Ex-teen domestic abusers review new anti-abuse advert

05/12/13

Actor Nikki Sanderson

James and Lee sit in front of a laptop, watching the latest government ad targeting teen domestic abuse.

The pair, 22 and living in Hull, admit they have been abusive to girlfriends since the age of 14.

"James" and "Lee" are fake names, as Newsbeat were only allowed to speak to the pair if we protected their identities.

The new government advert features characters from the Channel 4 drama Hollyoaks.

Watch the new government advert

Patrick and Maxine (actors Jeremy Sheffield and Nikki Sanderson) are already in an abusive relationship in the soap's storyline.

The ad starts with Maxine finding Jeremy scrolling through her mobile phone messages.

She removes a necklace after he calls her "cheap" for wearing it.

Actors Nikki Sanderson and Jeremy Sheffield

"I can see myself in that guy," says James when the advert stops playing.

"I wish, when I was younger, I could have seen an ad like that and thought, 'Yeah, that's me'.

"Then I could find a place like this to help me."

Both men are now being mentored by Hull City Council's Strength to Change programme.

If they had got teenagers to do it, then it might jump out a bit more
Lee
Former domestic abuser

Lee is "not too convinced" by the ad though.

He explains: "It's not age appropriate.

He adds that it is "too mature for teenagers. I don't think it will jump out at them".

The Hollyoaks character Patrick is a head teacher. The actor who plays him, Jeremy Sheffield, is in his late 40s.

"I think the message is good," says Lee. "But I think the actors should be replaced with younger actors.

"If they had got teenagers to do it, then it might jump out a bit more."

Actors Nikki Sanderson and Jeremy Sheffield
Image caption Patrick: "You're not going to make a fool of yourself tonight are you?"

Both Lee and James admit they have been abusive to girlfriends since they were about 14.

"In relationships, I always wanted to control them," says James. "If they were going out, and I didn't want them to, they were staying in with me.

"It was bullying tactics, or self-pity tactics, making them feel sorry for me.

"Or I was drunk and they were scared of me. I was unpredictable when I was drinking.

"Sex, money, or beer. Whatever I wanted at the time, I would get it."

James adds: "I didn't want her to have a life. Her life was with me.

Mind games

"There was just one instance when I put my hands on my partner," says Lee.

"I shouldn't have done and I got into trouble for it obviously."

It was the only time he physically hurt his girlfriend, he says, but there were other types of abuse.

I don't want someone I love to be scared, of me. That's not right
Lee
Former domestic abuser

"There was a lot of controlling, a lot of mind games, and putting her down by verbally abusing her," he says.

Both men say the help they receive from Strength to Change has completely changed their attitudes.

Lee says the mentoring he has received has taught him techniques to manage his anger, and has saved his relationship.

Of his partner, he said: "I love her. I love her with all my heart.

"Even when I came back, she was still scared of me for quite a few months. I don't want someone I love to be scared, of me. That's not right."

Actor Nikki Sanderson

Charities and experts have welcomed the new This Is Abuse ad, but say it comes as services for teen abusers face cuts.

"The majority of perpetrators of domestic violence do not currently get access to an accredited service," says Neil Blacklock from the charity Respect.

Newsbeat heard last month how many experts think support services for teen abusers are at best "patchy".

Liberal Democrat Norman Baker is the government minister who speaks on teen domestic abuse.

I think it (the campaign) will resonate with young people
Norman Baker
Liberal Democrat

He said: "There is the Respect helpline and the In The Know section of the This Is Abuse website so there is help available" for teen abusers.

"We've protected the budget for domestic violence. We've allocated a special extra pot of £40m for the duration of this parliament.

"But I'll look further into that and see if there is anything else we need to do."

In response to Lee's concern that the abuser in the ad is too old for teen audiences to relate to him, the minister adds: "We could have found a couple of teenagers, I guess, but Hollyoaks has a good youth following.

"It has good access to new media. I think it will resonate with young people."

Another element of the campaign will feature stars like Example, Jason Derulo and the Wanted in short films on MTV.

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