BBC comedy chat show All Round to Mrs Brown’s has triggered outrage among domestic violence survivors and campaigners after it depicted real-life domestic abuse by a wife against her husband as comedy and then gave her the show’s ‘Mammy of the Week’ award.
The segment of the popular Saturday night light entertainment programme, in which each week a mother is nominated for the award, shows a daughter describe to a laughing studio audience how her mother has repeatedly attacked her father with household objects and on at least one occasion with a knife.
Accompanied by Benny Hill-style comedy music, canned laughter and with the mother shown laughing in the corner of the picture, the daughter says: “She really likes to throw things and it’s dad that gets the brunt of it. He’s had pretty much everything thrown at him over the years, toasters, hair dryers, you name it.
“There’s still a dent in the wall from where she threw a knife at him — he says it’s a constant reminder to stay in her good side.”
At one point, as the daughter is describing the violence, a photograph of the mark made by the knife is shown on screen, accompanied by another burst of canned audience laughter, then followed by the words: “BUT STILL AN AMAZING MAMMY”.
Mark Brooks, Chairman of the ManKind Initiative, a national charity supporting male victims of domestic abuse, said: “It is frankly staggering this was ever broadcast by the BBC let alone treated as funny and a cause for celebration.
“It shows how deeply ingrained society’s view is in failing to understand or accept men are victims of domestic abuse too. This broadcast makes matters worse by reinforcing that view. Watching this would have been deeply upsetting to many men who are going through an abusive relationship or have done so in the past and still live with the memories – in fact it would have made matters worse.
“I am confident that the BBC understands both the sensitivity of the subject and the important role it plays in raising awareness. They should delete this segment thereby making it clear that this was unacceptable television that should never have made it to the nation’s screens and living rooms”.
‘I feared I would be laughed at’
Ian McNicholl, domestic abuse survivor and Ambassador for the ManKind Initiative said: “When I was experiencing domestic abuse, my biggest fears were that I would not be believed and that I would be laughed at if I told anyone.
“Had I been watching this at the time, it would have reinforced these views in my mind and made it even less likely that I would escape. As a society we have to be clear that domestic abuse is wrong whoever the victim is and this is why the content and tone is unacceptable as it is both completely insensitive and disrespectful to all male victims and survivors.”
The ManKind Initiative said is has written to the BBC Trust and co-producers Hungry Bear Media and BocPix, calling for an apology and for the episode to be deleted.
Mr Brooks said the segment “highlights and reinforces the continual belief that this type of abuse is acceptable and humorous when it is a man who is the victim. It normalises the belief that this behaviour is acceptable.
“It also exposes the double standards applied to male victims as, rightly, both the BBC and the production companies would never treat a similar insensitive situation where the genders were reversed as a ‘celebration’ or ‘humorous’ let alone broadcast it.
“This makes male victims more vulnerable as it makes it far harder for them to find the courage to get help and feel they will be believed, when they see a national broadcaster and the audience think this type of activity is a source of amusement, not one of equal importance to both male and female victims.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, 450,000 men per year are victims of partner abuse – one in three of all victims with one in every six men suffering in their lifetime.
The cross-government definition of domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.
Watch the segment here from 44:10: