This week will see ABC TV premiere an unflinching, compelling two-part documentary series Hitting Home.
Presented by Sarah Ferguson, Hitting Home seeks to answer how does domestic violence begin? How does it escalate from control to physical violence and even death?
“The thing that we set out to do was to tell the victims story as it's happening, not recalled two, three, or five years later,” Sarah Ferguson told me when we spoke recently.
“That would have been the easy way to do it, we wanted to do it in the present, where the pain is still present, the fear is still present, the shallow breathing is still present. All of those things that tell you what it's actually like to be in the grip of one of these toxic relationships.”
Once a subject rarely discussed, domestic violence is now dominating the headlines, due in part to campaigns from people such as Rosie Batty. Nearly 70 women have died due to domestic violence in Australia in the last year.
“The people who spoke to us, they were really in the grip of these extraordinary human events,”
“The brilliant thing was watching people say, ‘You know what? I cannot hide anymore. I must tell the story within me.’ A couple of people we had to hide their identity for security reasons, but the rest, they had that moment of thinking, ‘No. I'm going to come out and tell this story myself in my way."
For Ferguson, the program was a huge learning experience.
“I didn't know anything about it. I thought I knew a little bit about it, but I didn't. For me, like I think for lots of people, domestic violence was all about that great big raised fist over the woman in the kitchen. That's the stock image. But now I understand it's about control, it can start in small, insidious ways, things that don't sound too dramatic, simple events are the things that can turn into really violent events, and even into death.”
Hitting Home provides viewers with unprecedented access to courts and safe rooms, domestic abuse programs in prison, forensic doctors and specialised police units, Sarah also spent time living in a women’s refuge to gain the trust of those most effected.
“The producers, Ivan O’Mahoney and Nial Fulton spent a very long time gaining access, this is what makes this film so special, the degree of access.”
“It was Nial and Ivan who went around, two big blokes winning over a community of people who were naturally suspicious, but all of the people they were talking to understood immediately why it was important to do this. I'm not saying it was easy, because it wasn't easy, but we were trying to do something that every single one of those organisations understood had to be done.”
Its been a big year for Sarah Ferguson whom also presented the hugely acclaimed series The Killing Season, focused on the downfall of the Rudd and Gillard governments, Sarah doesn’t hold back when asked if she is keen to follow up with a series focused on the Abbott years.
“What do you reckon? I've already got a title for it. I'm going to call it ‘Killing Season Fury Road’. It's a battle to the death in a post apocalyptic landscape with a very muscly female lead played by Julie Bishop,” she laughs.
“I think that story has many more snakes and ladders in it yet.”
Sarah Ferguson is well aware that Hitting Home is not going to be easy viewing, but hopes the documentary will help Australians understand what domestic violence is, and how it effects all of us.
“I've got to stop people saying, ‘Oh my God, it's horrific,’ because it isn't horrific. This subject is our story, all of us. It's around all of us, and it's happening in little ways all around us all the time.”
Hitting Home - Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 November at 8.30pm on ABC