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Opinions on play about domestic violence please

(56 Posts)
Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 12:13:28

I am trying to write a theatre in education piece to tour around schools, looking at abuse within relationships, particularly teenage relationships. My quandary however is that I have a young male actor (early twenties) and an older female (early forties) playing the couple that the story is based on. I was originally going for the slant of the older female as abuser but not too sure now. Perhaps the younger male would be better/more effective in the piece.

I don't want to be cliched but of course the message of the piece needs to come across clearly to the audience (Year 9 upwards). I would have preferred to have had performers of similar ages to get a more typical teen relationship, but I am trying to focus on what I can do with a relationship in which there is a significant age difference between partners - without making that the crux of the problem.

I was thinking maybe I could have the young male character initially appearing as the vulnerable one that gets looked after by the older female, but that it was a faced and his more controlling and abusive nature begins to show.

What do people think? Which is the less naff and cliched scenario? Or do I try to make it so the violence and abuse comes from both?

I don't have any personal experience to base this on, so just trying to read up and research what I can find online eg the Home Office site on teen relationship violence.


Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 12:14:22

Facade, not faced.

mcmooncup Fri 25-Jan-13 12:16:50

Please do not do female to male abuse. That would be incredibly irresponsible.

Why are you using a relationship with an age gap? If you want to do a play about abuse, make it about abuse, not an age gap.

fluffyanimal Fri 25-Jan-13 12:19:57

Wow, what a thorny issue! Could you tell us your main aims for the piece, i.e. what you want the audience to get out of it? E.g. raising awareness that men can suffer abuse; abuse doesn't have to be violent; "but she was asking for it" is no justification for abuse etc? It might help to focus the issue. Not that I know anything about DV, but if it were me, I'd be wanting to push home the message that so-called provocation is no excuse for abuse - but you may have a different agenda.

MamaMary Fri 25-Jan-13 12:31:39

Your actors need to be the same age. This could be a great opportunity to explore teenage sexual relationships and the negative effect porn has had. DV could be linked to the increasingly misogynistic and violent porn that young men consume these days.

mcmoon - I am not criticizing, at all, this is a genuine question: why would it be incredibly irresponsible to do female to male abuse? As someone who works in theatre, I can tell you that I can't ever remember seeing a play or piece of work where this took place, it is always male to female. I have found it most interesting to see the response to the current storyline on Coronation Street in this respect.

Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 13:46:18

I am still thrashing out exactly what the issue will be. At the moment it is a vague one. I am stuck with the actors I have which means that the relationship between characters will have an age gap, but I don't want that to be the focus...I do worry that it muddies the water though.

I do very much like the idea about sexual abuse/ porn. I heard something on the radio the other day, Woman's Hour I think, that raised lots of interesting points. I am not sure how well it would sit with schools though. I think I would have to talk to PSHE departments in schools and find out what they cover and if parents would object to their children as young as 14, seeing a play addressing porn and the negative impact on teen relationships.

Definitely food for thought though. Any other pointers?

Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 13:53:31

Actually, thinking about it, I needn't have the actors to be acting as a couple. I could avoid the age thing by just having them play characters that directly address the audience, maybe using verbatim accounts if I can find some.

MamaMary Fri 25-Jan-13 14:14:16

You mean like monologues? That might work. I honestly think the couple being in a relationship would be a bit weird because of the age gap which would become the issue...

Possibility of older woman being the mother of a girl who had been tragically abused by the lad? A bit heavy perhaps, but it is a serious topic...

I saw a play recently about the dynamics between a young jailed woman who had murdered a boy and the boy's mother. It was called The Long Road. I personally thought it was a rubbish play - for various reasons - but it got good reviews.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 14:17:22

Female to male abuse is a very real issue that definately needs to be highlighted. I can't see why it would be irresponsible to portray that at all

Lueji Fri 25-Jan-13 14:26:29

You could have the play as following a support group where members share their stories, thereby showing the different aspects of DV.

