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Review: Murdered by my Boyfriend

TRAPPED: Ashley and Reece in Murdered by My Boyfriend

MURDERED BY My Boyfriend may be the single most harrowing thing I've watched on the BBC since that scene in Luther when the serial killer slipped out from under the bed while his victim slept.

You knew what was coming next.

And, in many ways, this powerful story about domestic violence written by Regina Moriarty was no different.

Except the monster who would go on to take a life didn't need to hide under the bed. He slept in it.

That's the truly frightening thing about domestic violence; the person you know and love, trust and depend on - whether financially, emotionally or because you are parenting a child - is the one intent on causing you harm.

Based on a true story, Murdered by My Boyfriend focuses on 17-year-old Ashley (played by Georgina Campbell) who meets the charming Reece (Royce Pierreson) who she thinks is the man of her dreams.

After a four-year ordeal, the worst happens. He kills her while their young daughter cries from the next room.

Reece's true character is revealed in subtle gestures - first simply pulling up the strap of her vest when it slips down in a bar and then later taking her phone and demanding to know who she is texting.

It quickly escalates into him pushing her to have his child instead of finishing college, logging into her Facebook account and then brutal and persistent emotional and physical abuse.

At one point when Ashley questions his own infidelity, he turns the tables on her, manipulatively asking: "Is this about your weight?"

The 60-minute film shows Ashley made numerous attempts to - and here's that hackneyed phrase that was repeated several times - "just leave him".

And that's where I thought Murdered by My Boyfriend was strongest - showing how much of a trap domestic violence is. Just leave him how? Just leave him to go where?

Without the right support, an abuser intent on controlling every aspect of their victim's life won't conveniently step aside and let you walk away.

"He made me nothing", says Ashley's voice as we watched the scenes that we had been dreading.

Frightened, abused, isolated from her loving friends and family by her own shame and self-blame, Ashley was drained of the necessary energy, strength or confidence to save herself.

Young women aged between 16 and 24 are most vulnerable to domestic violence and I believe Murdered by My Boyfriend will do more to raise awareness than any Government campaign.

It is welcome news that parts of the film - part-funded by BBC Learning - will be shown in schools to educate young girls and young boys about what healthy relationships look like.

I watched the entire film with a tight chest, waiting with fear to see what Reece would do next, if he would be sweet or sour, just as Ashley waited, monitoring her behaviour to avoid setting him off.

It was in vain - Reece did not need a reason. Abusers never do.

Like any nosy journalist, I couldn't sleep without finding more about the true story the film was based on as the names were changed at the family's request.

I needed to know why Reece was able to get away with it for as long as he did, despite several calls to the police and one particularly brutal attack while Ashley was at work.

I headed over to Twitter and typed in a few key words.

To my shock, pages and pages of tributes from completely unrelated stories popped up. Friends and loved ones paying tribute to friends, cousins, aunts, mothers who were murdered by their boyfriends.

We all know the stats - on average two women a week are killed by a male partner - but too often we don't always consider that every statisic is a life and a person, like Ashley, or Linah Keza or Daneshia Arthur - two women, two mothers, who were murdered by violent ex-partners and reported in The Voice.

Even when you leave, some violent men just refuse to let you go.

That's not to say don't leave - it's just that the necessary funding, resources, training and support needs must be in place to meet women half-way so we can have more survivors and less victims.

There is still time to catch Murdered by My Boyfriend on BBC iPlayer and I encourage you to do so.

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