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Big Bad Love (ATOM study guide)

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    Comedian Becky Lucas recently discovered that one of her best childhood friends, Jess, had suffered years of horrific violence and abuse at the hands of her partner. At the time, Becky had suspected something might be wrong, but she wasn’t equipped to see what was happening and so did nothing. Becky still feels a deep regret that she didn’t act on her suspicions and help her friend. But what does an abusive relationship even look like? How does it begin? And what can anyone do if they suspect someone they know is in trouble?

    Becky starts to answer these questions when she meets her friends at a local retirement village, getting a sense of what domestic and family violence was like in their day. After chatting with the women, she learns that there was a sense that domestic and family violence was a taboo topic and seen as a private issue between couples, and not something others should intervene in.

    Today, as a community and a society, we are talking about domestic and family violence, what support is available to people experiencing violence, what drives this violence and how it can be prevented. Despite this, one in four Australian women will still suffer abuse from a current or former intimate partner in their lifetime. Becky is surprised to learn that women aged 18–24 are the most at risk of abuse.

    She meets two young women, Ella and Lauren, who have both survived violent and controlling relationships, to better understand how abusive relationships begin. Shocked by the brutality of their stories and the violence occurring behind closed doors, Becky wonders how people would respond if they could see the violence that affects so many. She sets up a public social experiment where actors play out an abusive rol-play on the street. It’s a nerve-wracking and tense experience as people respond in a variety of ways. When is it safe to intervene? Is it safe? What does anyone do when confronted with violence?

    Becky meets with experts to understand people’s reactions when confronted with domestic violence in public, and to learn about what to do if someone sees or suspects domestic and family violence in their daily life or within their friendships and networks. Becky attends a workshop to uncover the tactics that abusers use and to learn more about the manipulation present from the outset of abusive relationships.

    Out of this experience, Becky emerges realising that abusive relationships look very different to what she first thought. As a comedian, Becky is used to making jokes about taboo subjects, but now she’s determined to make the subject of domestic violence one people can talk about openly in the hope that other women will find support.

    NB: This film deals with issues of domestic and family violence, and may be triggering to survivors of abuse.

    Curriculum links

    Big Bad Love can be used as a text in middle to senior secondary classrooms. The film is most relevant to students' study of Health and Physical Education.

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