ITV weather presenter Ruth Dodsworth has spoken out about the coercive control she endured for almost a decade at the hands of her ex-husband.
The 46-year-old broadcaster is to explore the form of abuse which is now considered a crime and her own experience in a controlling marriage in a new TV programme.
In Controlled By My Partner? The Hidden Abuse, previously unseen police footage will be shown of the moment Ms Dodsworth’s ex-husband was arrested.
Nightclub owner Jonathan Wignall was sentenced to three years in prison last April after he pleaded guilty to stalking and coercive control.
He had subjected her to a nine-year campaign of abuse.
The ITV programme will investigate what can be done to stop domestic abuse.
On the show, Ms Dodsworth discusses how it took her years to recognise she was being abused and how her children’s fears for her safety made her realise Wignall’s behaviour was not normal.
She said: “I had no idea that the threats and manipulation my ex-husband used for almost a decade were actually a pattern of criminal behaviour.
“He would call me dozens of times a day, wanting to know where I was and who I was with. He would check my phone and even delete contacts from it.
“He would turn up at my workplace, or insist that I leave the studio to eat lunch with him in his car.”
Ms Dodsworth added: “It wasn’t until my own children began to fear for my safety that I realised what was going on wasn’t normal.
“In October 2019, I finally called the police and my then-husband was arrested.
“My ex-husband was jailed for just three years and nine months, but could be released later this year after serving less than half of his sentence – I can’t pretend I’m not scared, but I am trying to stay positive.”
Her 18-year-old daughter Grace said: “This was our reality, this was our lives, it was normal for us. And then all of a sudden we’re having all these professionals telling us that’s not right, and everything we’ve known is pretty much gone.”
The offence of coercive and controlling behaviour was only recognised as a crime in England and Wales from December 2015.
Similar offences were brought into law in Scotland in 2019 and Northern Ireland last year.
Since 2015 police forces in England and Wales have had more than 60,000 reports of the crime.
Domestic abuse was reported more than three million times in the same time period.
Pc Mike Taggart, from North Wales Police, said officers need to be trained to ensure victims feel safe when they report abuse.
He said: “As police we can actually pursue domestic abuse offences without the victim actually coming forward.
“If we have these statements from families or friends who have noticed these changes, or we can see that there are, you know, physical injuries, then obviously we can take the investigation forward and we can proceed without a statement from that victim.
“We can still take that action against that perpetrator and hopefully ultimately protect the victim.”
The Home Office said its Domestic Abuse Act would later this year mean the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour could apply to intimate partners, ex-partners or family members, regardless of whether the victim and perpetrator live together, offering wider protection to victims.
Controlled By My Partner? The Hidden Abuse airs at 8.30pm on Thursday on ITV and on catch-up on ITV Hub.