True Vision

films that make a difference

Behind Closed Doors

Back to ‘Our Films’
60 minutes
Erica Gornall
Anna Hall
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods

With unprecedented access to the Thames Valley Police Domestic Abuse Teams, and the victims of violence they are helping, Behind Closed Doors gives an extraordinary insight into the most common violent crime to take place in the home.

Shot over 12 months, and starting from the moment a 999 call is received, the film follows three brave women who each waive their right to anonymity to show how insidious and terrifying domestic abuse can be. The complex emotions involved when someone you love becomes violent are also exposed, and the difficulties for police when those feelings mean victims are not completely honest.

With an unfolding, present tense narrative, the film also exposes the lack of consistency in terms of the length of sentence given to offenders. When the Police repeatedly take one perpetrator to court only to have magistrates release him again and again, the film demonstrates how the huge ordeal of going to court for these victims of domestic abuse does not mean that, in their eyes, justice will automatically follow.

Meet Jemma, a 33-year-old mother of two, who suffered a vicious attack from a former boyfriend, after going out with friends. After months of harassment via phone calls and texts he came to her house in the middle of the night and his arrival is captured on CCTV. She went to the police and we follow her over 6 months as she decides to go to trial and challenge his 'not-guilty' plea.

Meet Sabrina, who we meet on return from hospital, after being savagely beaten by her boyfriend. The attack lasts six hours, but at first attacker Paul claims that she was beaten by someone else outside the flat – despite all the blood being in the bedroom. Sabrina has presented to the police before, but in the past has been too scared to press charges. We follow her through the justice process as she tackles her own emotional challenges.

Meet Helen, who struggles to leave a violent relationship of ten years but who, step by step, walks away for good. Helen’s story is one of violence, followed by harassment and psychological control and coercion. Helen shows just how difficult it is to get out of an emotionally abusive and highly controlling relationship.

Meet the Domestic Abuse support workers

Up and down the country are organisations who specialize in helping victims of domestic violence. They work independently to, but closely with, the police and they support people regardless of whether or not they wish to pursue legal proceedings. Their priority is keeping victims safe, whatever they choose.

Read About the Dash Charity

About Reducing the Risk

Reducing the Risk of Domestic Abuse is an Oxfordshire charity which is dedicated to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of adults and children at risk through domestic abuse. The charity provides the Independent Domestic Violence Advisory (IDVA) service for the county. IDVAs work intensively with victims of abuse at high risk to ensure their immediate safety and stay alongside them for as long as they need so that they can overcome trauma and rebuild their lives.

The safety of adults and children at risk of harm depends on services working closely together. Reducing the Risk trains networks of front line staff to work together to tackle abuse - so that wherever adults and children turn for help they receive safe responsive support and are linked through the networks to the resources they need. There are nearly 1000 active Domestic Abuse Champions across a wide range of agencies and schools in Oxfordshire, and the charity advises other areas in developing this approach.

The charity provides a number of further services including outreach, and support to extend therapeutic resources for children and young people affected through abuse.

Working with True Vision:

“This film is a testament to the courage and fortitude of women – and men – who experience domestic abuse. The film was made with care and sensitivity, and the process of filming has been empowering and cathartic for those involved.

The film reflects the reality for many people across the country. There are independent services across the UK which work with and for victims of abuse and their children. We hope the film will contribute to raising awareness and encourage people who are affected, and their families and friends, to seek support and to do so as early as possible.”

Romy Briant MBE, Chair Reducing the Risk of Domestic Abuse

Meet the film-makers

Anna Hall produced and directed ‘Behind Closed Doors.’ She is a multi-award winning documentary Director/Producer, specialising in the most difficult social issue films often involving violence against women and children. She won the RTS Journalism Award in 2014 and was nominated for a BAFTA in Current Affairs for her film The Hunt for Britain's Sex Gangs which covered exclusively the inside story of a major Police investigation over a 3 years period involving Child Sexual Exploitation and Gang Grooming. She also won the Women in Film & Television BBC Factual & Current Affairs Award in 2013 in recognition of her 17 year campaign to raise the profile of the plight of victims of CSE and Gang Grooming. Her passion is to expose difficult social issues and bring them to a mainstream audience.