It might also be interesting to have the dynamics of people who have suffered abuse not understanding other's points of view.
For example, "you were not punched, that's only mild abuse/not at all", or "why didn't you just fight her? You are a man"

Forgetful - nor can I and that's why I'd really like to know what mcmoon is getting at.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:39:05

There was a fantastic drama on about 8 months ago - was it called simply 'Murder' ? - which used monologues to introduce and explore issues of abuse. It was absolutely amazing, ambiguous until almost the end. Well worth seeing, hard to watch.

I don't think showing female-to-male abuse is responsible either, in particular if the actor is in her forties - it won't resonate with the girls (that they need to watch for these signs of abuse from men) or with the boys (yeah yeah that's my mum, whatever - rather than 'I should not behave like this towards women'). There is a place for a drama about female-to-male abuse but surely in a school setting you want to cover the biggest problem most comprehensively?

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 25-Jan-13 14:43:18

I think it would be a much more powerful message for teens (if that's your audience) to show a fairly evenly-matched couple with strong personalities, intelligence etc but make the contrast the one between 'behind closed doors' and 'the public face'. You don't need porn or big age-gaps .... the most sinister aspect of abusive relationships is how often they are outwardly normal, happy and involve people who you would think are able to handle anything. The cumulative effect of different types of abuse....emotional, financial, sexual, verbal..... leading up to physical abuse

I think most teens will be thinking a) DV will never happen to me and b) I don't know anyone in a DV relationship.

AllThoseDirtyWords Fri 25-Jan-13 14:43:34

Could they play mother and son with the father as the abuser but written as an unseen character? You can then look at how the abuse affects them both.

Or a mother dealing with her son being violent to his girlfriend?

arthriticfingers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:45:28

Many, many years ago, I taught English and Drama at secondary level. A project was set up to 'approach' drugs. I refused to take part although I did a lot of work around drugs in class as I could not see what possible benefit it would be to the students.
The students were invited to participate. The final piece ended up reinforcing every stereotype about drugs ever put on TV, from the 'cool' drug dealer in shades to the 'floozy' girlfriend.
There is so much ignorance about abuse that non experts (like people bringing drama into schools) would do so much better to approach anything near abuse, indirectly - by showing a scene where power was obviously being abused, in a peer friendship, for example.
Leave partner abuse to people from the Freedom Programme.

Stephanie - but what you say is more about the resonance of the AGE side of it. I still don't see why covering the topic of female-against-male abuse ITSELF in school is irresponsible. In fact, in view of that recent film of the young girl verbally and physically abusing an autistic boy that was shown on the news and discussed in a thread on here, I'd said say it is important that children of BOTH sexes are made aware that abuse by BOTH sexes is wrong and that showing just one side is not sufficient, just because male-against-female abuse is more widespread

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:56:08

No, I disagree. There's an overwhelming bias towards male-to-female abuse. I think that should take precedence in this context, where presumably there's no time to cover all forms of abuse.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 14:57:26

Anyway, I agree more with arthriticfingers: it needs an expert hand, really.

Stephanie - I clearly didn't say there was no bias. I clearly said male-to-female abuse is more widespread.

I am simply asking for why it is IRRESPONSIBLE to for this to be presented in school. Choosing NOT to do something because it is in the MINORITY is not the same thing by any token as it being irresponisble, which is what both you and mcmoon have suggested. I didn't chose that word.

As a male who has witnessed at close hand female-to-male abuse, I cannot possibly understand why just because it happens less rarely, the idea of discussing or presenting it in school is irresponsible. I find it slightly offensive, to be honest, as it suggests it is less important.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 15:09:31

As a female who has also witnessed female-to-male abuse, I think it is irresponsible to give total focus to that issue in this context, when time is limited, and for perhaps 50% of those girls, male-to-female abuse (whether violent or sexual or emotional or all) is going to be a defining feature of their lives.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 15:11:20

Stephanie - there is a bias of male to female abuse.

Precisely. That is why we need to be made more aware of female to make abuse. I mean does anyone actually think female to male abuse happens? Or do people think its just an urban myth? Female to male abuse (both physical & emotional) does happen & I would bet its not as rare as you think.

I like the Idea of exploring situations whereby outwardly the couple appears perfectly normal - I think this is the main reason DV carries on for so long,because no one realises what goes on behind closed doors

Stephanie - ah, so we should never worry about anything that affects a minority then?

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 15:43:26

Of course not, but there is limited time to highlight any of these issues, so personally I would want the issue that affects the most people to be the one that is focused on in this context.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 15:44:44

Actually I think the older woman abusing the younger male could be portrayed quite well. I think in this situation the age gap would work in favour of a female to male abuse rather than the other way round.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 15:46:08

How do we know that male to female abuse is the most common? There is practically no public portrayal of female to male abuse

Limited time is a rubbish excuse.

As someone who works in the theatre I would say it is a pity you are stuck with an older woman and younger man. If the two actors were of the same age, you could have produced a play which covered BOTH forms of abuse. You could present a drama where the male is the abuser and then get the kids to talk about it. Then present the exact same scene again but switch the roles where the woman is the abuser - even to the point of using the exact same dialogue. Then see how they feel about that.

That would a) be interesting, b) be different and c) cover both angles.

StephaniePowers Fri 25-Jan-13 15:58:01

How do we know? Pretty much because that's what all the research shows. hmm

Anyone can prove anything they like with research depending on who they ask and what the question is.

I still say you could present a short drama that covered both sexes abusing the other in a relatively short time frame. Problem solved.

But the use of the word irresponsible was not just unfortunate but wrong. Suggests the female-to-male abuse isn't as important. Amazed you can't see that.

Could you cover both male to female and femaleto male abuse? For example, the actors are mother and son - they start by exploring how the (now absent) Fathers abusive relationship with her has affected them both. Then move on to a scenario where the son suffers abuse from his gf (or the mother is abusive to him through controlling behaviours etc) - it could enable you to explore how abuse becomes a long term cycle and pattern of behaviour over geenrations is not addressed.

BUT if you don't know much about this topic as you say, I would very strongly suggest you engage some lcoal experts (eg counselling services, women's aid etc) to help you handle this issue properly

badtemperedaldbitch Fri 25-Jan-13 16:02:39

You could have the boy telling the story in a real time perspective, and have the older woman respond as if she is the young girl grown up.

I know with myself there are lines that my 15year old self fell for that my 30 year old self would have seen right through..... And maybe girls will relate more to the woman because she isn't their mum, but has the advice that life gives you.

Xales Fri 25-Jan-13 16:08:31

If you haven't made any decisions how about half a dozen different sorts of domestic abuse. Violence, financial, gas lighting etc and show that either male or female could be the abuser?

Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 16:12:45

I haven't run off and abandoned the thread folks, just reading through. Will respond later when I have a moment. Thanks for the input.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 16:41:52

I'm sorry but this is just making me angry. Research, what research? Can you honestly provide conclusive evidence that male to female abuse is more prevalent than female to male? It's this type of attitude that just brushes these things under the carpet & will never address the real issues.

BoneyBackJefferson Fri 25-Jan-13 17:30:07

unless you are going to show both Male to female and female to male DV you are being irresponsible.

ecclesvet Fri 25-Jan-13 20:16:50

"Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available."

Don't know if anyone has anything more recent, that was just a quick Google. 60-40 doesn't seem like the overwhelming majority some people are suggesting.

Is this a commission? About violence in teenage relationships? The people who commissioned it are not going to be happy about the actors being too old (or is it them who have provided the actors?) and the subject being changed. Worst case scenario, they might not pay you. You need to give them what they've asked for, and if you have any say, those actors need to go! Even the man is too old - Y9s can see through anything.

Dromedary Fri 25-Jan-13 20:31:21

I would do either:
1) mother and son - mother trying to understand what son has done to his girlfriend, maybe influenced by how his father has behaved towards her and him. Or
2) young man has killed or put into hospital his girlfriend. He and the girlfriend's mother are talking about what has happened and why in monologues.
I would not do female on male DV. Simply because there is considerably more male on female DV and it is more likely to be very violent. It is therefore more important to tackle that in a one off theatre piece for teenagers.

Forgetfulmog Fri 25-Jan-13 20:41:49

Dromedary, read what ecclesvet has put before you go making wild accusations


Dromedary Fri 25-Jan-13 21:15:23

I did read it before I posted. 60% is a substantial majority. And how many DV murders of men by their female partners do you know of?
DV is a wide concept. Do you really believe that as many women as men cause serious injury or death to their opposite sex partner?

Dromedary Fri 25-Jan-13 21:21:32

This is an interesting site - loads of statistics about DV in the US. Educational.

Dromedary Fri 25-Jan-13 21:22:02

Sorry - it's here:

Thewhingingdefective Fri 25-Jan-13 21:45:50

I take on board all that’s been said and agree with much of it. I am a bit puzzled why addressing female to male abuse is irresponsible though. I know that I have lots of legwork to do in terms of research before writing; the artistic director of the company has done some already and has spoken to various agencies through which we’ve got some funding for the project. I have also been checking out lots of links – ones from this board and also the This Is Abuse campaign via the Home Office website.
After reading your posts, I have come to realise that I definitely need to avoid the relationship between the older woman and younger man as it would detract from what I think should be the main focus – that is a teen relationship abuse. I want to address or at least touch upon as many aspects of different types of abuse in relationships as I can within the timeframe (about an hour for performance and there will be discussion and workshop time after).
Voiceofunreason- I agree with you about the actors. Unfortunately I get no say so on this matter – the actors have already been employed so I have to write around them. I think I can make it work though, by exploring some of the ideas mentioned here eg the monologues, support group and looking at different character relationships. I am fairly sure the role reversal idea will be explored by the company during workshops and I might look at that for the play too.
The choice of subject matter is the artistic director’s, so it’s not commissioned by any particular body, although as I said above I think there is a tiny bit of funding from one or two places. The company have performed other plays to schools in the area on other PSHE topics and the schools and students have given very good feedback, so it’s not the actors that are the problem. I just need to make sure that I don’t end up writing something that when performed, it comes over as arsey, preachy or patronising. Also, it’s not possible to just get rid of the actors – or my place.
Thank you again for giving me your thoughts. I was never quite sure on the ‘older woman’ storyline and seeing people’s opinions here has more or less confirmed for me not to go down that route.

dequoisagitil Fri 25-Jan-13 22:13:09

I think that male to female abuse is more prevalent and the turning it round onto female-male abuse to allegedly tackle a lesser talked about subject is misogynist what-about-da-menz BS.

Speechless again at some postings on here. I really cannot understand how some people cannot see how their attitudes smack of "actually, as men are only abused 40% of the time by women, it doesn't really matter".

OP, thanks for coming back and letting us know your thoughts.

dequoisagitil Fri 25-Jan-13 22:28:19

It's not that it doesn't matter, it is that frequently showing a 'balanced' picture ends in ridiculous overplaying of the problem.

Watch Casualty. Watch Corrie. There are female abusers in high strength in the media.

dequoisagitil Fri 25-Jan-13 22:39:07

It's the stand-by of the media to be 'interesting' to turn it round on women-on-men, while reality goes unreflected.

saintmerryweather Sat 26-Jan-13 00:05:45

It really shocks me that ignorant people think because its the man who is the victim it doesnt matter or need to be addressed. maybe it is because men are made to feel ashamed that they dont stand up to their abusers that you dont hear about it. Bloody ridiculous.

Op why dont you have both actors talking as if they are both victims of abuse? Maybe the young man has been in a relationship for a while and is uncomfortable about his girlfriends escalating behaviour while maybe having the older woman having just managed to escape from a relationship she had been in since her teens. then you can have her explain what resources are available if you find yourself in that situation to help you escape, and the young man can raise awareness that women can be the perpetrators of dv as well as victims

dequoisagitil Sat 26-Jan-13 00:16:43

When a friend of mine started a refuge for abused women, she got a load of shit from people, about surely it was sexist and men get abused too.

So - start your own refuge...


Unfortunately, women are still disproportionately affected by biology, pay differences & social consequences. Therefore, I could give more of a cuss about women's issues.

Sue me.

springyhope Sat 26-Jan-13 03:35:24

I don't have any personal experience to base this on, so just trying to read up and research what I can find online eg the Home Office site on teen relationship violence

imo you are on a sticky wicket if you have no personal experience of abuse. You will need to do a veritable MOUNTAIN of research to portray anything resembling an accurate portrayal of this very complex problem. You say you are short of time. imo it would be irresponsible to attempt to show something as powerful and damaging as this to teenagers without extensive and exhaustive research. You are also considering doing this without teenage actors, which is absurd imo.

If you can hold off funding until you have taken enough time to research this subject extensively, it could be powerful to show the effects/dynamics of domestic/relationship abuse on the victim without eg the perpetrator present. If you go ahead with the older woman, she could be the mother of a victim (talking head/soliloquy); the young man could be a victim or a perpetrator re thought processes, behaviour. I think you should ensure you run your script by every domestic/teenage abuse org you can and let them edit your work in order to ensure an accurate portrayal.

Any funding to employ teenage actors by any chance? hmm

Forgetfulmog Sat 26-Jan-13 04:14:22

Yes but all of you who are voting for the woman to be the victim in this play are missing one vital flaw - the play is to raise awareness & educate people. Surely then (since everyone knows about male to female abuse anyway), it is a perfect opportunity to talk about female to male abuse. All types of abuse are wrong & the only way we have any chance of stopping it is to educate young people.

BoneyBackJefferson Sat 26-Jan-13 10:30:04

if posters are going to count numbers maybe the OP should just do male on male violence.

Charbon Sat 26-Jan-13 13:18:12

I think if you're aiming a production at teenagers, the messages have to resonate with them and include references to situations they've heard about or have experienced in real-life. It follows that the play needs to reflect the truth of abuse and violence in teenage relationships.

Hence, whereas reports of domestic violence generally have decreased and the convictions for those reports have increased, the age group that bucks that trend is 13-19. Have a look at this speech from the DPP Keir Starmer where he discusses the statistics and the genders involved in the violence.

Thewhingingdefective Sun 27-Jan-13 22:58:18

Thanks for that Charbon.

Springyhope- we do not have the luxury of time or money to do either extensive research before getting the play together, but we will of course do what we can and be as thorough as we can in the time we have. We are offering the TIE show and workshop to schools (contacting PHSE and Drama departments) to raise awareness of these issues, not paint a hugely detailed picture. It can only ever be scratching the surface really as you can only say so much in a 60 minute performance with a short follow up workshop. We will most likely put together a list of contacts and websites for students and teachers so they can further explore the topic as the curriculum allows.

I am going to begin by writing some monologues from the victims' (both male and female) points of view and then have a go at flipping it on its head and write from the abuser's perspective. Whether I include it in the final draft I don't know, but it will be a useful writing exercise for me and get things moving so I can hopefully see some kind of plot threads.

I think it is important to make our audience aware that both males and females can be abused and that an abusive relationship is not a healthy one. If we have one aim, I guess it's to reinforce that relationships should be based on mutual respect, not fear or power and control.

Thanks again.

Thewhingingdefective Sun 27-Jan-13 23:05:29

Sorry - missed a point springy hope. Can't ditch our actors and get teens - no teen actors available that I know of here other than those on school. I also don't agree that it is vital to have teens playing the parts for it to resonate with the audience as we have two performers in their early twenties who I think the audience will relate to. It was the older female that presented a slight problem when I considered having her in a relationship with a younger male, but this thread has given me plenty of ideas to get around that.

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