‘Big Little Lies’ and Domestic Abuse (8 May 2017)

Date: 08/05/2017

Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, ‘Big Little Lies’ and Domestic Abuse

Having watched ‘Big Little Lies’ dramatic conclusion, I felt compelled to extol its virtues; this mini-series, written for Sky Atlantic by David E. Kelly, is set in a beautiful coastal town where a murder has taken place. The characters are played by beautiful actors, who all have beautiful children. Most are in couples with successful careers and living in Architect Digest/Grand Designs worthy homes overlooking the ocean.

Celeste (Nicole Kidman) is married to Perry (Alexander Skarsgard). She gave up her successful legal career to be with him and together they have 2 sons. Perry is a controlling, manipulative man who, whenever is feeling insecure, lashes out. In one episode he chokes her when he thinks she has deliberately has left him out of a social gathering. In another he gets angry when he thinks Celeste expresses an interest in resuming her career; instead he proposes that they have another baby.

At the beginning of the series we see glimpses of him being physical towards Celeste and with her sometimes fighting back. They agree to see a counsellor but Celeste cannot, even at this stage, bring herself to admit that she is a victim, nor admit out loud that he has been violent towards her; only that she has been physical towards him. Perry is the one who reveals that he is abusing Celeste and wants to work on getting better.

Domestic violence rarely arises out of nothing; often it is learned behaviour; if you have not been shown another way to express anger then what other recourse do you have? There are projects which are designed to examine the roles played by attitudes and beliefs on the actions of those who are abusive and the responses of victims and survivors such as the Freedom Project. Counselling and therapy is also available.

The effect violence in the family home has on children (even if they are not being subject to it) is also depicted. One of the couple’s sons is found to be bullying a girl in his class and threatening to kill her if she tells anyone. I have seen the changes in children once their parents have engaged in different schemes to help them find alternative solutions to abusive behaviour. The children are more relaxed and start performing better at school; being brought up in an environment, which makes them feel safe and secure, should permit them to grow up to be confident children with a good sense of self-esteem.

‘Big Little Lies’ reminds us that domestic violence is not restricted to those in a lower income bracket; abuse transcends all races, cultures and social standings. There are cases where the perpetrator is unwilling to or cannot see that s/he is doing anything wrong, putting lives in danger. In those instances, it is important to seek immediate help from the police and obtain legal remedies such as injunctions. Celeste found it very difficult to admit what was happening to her, even to herself. She hid it from the people she was closest to and covered up her bruises with clothing and make-up.

If you identify with Celeste, then start speaking about what you are experiencing because there are legal options available to you. We will listen to your story sensitively and help you find a way to keep you and your children safe.

Duncan Lewis Family Solicitors

Duncan Lewis offers a confidential, dedicated legal helpline for victims of domestic violence – and can advise on taking legal action to prevent further harm to adults and children in urgent cases where there is immediate risk of domestic violence or child abuse. Victims of domestic violence – and parents of children who have been subjected to domestic violence or child abuse – are usually entitled to Legal Aid if they can show that domestic violence has occurred, or parents have received a Pre-proceedings Letter from Social Services following a Section 47 enquiry.

Duncan Lewis is ranked by the Legal 500 2016 for its Family & Matrimonial work – and the Duncan Lewis team includes Advanced Members of the Law Society’s Family Panel, and members of the Law Society Children Panel – so our domestic violence solicitors and child care solicitors have the necessary expertise to help victims of domestic violence take action to prevent abuse or harassment.

Duncan Lewis advises on family law and child care law under UK law and Islamic law.

For confidential and expert legal help with domestic violence, call the Duncan Lewis Domestic Violence Solicitors Helpline on 0800 689 3275.

Laila Bhunnoo, the author, is a Solicitor-Advocate and a Director in the Family and Childcare Department. Specialising in representing parents, child’s guardians and children in all Children Act matters she is a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel and a children Representative and is an experience advocate with Higher Rights of Audience, which entitles her to represent her clients at all levels of Courts. She is currently recommended by Chambers UK 2016, as a leading lawyer in her field for her family work in London. Her practice includes special guardianship orders, care orders, supervision orders and emergency protection orders, adoption within the UK and overseas, Child Abduction and Forced Marriage Protection Orders and FGM Orders.