Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Hazel, Daley, and How Big Brother Got It So Wrong.
They were always going to be a match made in hell: Hazel, the lady whose game plan was more important than her morals; and Daley, a man with a serious girlfriend on the outside. Or maybe she wasn't his girlfriend. Oh, actually, no, they were pretty much broken up by the time he came in the house, in fact, by then, he considered himself single. Except his lovely girlfriend Katie didn't know any of this, apparently.
Even so, somehow viewers voted them into the Safe House, a house of luxury and privacy. The perfect place for Hazel's dastardly plan to worm her way into Daley's pants through sheer, brazen persistence to finally pay off.
And then it all went wrong. There are various places you can see what happened, maybe here in the Daily Mail, which, unlike most YouTube footage, has most of the argument detailed, not just the bum slapping. For me, the whole thing was extremely disturbing, it brought back way too many reminders, especially when he grabbed her around the throat and was threatening her. I've been there too many times.
So Daley was removed from the Big Brother house. And that evening on Big Brother's Bit On The Side (BBBOTS), I sat there slightly incredulously as Rylan kept on going on about how 'there's two sides to every story'. But hey, it's Rylan, and he isn't known for his psychological insight. And he did look like a rabbit in headlights, or like an ex-housemate presenter of fluff suddenly expected to cope with a serious incident which raised questions about society's view of violence in relationships. Oh.....
Then yesterday along came Emma to interview Daley. It was what, in all honesty, I'd expected to see - I admit that maybe I see what I want to see, the same as anyone else. The pretended regret, the 'tearful' (he couldn't qite get those tears to fall, could he?) explanations, the appeal for understanding. I'd already seen it a million times before, every time Steve 'apologised' for abusing me. Those inverted commas are there for a reason. Just like Daley, it was extremely rare (after the first few times) for him to actually apologise. It was usually my fault for provoking him - for example by arguing, by refusing to do as I was told, or by receiving a text.Or the fault of all the alcohol he had drunk. But he would beg for another chance, promise never to do it again, insist that he wasn't the sort of man who would harm a woman. The only way Daley was any different was in his contempt for Hazel - but I've seen that in Steve so many times before anyway - how he could be a person's best friend but then immediately turn on them if they stepped out of line - and of course, he did that to me, many times.
So far, so expected. Daley wasn't sorry he'd crossed the line with Hazel, he was sorry *if* he had offended anyone by doing so. If this is how his/Big Brother's PR works, it's time they got up off their bellies and grew a backbone. But it is just as likely that this is his genuine feeling on the matter.
And then out comes Emma with the line of the night. 'It takes two..... it takes two to tango.' Well excuse me, Emma, but I only saw one person with their hands around the other person's neck.
Let me say right up that Hazel's actions were those of a bitch on heat and completely cringeworthy to watch. It isn't on to pull down someone's shorts, even if they have showered naked in front of you. But he had already slapped her arse twice, so I suppose she thought it was code green for an anti-wedgie. And you know what? Even if she'd stood there calling his mother all the names under the sun and then shouting 'hit me, you coward' repeatedly, whilst spitting on a photo of his children - IT IS NO EXCUSE OR MITIGATION FOR HIS BEHAVIOUR.
Abuse is abuse, full stop. Provocation? No such thing. If provocation were a valid excuse, we would ALL have treated Hazel that way. But we wouldn't (even Steve might have been put off by the cameras, for a start, so who knows what Daley would do in the privacy of his own home). So it isn't.
It's understandable that all over the internet people are saying Hazel brought it on herself or was partly to blame, or even should have suffered the same punishment. I don't expect the average person to understand the nature and course of domestic violence. But Big Brother has psychologists on tap, they have the means to contact experts in the subject. We could have had a psychologist discussing the nature of violence and other domestic abuse with someone from Women's Aid, or even someone who has suffered an abusive relationship (I'm available for the price of a Travelodge and a couple of Mars bars). The subject of victim-blaming and its dangers could be covered too. But instead, BBBOTS condoned this victim-blaming mentality.
The reason this is so dangerous is because, like we've seen with Hazel, it reinforces what the victim themself is feeling. One of the things about domestic abuse that people don't understand without experiencing it is how insidious it is. It ALWAYS starts with incidents like this - 'playfights' or 'arguments gone wrong'. Low level intimidation that escalates. Situations where you question your own actions - where you convince yourself that it wasn't black and white, that yes, you were to blame too, and you won't act that way again, so it won't happen again. You don't want to believe that this wonderful man you have met can really be an abusive monster. You love him, he seemed so perfect for you. It was surely a one-off, a toxic mix of circumstances, something that you can avoid so it won't happen again. But it will. And worse. And worse and worse and worse, until you are treading on eggshells, afraid that a wrong word will mean he's throttling you and you're gasping for air. Like a frog who is slowly being boiled alive, by the time you realise what's happening, you are too cooked to jump out of the pot.
Victim-blaming is dangerous because women and girls* don't understand this, they don't understand this is how a violent relationship starts. They don't recognise low-level intimidation as abuse. And here is BBBOTS telling them that they've brought it on themselves, by not behaving as a lady should. Which is basically what their abuser tells them too. It's what Daley was telling Hazel.
If I can go all Martin Luther King for a moment - I have a dream that one day schools will educate children and teenagers on the nature of domestic violence and abusive relationships. It will teach them the early warning signs, the tactics abusers use, and give clear signals of what is and isn't acceptable interpersonal behaviour. Until that time, programmes such as Big Brother and BBBOTS have a responsibility to its young (and not-so-young) audience - to educate them in the same way, and to pursue a zero tolerance policy on abuse and its perpetrators; an approach that encourages women to realise that they are not to blame and that they need to walk immediately, not leave it until it is too late. With the Daley and Hazel incident and fallout it failed dismally.
*I do realise that men suffer abuse too, but estimates are that 85 per cent plus of victims are women, so for ease I've referred to women/girls throughout. Not meaning to be sexist - this would have been just as unacceptable if Hazel and Daley's roles were reversed.