Vi­o­lence hits Home

Sum­mer Bay dares to ad­dress a con­fronting sub­ject, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

WHEN Demi Har­man signed to play 15-year-old Sasha Bezmel in Home and Away, the last thing she ex­pected was a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sto­ry­line.

Har­man, 18, knew Sasha was trou­ble — a re­bel­lious teen hurt­ing from the death of her mother in a car ac­ci­dent.

But Sasha get­ting hit by teen River Boy Stu Hen­der­son (Bren­ton Th­waites) was a whole other mat­ter.

Stu suf­fers from ADHD, but he has a darker se­cret. He has seen his mum get­ting hit by his dad on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Stu has also been phys­i­cally abused by Jake’s gang. He has a short fuse and he takes it out on Sasha. Stu says he loves Sasha, but then slaps her in a jeal­ous rage.

He wins her back with an ex­pen­sive ring and love blos­soms un­til he slaps her again.

‘‘ I know some 15-year-olds who have ex­pe­ri­enced trou­ble grow­ing up but noth­ing like this,’’ Har­man says.

‘‘ Sasha has just moved to the Bay. She has known this guy for only a cou­ple of weeks and she has to deal with all this stuff. This (do­mes­tic vi­o­lence) is a very se­vere is­sue. I was very glad to be able to learn about it to aid in my per­for­mance.’’

Home and Away isn’t the only TV show tack­ling do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

On The Slap, all hell breaks loose when a fiery Harry (Alex Dim­i­tri­ades) hits an­other cou­ple’s child, Hugo (Ju­lian Mi­neo), at a sub­ur­ban bar­be­cue. Harry’s par­ents, Rosie (Melissa Ge­orge) and Gary (An­thony Hayes) call the po­lice. Friends and fam­ily are forced to take sides.

The Slap re-ig­nited de­bate on whether it is ac­cept­able to phys­i­cally dis­ci­pline an­other’s child. Fam­ily groups are split on the is­sue but Switched On read­ers gave slap­ping a re­sound­ing ‘‘ no’’.

‘‘ If some­one smacked my child I’d call the po­lice,’’ reader Pa­tri­cio Gon­za­lez said. Un­der Aus­tralian law, it is il­le­gal to strike some­one else’s child.

TV star An­drew O’keefe is adamant that shows such as Home and Away and The Slap are do­ing a ser­vice to the com- mu­nity by rais­ing such a sen­si­tive is­sue. O’keefe is am­bas­sador of White Rib­bon, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that cam­paigns to stop vi­o­lence against women. O’keefe says the sta­tis­tics are fright­en­ing.

‘‘ In the last year, about 12 per cent of 18- to 24-yearold women will have ex­pe­ri­enced an in­ci­dent of phys­i­cal or sex­ual as­sault,’’ he says.

‘‘ If you’re in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship as a young wo­man (like Sasha), you’re likely to be more vul­ner­a­ble than an older per­son be­cause you have very lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence of re­la­tion­ships and what is ac­cept­able.’’

This isn’t the first time Home and Away has tack­led chal­leng­ing so­cial is­sues. In 2009, a les­bian sto­ry­line in­volv­ing Sum­mer Bay po­lice­woman Char­lie Buck­ton (Es­ther An­der­son) caused con­tro­versy.

Pro­ducer Cameron Welsh says the sto­ry­lines are not a cyn­i­cal rat­ings grab. He says the show has a duty to cover hot-but­ton top­ics oc­ca­sion­ally. ‘‘ We’ve tack­led abuse sto­ry­lines in the past but we haven’t done it with such a young char­ac­ter be­fore,’’ Welsh says.

‘‘ What we have tried to do with sto­ries of this kind is not make judg­ments. It is re­ally a case of pre­sent­ing it and leav­ing it open for dis­cus­sion.

‘‘ Our re­search tells us Home and Away is watched a lot by mums and teenagers. (That means) we can present an is­sue like this (do­mes­tic vi­o­lence) at 7 o’clock at night. Fam­i­lies can watch it and then dis­cuss it.’’

Har­man agrees. ‘‘ It is ab­so­lutely go­ing to be so ben­e­fi­cial for younger view­ers — to ed­u­cate them­selves about re­la­tion­ships and how im­por­tant it is to pro­tect your­self.’’ Home and Away, Chan­nel 7, week­nights 7pm White Rib­bon Day is on Novem­ber 25 Teen trauma: Demi Har­man and Bren­ton Th­waites and (in­set) the Sum­mer Bay slap.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.