The programme that I watched last week was based on a true story about a 21-year old girl named Ashley (not her real name) who was murdered by her long term boyfriend and father of her child, Reece (again, not his real name)
It starts off as a typical love story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and move in together but it isn’t long before Reece starts to try and take over every part of Ashley’s life. On the outside, she’s happy and smiling and taking selfies with her friends on nights out but it is clear that after 3 years of being in a relationship, he has a absolute and total control over her and beats her savagely every time she tries to take a stand. A particular line stood out to me in one of Ashley’s inner monologues:
“There were times we felt like a normal family but that was an illusion. I could only be happy if he wanted me to be happy”
Typically, Reece kept Ashley pregnant and vulnerable so that she almost had no choice but to stay with him. At one point, Reece bursts into the boutique that Ashley is working at, drags her into a changing room and proceeds to beat the shit out of her. It is hard to imagine staying with someone after this incident but unfortunately, this is where Ashley makes a fatal mistake and Reece manipulates her into taking him back for the last time by proposing to her – and what is a prisoner without hope?
Reece, ticks all the boxes to label him a sociopath. According to Dr Sheila Wilson, who has helped victims of psychopaths:
Psychopaths exhibit a Jekyll and Hyde personality. They play a part so they can get what they want, The guy who showers a woman with excessive attention is much more capable of getting her to lend him money, and to put up with him when he strays. The new employee who gains her co-workers’ trust has more access to their chequebooks. And so on. Psychopaths have no conscience and their only goal is self-gratification. Many of us have been their victims — at work, through friendships or relationships — and not one of us can say, “a psychopath could never fool me.
In a jealous rage, Reece turns on Ashley when she admits that she has slept with someone else while they were on a break. The closing scene shows Ashley being beaten to death with her 3 year old daughter walking in half way through. Reece picks her up, takes her to her room then returns to smash her head in with the ironing board.
It is scary to think that this is all too common a story and that a woman is more likely to be killed by a partner or former partner than a stranger. Approximately One in three women will suffer abuse in their lifetime and over 4000 will lose their lives as a result of it. Ashley lay dying for 2 hours before the ambulance was called but it took 4 years of mental and physical torture to kill the person that was inside of her body. To the point where staying with her abuser was less scary than facing the world alone.
This hour long drama also touches on other issues such as the actions of the people around her. Reece stripped away all of Ashley’s friends so that she felt totally alone. Family and friends felt that they had no place getting involved and even though alarm bells were ringing when police were called to the house, they failed to arrest the man that was clearly abusing this woman. Friends thought they were being helpful by suggesting that “arguments in relationships were normal” and that they were probably “passionate people” but all they were doing is normalising his behaviour rather than recognising the signs and then doing something about it
Many people failed Ashley in her short and painful life. I think that women can try and avoid falling into these damaging relationships by nipping things in the bud as soon as things start to go sour. If anyone raises their hand to you, it is a sign that they do not know how to communicate their feelings in a normal way and you will save yourself a lot of pain by not dating psychopaths in the first place. Finally, be the friend that Ashley never had. Say something. Do something. Save someone’s life.