It's rare for me to write about about a repeat on here. In fact, this is the first time I'm doing it, and it's for a very good reason. Because I want as many people as possible to watch Murdered By My Boyfriend and sit up and take note of the issues within it.
Many are too quick to dismiss BBC Three as a channel that's aimed at young people without any real substance, including the BBC themselves who are planning on taking the channel online only from Autumn 2015. Yes the channel is know for Sun, Sex & Suspicious Parents and Snog, Marry, Avoid, but in amongst those shows (as with any channel), is a lot of good.
Free Speech for example is the only place on TV where young people can debate about the issues that affect them, Our War was a brilliant example of how great their documentaries can be, and because of their target audience help to educate young people who may be put off by documentaries on BBC One or even BBC Two. Murdered By My Boyfriend was a brilliant example of why BBC Three deserves to stay, and here's why...
Murdered By My Boyfriend is the incredibly powerful true story of a young woman who falls for the wrong guy, losing her heart to a man who eventually takes her life. All incidents reflect what really happened, but with names changed at the request of the victim’s family, and quite rightly so too.
The girl is just 17 years of age, and in this goes by the name of Ashley, and is played brilliantly by Georgina Campbell (Ice Cream Girls). She falls head over heels for Reece (Royce Pierreson, Misfits) after meeting at a party. He’s charming, handsome, older, and makes her feel like the only girl in a room. But he is also insecure, jealous and he’ll try to control every aspect of her life. His possessiveness, to Ashley, shows that he cares. No matter how many times they fall out, she will always forgive him, and things go back to being great between the two.
Things all get too much one day, when he grabs her, whilst pregnant with their daughter, and smashes her head against the wall. For a TV drama this is shocking, to think this really happened to a poor young girl is even more upsetting. We've heard it all before "I'll never do it again" - Reece tells Ashley this, and yep, you guessed it, she believes him. And you can see why she would. When you're so in love with someone even an awful incident like that can be swept under the carpet and you focus on the good times.
There comes a point where Ashley is forced to hide her bruises with make-up and the right clothes, but it's not just physical violence she has to endure, Reece is manipulative as well. He dictates what she wears, where she goes, how long for, who she's with, and if in any doubt makes her send him photos to prove her whereabouts. It's just so deeply upsetting that not only does he demand this from her, but that she agrees. It makes you think how many cases of domestic abuse happen behind closed doors up and down the country.
Thankfully, Ashley does reach a point where she wants out, but she knows it's not going to be easy. What happens next made for some very uncomfortable viewing, and whilst I wanted to look away, I told myself that I mustn't. Ashley wasn't able to look away. Ashley wasn't able to switch channels. This was a real situation that she found herself in. Reece finishing her off with an ironing board has to be one of the worst things I've seen in a TV drama, and like I keep saying, you have to remind yourself that this actually happened, it's not the work of writers. That said, there isn't that much violence shown on screen, most of it is implied through the editing. Did it make me cry? Yes. Did it make me think? Absolutely.
And yes, I may have just given away the entire plot, but I felt it was necessary, because it is a true story and if you don't watch it (you definitely should) at least you know what happens, and if God forbid you can see parts of your relationship in Ashley and Reece's, you realise you're not alone. Others are going through the same thing, and help is out there.
So when the channel does eventually move online, and then inevitably fade away, I'd like the channel to be remembered more for Murdered By My Boyfriend than most of their other programmes. Why? Because it told a true story in a way that really engaged people, got them talking, and had a real impact in the real world. When it was first aired on BBC Three the twittersphere erupted with nothing but praise and shock at the show. This was absolutely the right reaction for a show like this and I'm pleased that the power of TV drama has now got people talking openly about domestic violence, and in agreement that cases such as Ashley's simply cannot happen.
Now take a moment to read the screenshot on the right. In case you can't read it properly, here's a transcript:
"I am a police officer and yesterday a 23 year old girl walked into the police station covered in bruises and clutching her iPhone which was smashed to smithereens. She had watched Murdered By My Boyfriend and finally took the courage to report what was happening to her. I think she has saved her own life. It's an excellent programme. Thank you."
How incredible is that? Had this programme not have aired on BBC Three, this young lady may not have seen it, therefore would not have come forward, and could have found herself in an even worse situation. It's stories like these that make me with the BBC reconsider taking BBC Three off air. They have a duty to serve the young people of the UK, and if it moves online (yes, there's the argument that they're all online anyway) but showing something on TV, in primetime, gives it a much bigger precedence, and makes more people sit up and take note.
I could not have been more pleased when I saw this screenshot doing the rounds on Twitter. Never underestimate the power of telly, in the old-fashioned sense it's not just there to entertain, but also to educate which this certainly did. I love the idea of women (and men) all over the country coming forward as a result of having seen this programme. And hopefully, once the repeat goes out on BBC One, and it remains on BBC iPlayer longer, many more people will come forward and it will have a positive affect on so many.
When Murdered By My Boyfriend first went out on Monday 23rd June, it achieved an amazing figure of 3.5m (this includes live and all viewing in the seven days following the first broadcast). In the UK, it is estimated that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and the risk of domestic violence is highest for those between 16 and 24 years of age. Perhaps most shocking is that two women a week die as a result of domestic violence.
Sam Bickley, who has recently taken over from Zai Bennett to become Channel Editor for BBC Three said: “Murdered By My Boyfriend is truly one of the most powerful, distinctive and original pieces of television I have seen and I am so proud that BBC Three commissioned, championed and promoted it. If it has helped even one victim of domestic abuse to change their life then we’ve done our job.” And I couldn't agree with her more.
Sandra Horley CBE, who is the Chief Executive of the national domestic violence charity Refuge, has said: “Murdered By My Boyfriend is a chillingly powerful depiction of a crime that blights our society. The truth is that Ashley’s story is all too common - every week, two women are killed by current or former partners.
I commend the BBC for creating such an important film. Over the last couple of weeks, women have been leaving comments on Refuge’s social media sites, describing how Ashley’s story reminded them of their own experiences and urging others to reach out for support. Other people have donated money to help fund our services for women and children as a result of seeing the film. As a society we need to keep domestic violence firmly in the spotlight. This is an issue which affects everyone.”