Late last month, Nottingham Contemporary hosted the premier of some extraordinary, home-grown films. Billed as uncovering the ‘hidden world of domestic abuse’, it was right to be prepared for a harrowing evening. However, director Carol Savage kicked of proceedings and put us at ease by explaining that “there’s always time for a bit of fun”.
With her eccentricity and quirks, fun is exactly what Savage brought along, whilst never undermining the seriousness and urgency of the subject matter.
After the short introduction, we were shown the film Terms of Love. This short tells the tale of Jess and how her life spirals out of control as she enters a relationship with an abusive partner. Shot on location in Beeston, the emotional realism of the film does make for some pretty painful, but vital, viewing.
It was somehow made all the more painful by never showing any explicit physical abuse caused by her boyfriend. Far too often domestic abuse is only characterised by physical violence through scars and bruising . But here we see something different and all to real: her isolation, despair and mental torture.
The film ends with the oft quoted, and frankly embarrassing, statistic of ‘2 women a week are murdered by a current or former partner’. What it didn’t do, however, was try to tell us why this happens. Perhaps that’s a far too big a question for a short to answer, but it certainly left me thinking of how and why someone who seems like ‘a nice guy’ can end up murdering his partner after abusing her for a year.
In a clever bit of programming, the documentary 1 in 4, which followed the short, attempted to answer these questions. It posits itself on the argument that assumed gender privilege is what allows women to suffer from domestic abuse: abusers can come from a variety of races, classes and culture, but the one common belief they share is that ‘being male gave them privilege to be in charge’.
This also affects women: if women are taught to be caregivers they’ll care for, love and give to people even if they abuse them. And as the street interviews proved, because abuse is so typical, victims won’t even it see as abuse.
This is a somewhat challenging notion. This isn’t just about protecting and looking after women once the abuse has happened (by giving them money from the tampon tax, apparently). It’s about preventing abuse in the first place, which in can only happen by changing the way we think about gender – a hard task indeed.
Packed with heart-wrenching testimonials from survivors, not only does 1 in 4 bust the many inaccurate myths surrounding domestic abuse, it makes the vital step of offering solution. It’s a thoroughly local film with an impact that could potentially be huge.
What’s more, the team have put all these films online for everyone to see for free – see them here and be sure to spread them!
Help prevent domestic abuse in Nottingham by donating to Equation here. Or support their work by attending Reel Equality film screenings.