The Casualty star talks about her harrowing role as an abused wife…
When we first met Kirsty last year there was little indication what was going on at home, did you know from the beginning where the storyline was headed?
“I did. In fact, one of the reasons I wanted to play Kirsty was because I knew what was in store for her. This is a subject matter I care passionately about.”
It’s been a slow burning story, has that been rewarding to play?
“It’s been really great. Instead of introducing this storyline and wrapping it up in a few weeks, it’s been brought in subtly. You could see hints of it in Kirsty’s reaction to a suspected domestic abuse case at work. She’s also been coming into work with bumps and bruises, is always on her phone and never joins the gang for after work drinks. It’s been built up slowly.”
Kirsty’s home life came as quite a shock to some viewers, how was this achieved?
“There’s been quite a big mystery surrounding Kirsty. At work we’ve seen this strong, capable woman, who is great at dealing with people and standing up for someone she believes to be a victim. But at home she’s quite different. She’s submissive to her domineering husband. It’s shocking because she’s a strong person.”
Why do you think Kirsty stays with Warren?
“Well, that’s the question… And it’s a frustrating question for an abuse victim to be asked. The question should be ‘Why doesn’t he stop hitting her?’ There are so many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship. In Kirsty’s case it’s been because of her daughter Nita, Warren’s illness and because she found ways to justify the violence.”
Why does she finally leave him?
“She gets to the point where she has to leave. I think Kirsty falls into the category of someone who didn’t realise she was in an abusive relationship. And when she did realise it she tried to justify because she couldn’t accept she was a victim. The epiphany moment for her was when Nita told her she was scared.”
How have you prepared for this harrowing role?
“Women’s Aid have been incredible. I visited their call centre in Bristol and was talked through a typical phone call and how they can offer help, whether it’s immediate refuge, or long-term help, advice and support.”
Did you meet any victims of abuse?
“I went to a refuge in London and met the women living there, either by themselves or with their children. Each told me their life story and how they ended up in a refuge – it was really inspiring. I learned a lot and am incredibly grateful to them.”
What, if anything, do you hope might come from this storyline?
“A lot of people don’t realise how common domestic abuse is. It’s estimated one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their life. And each week two women die from domestic abuse. Personally, I’d like to raise awareness of Women’s Aid. And for victims out there to realise they’re not alone. Check out the Women’s Aid website.”
Will this story deal with the aftermath of Kirsty’s abuse?
“Yes. That was something I was very keen on doing and spoke to the producer about. We often see the abuse, but not the after effects. It can take women months or years to deal with what’s happened.”