Adam Collard from Love Island has hit headlines this week over his treatment of fellow contestant Rosie Williams. Such is the reach of the reality TV show that not only am I watching (my TV only usually gets switched on for CBeebies or the World Cup) but Women’s Aid has issued a statement on the situation. And people’s reactions to it (and one TV channel’s complete lack of reaction to it) has made me incredibly sad.
The statement from Women’s Aid reads:
“On the latest series of Love Island, there are clear warning signs in Adam’s behaviour. In a relationship, a partner questioning your memory of events, trivialising your thoughts or feelings, and turning things around to blame you can be part of pattern of gaslighting and emotional abuse.
“Last night, Rosie called out Adam’s unacceptable behaviour on the show. We ask viewers to join her in recognising unhealthy behaviour in relationships and speaking out against all forms of domestic abuse – emotional as well as physical. It is only when we make a stand together against abuse in relationships that we will see attitudes change and an end to domestic abuse.” – Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid
Obviously, Adam Collard isn’t the problem with Love Island. The lack of body diversity and LBGQTIA representation are frankly embarrassing at this stage, not to mention the universal acceptance of the fact that it’s OK for all conversations in the villa around what makes a good match to be based purely on physical appearance (with a side-helping of ‘banter’ if you’re really lucky). Yes, it makes good television. It’s very well produced and scripted, and it requires zero brain to watch, (or participate in, arguably).
But the size of its audience (Love Island is ITV2’s most-watched show ever, with peak audiences of 3.4m viewers) means that programme bosses need to act responsibly when it comes to the big issues. And domestic abuse is a big issue. An estimated 1.2 million women experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2017 in the UK. On average two women are killed by their partner or ex-partner every week in England and Wales. (Source: womensaid.org.uk.) Emotional abuse may not leave physical marks, but the emotional scars can be just as difficult to heal.
When an authority on domestic abuse raises a red flag over Adam’s behaviour, you would think something would happen. As I patiently await ITV’s official response, thus far all I’ve seen is a handful of social media comments about how Rosie should ‘experience real emotional abuse’ before complaining and how the statement is an ‘insult’ to people who have ‘actually’ been abused. Meanwhile, conversations from other contestants in the villa around the incident centre around Adam ‘being tamed’ and people knowing ‘what Adam is like’. This is perhaps more troubling than the apathy shown toward the highlighted gaslighting behaviour; the shifting of the responsibility from the abuser to the abused. Rosie should have ‘tamed’ Adam, or at the very least known ‘what Adam is like’. What happened to her then, is her own fault.
The entirety of the drama was played out in a week’s airing of a reality television show. What was witnessed by a nation of tired single mums (*raises hand*) and, more importantly, impressionable teens, was just the very beginning of what could have been an incredibly toxic and dangerously controlling relationship. Adam isn’t just ‘a player’, he isn’t ‘just a lad’, he is someone who has been put on a hugely popular television programme, and who has displayed very problematic behaviours with absolutely no consequences in or out of the villa. The producers of the show see these flash points as a part of their plot line, the promise of the next day’s headlines. But for the teenagers watching, Adam’s unchallenged behaviour is at risk of normalising domestic abuse for one, twenty-one, or one million and one young women.
‘You’re actually a good guy’, said Dr Alex to Adam in tonight’s episode. Unfortunately I have news for you, Alex. ‘Good guys’ can be abusers. A ‘good guy’ can be a competent, caring professional at work, a fantastic friend to their best mate, a doting uncle to their favourite niece. But he can go home to his girlfriend or wife and inflict days, weeks, or years of emotional or physical abuse until the victim has no idea how they came to live in this situation, and even less idea of how to escape it.
ITV, Adam Collard should be removed from Love Island. Please show young men and young women that his behaviour is not acceptable.
For help or support if you think you might be in an abusive relationship, call the Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Women’s Aid in partnership with Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 or visit www.womensaid.org.uk.