Erica Gornall produced and filmed Behind Closed Doors. She has a history of working in social films, having previously worked on Breadline Kids and Looking After Mum.

Press Coverage

Listen to Director Anna Hall on Radio 4 Woman's Hour

National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline

0808 2000 247

It is open 24 hours a day. It is run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge.

Please call 999 in an emergency

  • Anyone can call the helpline: Women and children experiencing or who have experienced domestic abuse, professionals, or friends and family members who are worried about someone else.
  • Your call will be answered by fully trained female helpline support workers and volunteers. The helpline workers are skilled in listening and do not judge.
  • The helpline workers will never tell you what to do, but instead will explore your options with you.
  • Everything you say will be confidential.
  • All calls to the helpline are free from mobiles and landlines.
  • Be sure that you are safe when you call the helpline. This means that the perpetrator of the abuse is not in the same property as you (even if they are in another room, the garden or asleep).

If you are in an abusive relationship

Questions to help you discover if you are experiencing domestic abuse:

  1. Are you afraid of your partner?
  2. Do you feel isolated, bullied or belittled?
  3. Does your partner cut you off from friends or family?
  4. Does your partner verbally abuse you?
  5. Does your partner physically hurt you?
  6. Do you feel as if you are walking on egg shells?
  7. Do you change your behaviour to avoid triggering an incident?
  8. Does your partner threaten you or your children?
  9. Does your partner control the money?
  10. Does your partner force you to have sex or make unreasonable demands?
  11. Does your partner accuse you of being unfaithful?
  12. Does your partner say you are useless and couldn’t cope without them?
  13. Does your partner have sudden changes of mood which dominate the house?
  14. Is your partner charming one minute and abusive the next?
  15. Are you afraid of making your own decisions?

If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions you may be experiencing domestic abuse

Please talk to someone you trust about it, a friend, your health visitor, your GP or call your local Domestic Abuse Helpline.

It is important for you to know that:

  • people will believe you
  • you are not alone
  • it is not your fault
  • you have the right to feel safe and live free of abuse

If you are in an abusive relationship and are in immediate danger don’t hesitate to call the police on 999.

Otherwise, if at all possible, tell someone, and there will be services to help you wherever you live

If you know someone who may be in an abusive relationship:

The nature of domestic abuse often means that the abuse happens in secret and may escalate over time. If possible try to support them to seek help early before the risk of harm increases for them and any children.

Key points to remember when supporting someone

• You may have identified the abuse before the person has, therefore, it is important to gently help them to recognise it. But this may take some time, the person may minimise or take responsibility for the abuse

• Allow them to go at their pace, do not push them to make changes/decisions they are not ready for

• Reassure them that they are not to blame for the abuse

• Listen, and keep listening

• Remain non-judgemental and do not criticise their partner

• Do not advise them to leave, as this may increase the danger

• Once they have recognised the abuse encourage them to seek specialist help and support

[source: Reducing the Risk]

Background information

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic Abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members. Abuse can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional. This also includes specific forms of domestic abuse such as Stalking, Honour Based Abuse, Forced Marriage and Adolescent to Parent Abuse.


What can I do in law about abuse?

IN THE CIVIL COURT: Go to a solicitor who can apply for:

Restraining Orders

Non-Molestation Orders – an order to offer you legal protection and prevent the perpetrator having further contact with you or attending your address.

There is a range of civil orders available to prevent your children being removed from your care or to formalise child contact in order to ensure this is safe.

If attacked physically, there are a number of offences ranging from common assault to grievous bodily harm – which will be prosecuted through the CRIMINAL COURT via the police.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders: As an alternative disposal following an incident the police can consider issuing a ‘notice’ to a perpetrator (over 18) which will contain a number of conditions as deemed appropriate by the officer investigating. The first objective is to protect the victim for the first 48 hours to allow the police to make an application to the magistrates to obtain an ‘order’, if granted this will last for between 14 and 28 days. This is new legislation that came into play in 2015 and is a useful tool to allow the victim a ‘breathing space’.

I haven’t been hit – can I still go to the police?

Yes, domestic abuse is not just physical – there is often a pattern of controlling, coercive behaviour too. There is now new legislation under the amended Serious Crime Act 2015 that allows police and criminal justice to prosecute perpetrators with an offence of coercive control, where there has been a pattern of behaviour that has had a significant impact on another person. This may be due to financial abuse, isolating them from sources of support, or a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten.

Abuse can take a number of forms and if you are not comfortable to call the police then consider calling one of the many victim help line services across the UK who are experts in abuse and may be able to advise and guide.

I have a new partner and I want to know if he has abused in the past. Can I find out?

Clare’s law, or the domestic violence disclosure scheme, is a very useful tool. A request can be made to the police under the heading of ‘right to know’ or ‘right to ask’ where a person has concerns that a person is entering into, or has formed a relationship with a person they believe is a domestic perpetrator. Right to know will generally come from the police or partner agencies who may have access to intelligence or information, and the right to ask will generally come from the victim themselves or someone close to them, such as family or friend, acting in their best interest. Police will consider the application and make a decision whether it is proportionate to disclose information to the victim in order that they can then make an informed decision about how to protect themselves and their children if they have any.

My partner forced me to have sex but we are married – is that domestic abuse?

Forcing someone to have sex is rape, whether you are married or not. Legally, a person under the age of 16 years old cannot give consent and if a person is under the influence of drugs, alcohol or has mental health issues, then there may be evidence that the person was unable to consent. If a person is threatening you or coercing you into sex, this is rape.

Rape reporting is increasing and is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. The police encourage reporting and will take all positive steps to investigate the complaint. Offences that have occurred within relationships are difficult to investigate and prosecute, as often the evidence is limited to one person’s word against the other. This however should not discourage any victim from coming forward.

What if I don’t want to involve the police?

The nature of domestic abuse often means that the abuse happens in secret and may escalate over time. There are many people that are hesitant to call the police, but the advice is always to call them, particularly in an emergency, if you feel unsafe, threatened or harassed. There are specialist domestic abuse police officers trained to support victims and to manage their safety and they will ensure that your safety is their priority. If at all possible, tell someone, and there will be services to help you wherever you live. Nationally, you can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

I’m scared that if I report domestic abuse, my children will be taken away from me

This is a common threat used by perpetrators to make a parent feel fearful and to encourage them to remain within an abusive relationship. Social workers understand the challenges of leaving an abusive relationship and can support you throughout. It is very uncommon for children to be removed from a non-abusive parent and reporting domestic abuse does not always mean that social workers will automatically become involved.

If you suffering domestic abuse:


0808 2000 247

We are a grassroots federation working together to provide life-saving services and build a future where domestic violence is not tolerated.


0808 2000 247

We aim to empower women and children to rebuild their lives, free from violence and fear.

National Centre for Domestic Violence

0800 970 2070

Can provide a service to get fast injunctions to survivors of domestic violence.


0808 801 0327

Confidential helpline offering support, information and practical advice to male victims of domestic violence.

Galop (gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer)

020 7704 2040 - London LGBT+ Advice Line

0800 999 5428 - National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline

Provides confidential support to all members of the LGBT communities, their family, friends, and agencies supporting them.

White Ribbon Campaign (men speaking out against violence)

We’re a group of men who know that there’s never an excuse for violence against women. We pledge never to condone it, or to stand by when we know it’s happening.

Mankind (male victims)

01273 911680

Since 2000, we have been delivering specialist support services to men (18+) who have experienced childhood sexual abuse and/or adult sexual assault at any time in their lives.

Domestic Violence Intervention Project -

If you are a domestic abuser and want help:


0808 802 4040

Confidential information and advice to help perpetrators stop their violence and change their abusive behaviours