Rural Media’s powerful short drama prompts BBC Countryfile to cover rural domestic abuse

The Willows – Dawn’s Story

A film about one woman’s escape from rural domestic abuse

Domestic abuse in rural areas is different.

Abuse lasts, on average, 25 times longer in the most rural areas. The sense of isolation, of being alone without support, or ways to travel to a place of safety means the more rural the setting, the higher the risk of harm.

Herefordshire-based charity and film & TV production company Rural Media partnered with Rural Action Derbyshire and Derbyshire Police & Crime Commissioner to produce a 20-minute drama, ‘The Willows’, highlighting the challenges that victims of domestic abuse face living in a rural area.

​Extracts from The Willows can be seen on BBC1’s Countryfile on Sunday 13th June in a segment focusing on rural domestic abuse.

‘The Willows’ is about Dawn, a young farmer’s wife. The film opens on Dawn and her husband Peter driving their daughter Hattie to school along a remote Derbyshire lane. Peter waits in the car while Dawn walks their daughter to the school gate. But when Dawn’s return is delayed by teachers, Peter’s frustration grows and his hostility is obvious when Dawn finally gets back in the car.

As the story unfolds, we get a powerful insight to how trapped she feels, how unhappy she is and of the wider family dynamic. Rural life can be hard, but it shouldn’t be this hard.

Drawing upon the report ‘Captive & Controlled – Domestic Abuse in Rural Areas’, commissioned by the National Rural Crime Network, a shocking picture of domestic abuse in rural Britain is revealed, with hidden victims – isolated and unprotected – being failed by a system, services and even those around them.

Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby

“I commend The Willows Project in its vital work of raising awareness of rural domestic abuse. ‘The Willows’ is a powerful film that without sensationalising brings into the light the suffering women and households may face due to coercive and abusive behaviour – even in the most idyllic of settings. I am grateful that the film, as well as highlighting the problem, offers potential routes to help and support.”

Bev Parker, CEO, Rural Action Derbyshire

“Domestic abuse isn’t just physical, although this can happen as well, it’s often more subtle. Coercive and controlling behaviour is usually hidden and the perpetrator may be well respected in the community, as we see in the film. Peter is part of the cricket team and sits on committees. He is ‘all smiles’ to the outside world, but away from public life his sinister behaviour is chilling. The film makes it feel very real and uncomfortable.”

Nic Millington, CEO, Rural Media

“Rural Media has been working with rural communities for 30 years and rural domestic abuse is sadly not a new issue for us. It was important for us to create a script and a world for Dawn that reflected the real and often unspoken experiences of victims of rural domestic abuse, which speaks so powerfully to all sections of the community.  We are delighted that the ‘The Willows’ film is having such a positive impact.”

The Willows film has been produced in two versions, one 20-minute long film and a segmented four-part version for use as a training resource.