The Week in Radio: Unique insights into the dark side of human nature in The Abuser's Tale

 

"I used to call her names, swear at her," recalled "Stuart", as he had consented to be called, about his relationship with his girlfriend. "I've hit her... and given her a black eye... I've punched her in the face a few times and kicked her in the legs." This was just one of the recollections of a man who had spent years terrorising his partner in The Abuser's Tale, a study of domestic abuse on BBC Five Live's Victoria Derbyshire.

Stuart, along with the three other men whom Derbyshire interviewed, was taking part in a domestic-violence perpetrator programme, a course that tries to change the behaviour of abusers through anger management, the development of empathy and learning to listen, compromise and negotiate. Each talked openly about what they had done. Most, though not all, couldn't be sure that they wouldn't do it again. Their testimonies were chilling.

Right now Derbyshire's show is one of the most extraordinary of its kind. Its excellence lies in its ability to shine a light on the darker and more controversial corners of human existence with intelligence and restraint. It reaches the places other radio shows cannot reach.

It has, in the past, broadcast from an animal research laboratory and an abortion clinic. It has based several programmes around Rachel, an alcoholic doctor whose articulate reflections on her own behaviour were enough to make listeners stop what they were doing and weep. I don't know where the show gets its researchers, or what alchemy they use to persuade troubled people to talk frankly and publicly but, whatever it is, I hope they are showered with riches and lavished with praise on an hourly basis.

From the manager of Splitz, a support service for families suffering from domestic violence in the West Country, we discovered that abusers come from all walks of life – "We've had a vicar, we've had GPs, soldiers, everybody. People who are employed, people who are not employed," he said. We learned that abusers use a variety of tactics to exert control, from humiliation and isolation to deprivation (this might include withholding food and medicine), violence and rape. We learned how violence crosses a psychological as well as physical line because "once you've hit someone you don't need to do any more. The threat is there."

Peter – not his real name – noted how "people that don't know me closely think I'm the nicest person you'd like to meet". They certainly wouldn't suspect that, in the midst of a row with his wife, he would be the type to throw her on to a sofa, climb on top of her and punch her in the face. Asked by Derbyshire how he could do such a thing he replied: "How could I? Well, I did. I lost control, that's the bottom line."

It was, Peter said, a one-off incident but it changed everything. Since then both he and his partner have sought help through couples counselling and the perpetrator programme – so far successfully. And this was what Derbyshire's show revealed most unexpectedly and powerfully, that there can be life after an abusive relationship, both for the abuser and the abused.

An item on Monday's edition of Today on Radio 4 similarly showed how hope can come out of hopelessness. It was on Malala Yousafzai, the young woman who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for speaking up about her right to go to school. A year on from the incident, Malala was interviewed by Mishal Husain – who, incidentally, was on her first shift on the programme. Malala was inspirational: calm, articulate and wise beyond her years. Best of all, she was alive.

twitter.com/FionaSturges

Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital