"Why I had to make Big Bad Love: A harrowing documentary on domestic abuse."

I’m one of three girls…

So two years ago, when I read that one in three Australian women will suffer physical abuse in their lifetime, it struck a personal note for me. I thought of my beautiful sisters and how statistically one of us might find ourselves in trouble at some point. One of things I did know about domestic violence was that women tended to hide it. So how would I even know if one of my sisters, or a friend, was being abused?

One in three women will suffer physical abuse in their lifetime. Image via Big Bad Love. 

As I started to speak more about domestic violence, stories began pouring out of people all around me from places I’d never expected. A university friend who had been dragged along the ground by her ponytail through a shopping centre carpark by her first boyfriend. A teacher who had fled her apartment after being strangled by her partner, her cries for help left unanswered. A colleague who had woken to the screams of his seven-month pregnant neighbor being beaten until she was knocked unconscious.  Many of them had never spoken to anyone about these experiences.

I began to realise this wasn’t a distant problem far removed from my world, but right on my doorstep.

Around the same time, I saw comedian Becky Lucas performing her stand-up show. It was a hilarious collection of tales about growing up with her best friend Jess in a small coastal town. But this show ended with sadness and regret.

Regret that she hadn’t intervened and helped her friend who had been viciously abused through her teenage years by her then boyfriend. At the time Becky had suspected something was wrong with the relationship but didn’t know what to do and so she did nothing.

Becky and I started talking after that show and she agreed to go on a journey to revisit what happened and discover what she could have done to help her friend. In Big Bad Love she meets young women who have survived violent relationships, conducts an experiment on the street and meets with experts to learn what she could have done to help Jess.

What can you do if you suspect a friend is the victim of domestic violence? Image via Big Bad Love.

For both of us it has been a challenging, and at times harrowing, project to work on.

Hearing really young women talk about the deliberate, repetitive and horrific violence they have endured at the hands of men that were meant to love them is not easy to stomach. Young girls describing being spat on, beaten until they couldn’t walk, strangled and raped on a daily basis was shocking to hear, but more shocking was at the time of the violence many didn’t realise they were even in abusive relationships. The emotional abuse and manipulation they faced had such a stronghold on them they felt completely trapped in their relationship.

For so many of the young survivors we spoke to it was a friend who ended up being the circuit breaker to the abuse. It was a friend who helped them eventually escape their relationship - and therein lies the key message of the film.

Becky learns that it’s not easy or comfortable to get involved in people’s personal lives but if you don’t act your silence sends a strong message; that what is happening is okay.

In Big Bad Love Becky learns there is always something you can do. It’s about finding something safe you feel comfortable doing and doing that.

Whether that’s referring your friend to a helpline, calling the police if you see violence or just letting your friend know you’ll always be there when they are ready to talk. The smallest action, something we are all capable of, could change a life.

So, is there someone you’d like to call?

Big Bad Love airs Wednesday the 23rd on 9:30pm on ABC2 and iView.

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