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Celebrity Big Brother 2018: The year that the stigma around domestic abuse was shattered?

When Dan Osbourne entered the Celebrity Big Brother House, domestic abuse charities nationwide were vocal in their opinions that his acceptance into the programme was wrong: celebrating his past where he had shown abusive behaviour towards an ex- girlfriend. Dan entered the house with one of the biggest social media followings out of all of the housemates, raising important questions as to what the youth of society is really looking up to in terms of role models.  This topic dominated Dan’s arrival into the house and for some days following.

Fast forward to two weeks later and domestic abuse was a central topic once again, when Roxanne Pallet claimed to have been viciously assaulted by Ryan Thomas and punched repeatedly by him. The video clip of the incident portrayed a very different, completely innocent story where Ryan was showing affection and play fighting.  Roxanne claimed the assault had left her incredibly nervous and shaken, sleeping in a bedroom away from the house and ultimately leaving Big Brother because of the ordeal.

What ensued was a public debate that dominated headlines for days on end, with the public questioning Roxanne’s motives and some experts accusing her of undoing years of work by domestic abuse charities by putting herself in the same category. Roxanne was considered to be over-dramatising the situation and by calling herself a victim, wasn’t appreciating how serious the issue of domestic violence is for actual sufferers, resulting in loss of life. 

Women’s Aid responded to the situation by saying that domestic abuse has many more layers and meanings than people with no experience of it appreciate, and ‘Play fighting may not seem serious but if you have been in an abusive relationship it can seem frightening and even trigger memories of the abuse’. Women’s Aid also highlighted the magnitude of the threat of domestic abuse with 1.2 million women estimated to have experienced it in the last year alone.

Despite personal opinions on Dan Osbourne being invited into the Big Brother experience in what would undoubtedly raise his profile on a national stage, or indeed on whether Roxanne Pallet over exaggerated the situation with Ryan and showed a lack of compassion to current victims of real domestic abuse, both situations tell us something. Domestic abuse poses a clear, credible and acute threat to men and women nationwide and it comes in many different forms to what people expect, including emotional abuse.  Every single victim has a different personal experience and this must be appreciated.

More work needs to be done to support victims and encourage them to speak about their experiences, but the fact that as a nation we are more heightened to it than ever and vocal in our efforts to eliminate it is a hopeful indication for the future.

When Big Brother first started no-one expected it would be one of the most controversial series to date, but the fact that domestic abuse, in whatever form, was a central topic shows us something. If we want to rid the world of all forms of domestic abuse, the more we talk about it, the better.

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