BBC’s Panorama viewers have been left heartbroken after hearing the ‘harrowing’ account of domestic abuse survivors – including one woman who was ‘raped over 100 times’ by her husband in lockdown.
Host Victoria Derbyshire also revealed how she understands the terror of those ‘trapped’ and ‘forced’ to live with their abusers amid lockdown – because her own father was violent when she was growing up.
In BBC’s Panorama, the presenter, 51, investigated the impact of lockdown for those living with an abusive partner, revealing the scale of domestic violence at the height of the crisis and meeting some of those who managed to escape.
‘Panorama heartbreaking to watch. I’ll never understand how a “man” can do this’, one viewer wrote about the programme.
It comes as figures have revealed that domestic violence against women has rocketed during coronavirus lockdown, with two-thirds of women in abusive relationships suffering worse during the pandemic.
Kidnap, arson, revenge porn and even poisonings have been carried out during lockdown by aggressive partners under the cover of the stay-at-home restrictions.
Watch video of the woman as she narrates her ordeal
In the Victoria Derbyshire-fronted programme a woman called Jess – not her real name – said on the night lockdown was announced her husband told her what this meant for her – before she was raped over 100 times over the next weeks and months.
She said: ‘I was at home with him, we were both listening to Boris Johnson and he looked over at me, he had his arms folded back and chest out, cos he knew that would intimidate me, and he looked at me and he said: “let the games begin”.’
‘And he said: “If you think it was bad before with the rape, you’re in for a rough ride.” So the rape started really, really, really bad, really bad. Curtains would get closed, TV would be up loud, front door would be locked, music would be turned up, so nobody could hear me screaming for someone, for anybody.’
Thankfully Jess escaped her husband after he fell asleep one day, meaning she was free to go online and discover how to contact the police by text, who then helped her.
Following Jess’ and other accounts from domestic abuse victims, viewers took to social media to explain that they were left ‘heartbroken’ by the ‘harrowing stories’.
One person said on Twitter: ‘Really harrowing piece with Victoria Derbyshire on domestic abuse during lockdown,’ while another added: ‘This Panorama episode is breaking my heart.’
In the first seven weeks of lockdown, there was one domestic abuse call every 30 seconds and 75 per cent of victims have also said the restrictions under the virus’s infection of the UK made it harder for them to get away from their attackers.
The figures were revealed in a joint investigation by the BBC’s Panorama and Women’s Aid,.
They secured the figures from UK police forces by applying under the Freedom of Information act.
Speaking to the BBC ahead of the programme, Victoria recalled how her ‘whole body’ would ‘tense’ every time she heard her father’s key in the back door – not knowing whether his mood would provoke an argument or result in him hitting or whipping her with his belt, or slapping her round the back of her head.
Victoria says that while she could escape her father’s temper by going to her friend’s house down the road, she feels for those who were ‘trapped’ in the same house as their abusers amid the coronavirus lockdown.
‘When the prime minister told us all to stay at home because of coronavirus, one of my first thoughts was for those living in abusive households – women, men and children, essentially trapped, forced to stay inside week after week,’ she told the publication. ‘What would happen to them?’
During an emotional segment in the show, Victoria was captured revisiting the childhood home she grew up in in Littleborough, Rochdale, for the first time in 35 years.
‘Like I could really cry, I could really cry,’ she explained. ‘Pathetic. So this is the house where I grew up. It’s so weird, I haven’t been here for so long and I’ve got some really happy memories of being there, but there were some really difficult times because my father was violent.’
‘You know, this was the 70s and 80s. No one had heard the phrase ‘domestic abuse.’ No one knew what it meant, what it was or what it involved.
‘If he was in the house we were on eggshells all the time. I remember once he locked my mum in their bedroom and he was hitting her and there was loads of noise and I was scared.’
She continued: ‘So I ran from here down to the police station which is maybe a mile. I was 12 or 13. I was so scared I just ran to the police stations and said “my dad’s hitting my mum, please can you come.”‘
‘So when Boris Johnson told us all to stay at home one of my first thought was, “so what if you’re living in the house with a violent partner – because you would literally be trapped.”‘
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