic abuse experienced by men is often seen as a taboo subject. However, by telling such stories through the lives of familiar characters, the popular programme is helping to raise awareness of the issue as well as informing people of the signs to look out for.

Chief executive of Safer Wales Barbara Natasegara said:

“Raising awareness of domestic abuse suffered by men is extremely important, and we are delighted to be working with Pobol y Cwm to do this. As we have seen through Ed and Sioned’s story, forms of domestic abuse can present themselves in many different ways, both physical and emotional.

“It’s is something that can affect anyone and everyone, in all walks of life. We are used to hearing stories of physical and emotional control from a man over a woman, but the reality is that this is something that can happen to anyone of any gender.”

Llyr Morus, series producer of Pobol y Cwm said: 

“Pobol y Cwm has a strong track record of telling challenging stories; last year actor Dyfan Rees' portrayal of his character lolo White's struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was recognised with a Mind Media award.

“This storyline highlights the issue of male domestic abuse and we have a responsibility to ensure the programme reflects these situations as accurately as possible. We take this responsiblity very seriously and working with expert organisations such as Safer Wales is key. I'd like to thank Safer Wales for their co-operation and advice ; it has been invaluable.”

Safer Wales offers a number of different services to those experiencing abuse in Wales. The charity’s Dyn Project specifically provides support for heterosexual, gay, bisexual and transgender men who are experiencing domestic abuse from a partner.

If you are concerned about issues surrounding domestic abuse of any kind, you can contact Safer Wales, Dyn Helpline 0808 801 0321.

Pobol y Cym is broadcast at 8pm on S4C on weekday nights.

Awareness of domestic abuse is important, but we need to change behaviour

Our CEO, Barbara Natasegara, reflects on how much work we still need to do to reduce the figures of domestic abuse.

  Barbara Natasegara MBE – Chief Executive Officer

Barbara Natasegara MBE – Chief Executive Officer

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Welsh Women’s Aid started investigating the numbers of domestic abuse victims in Wales. They estimated that [insert] women were experiencing domestic violence of some form from an intimate partner. 

Today, two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner, and almost one in three has experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16. These figures are high, and they don’t appear to be going down. 

But that’s not to say people aren’t aware of the problem. In fact, awareness of domestic abuse in Wales is increasing every year as more and more people pledge to take action against it. The 16 days of activism, symbolised by White Ribbon Day on 25 November, and concluding on 10 December exists exactly for this purpose. 

This year, we marked the 10th anniversary of White Ribbon Day in Wales with a number of events across the city, including a public march and a candlelit vigil outside the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. High profile figures and Welsh Government ministers came forward to pledge their continued support for the cause and promised to take more action against the perpetrators of domestic violence.

So why are reports of domestic abuse still just as high as they were 25 years ago?

A lot can be said for the impact of nationwide awareness days when it comes to bringing attention to an important cause, but there is clearly a reason why the statistics for domestic abuse in this country haven’t decreased in the last 25 years of campaigning. 

If we are really going to make a difference and protect future victims from domestic abuse, we need to fight the problem at the root and tackle the behaviour before it escalates. 

The introduction of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Act in April this year shows that Wales is leading the way in providing preventative and protective measures against abuse. The aim of the Act is to raise the profile of violence against women, and to strategically improve the public sector response to it. While this is a meaningful move, we need to focus on establishing the behaviours that cause people to act this way.

There are many examples of where strong legislation combined with awareness raising has led to real change in behaviour. The 2006 Health Act, for example, targeted directly the behaviour of smokers by making it illegal to smoke inside public places.  Alongside strategic awareness about the health implications of smoking and legislation that made it harder for people to smoke freely, the numbers of smokers in the UK has dropped by --- in the last 10 years.

Another convincing example of where legislation and awareness raising have successfully worked hand-in-hand to change behaviour is with the laws surrounding wearing a seatbelt. Previous attempts to make seatbelts mandatory in all vehicles failed up until 1981 due to a lack of awareness. It was only when campaigners significantly stepped up their efforts to convince the public of the safety implications of not wearing seatbelts that the introduction of the law made a real difference. 

When it comes to domestic abuse here in Wales, we might be on our way to making real change, but until we start targeting the behaviour that causes domestic abuse and violence in the first place, the statistics will remain the same.