There are countless assumptions about domestic violence that Stacey Dooley wants to disprove in new BBC3 documentary Beaten by My Boyfriend.
“It was becoming apparent,” says the 28-year-old TV presenter, “that our generation of 16-24 year olds were perhaps more vulnerable than the middle aged housewife that you tend to associate domestic violence with, and I found that really fascinating.”
Beyond stereotypes about age, domestic violence is usually associated with working-class, or unemployed people, says Dooley. “But there is no standard perpetrator, no typical victim. It can happen to millionaires, lawyers, teachers- nobody is out of that circle.”
The BBC3 documentary sees the presenter – whose previous programmes include investigations into child labour and sex trafficking – spend time with the Lancashire police as they deal with 9,000 domestic abuse cases in a single year, and talk to abusers on camera about their experiences.
Even for an investigative journalist used to shocking situations, Dooley was astounded by the sheer number of domestic abuse incidents she encountered. “The prevalence of it was something I hadn’t realised. I was just speaking to hundreds and hundreds of people who have been directly involved.”
Dooley recalls one particular case that has stuck with her – a 19-yearold she spent time talking to. “I turned up at her house and the door had been kicked in and was in bits. She was sat on the sofa, heavily pregnant and had this huge bump covered in bruises. She had a tiny little face, she looked younger than she was.
“She just started reeling off all these memories and experiences she had been through, where she had been brutally battered by this guy, beaten with a dog collar, beaten unconscious, battered because she wasn’t ready to go out for dinner.”
The documentary was originally commissioned to air on the same night as Murdered by My Boyfriend, the BBC3 drama based on a true story of abuse, which last week won a Royal Television Society award for best single drama.
But Beaten by my Boyfriend is now being shown a year later than the drama, because the channel felt that some of the girls and women featured were too emotionally and psychologically vulnerable to be in the public eye at that point. One participant was taken out of the programme because Dooley and the channel felt it would be irresponsible to keep her in.
“One of the other girls decided she wanted to stay in the show, because she’s in a very, very different position now. But we’ve had to wait for months and months for that to be the case.”
Dooley says she’d like to make another programme about domestic violence, but this time focusing on men being beaten by women. People have already asked her why – given that we now know domestic abuse is an issue for all genders – the show is called Beaten by my Boyfriend, rather than “partner”.
“Statistically you’re more likely to be beaten if you’re female, and that’s why it’s the title. It’s also meant to be a bit provocative. But I would like to look at the abuse that men suffer too. Although, I think accessing those victims would be incredibly difficult.”
Beaten by my Boyfriend is on Wednesday 25th March at 9pm on BBC3