Is domestic abuse normalised by reality TV?

Coercive and controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationship became a criminal offence in the UK on 29th December 2015 and includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. In December 2018, the Home Office confirmed there had been 235 successful convictions. Whilst successful domestic abuse convictions should be celebrated, is this low conviction rate due to a difficulty in obtaining evidence, a lack of victims coming forward or is it because coercive and controlling behaviour is normalised in our society?

Love Island has been on our screens for a number of weeks now and ITV claim that 4.2 million viewers watched the first episode this year. The Radio Times claim that 57% of 16 to 34 year olds were watching that episode.

It is therefore concerning to note that with such an influence over the youth of our population, the show is being criticised for its contestants’ coercive and controlling behaviour. During this year’s show we have seen women being told that they cannot be friends with other males, women being blamed for men’s decisions and women accepting that this fault is due to their personality traits. It isn’t just men who have been criticised for their controlling behaviour during the show and indeed in society women are perpetrators of domestic abuse too. We have also seen one female contestant grabbing the face of another contestant to encourage him to leave the gameshow with her and another woman trying to kiss a male who was clearly refusing her advances.

It is important for viewers of these shows to remember that it is a game show with a cash prize at the end and these relationships may not be genuine. However, it is also extremely important to be aware that this behaviour within relationships is not acceptable and should not be normalised by popular television shows.

We need to ensure that awareness of coercive and controlling behaviour continues to be widespread and that the young adults watching such reality television shows are clear that this behaviour constitutes domestic abuse and should not be tolerated.


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