by Dr Elizabeth Yardley, Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University
From a criminological perspective, the first episode of the third series of ITV’s Broadchurch was absolutely saturated with contemporary issues, concerns and debates around violent crime.
Trish, the victim of a sexual assault, appears like a deer in the headlights as she is taken through the process of preserving evidence.
The show cleverly portrayed a caring and concerned support worker who still managed to be patronising, “I’ll hand you back to the police now”, as if Trish was a piece of evidence. The attention to detail was emotive – the mud on Trish’s feet seen whilst she was in the shower was a powerful image.
The doubt around Trish’s claims surfaced quickly among the investigators and ‘rape myths’ abounded (Rape Crisis, 2017). DI Alec Hardy jumped on the ‘stranger rape’ theory early in the show and was chastised by DI Ellie Miller for his clumsy handling of Trish. An inexperienced female detective asked during a team briefing, “Are you sure it is genuine?” – this was important in highlighting that rape myths and stereotypes aren’t just perpetuated by men.
The circumstances of the rape also give rise to the possibility of the victim-blaming that is certain to come in later episodes – Trish seemed to have been at a friend’s party when she was attacked, opening the gates for a heated debate around alcohol and consent.
The show also very cleverly covered the topic of victim experiences in the aftermath of violent crime. This wasn’t limited to Trish. It also encompassed the longer term impact upon the Latimer family of the murder of their son Danny.
Beth and Mark Latimer appear to have separated, something that studies suggest is particularly prominent in bereaved parents (Rogers et al, 2008).
Beth has taken on voluntary work supporting the victims of crime and indeed recovery from grief is apparently aided by having a sense of life purpose (Rogers et al, 2008). The fact that Beth was the one assigned to Trish’s case was a bit too much of a stretch in coincidence for me though.
The show is an effective portrayal of victim trauma without having to link the dots up in this “What are the chances of that?” way. The impact of Danny Latimer’s murder is also being felt by DS Ellie Miller and her son – often the impact of violent crime on the perpetrator’s family is not something acknowledged in the real world (Condry, 2013).
I will certainly be watching with interest as series three unfolds further…
Condry, R. (2013). Families shamed: The consequences of crime for relatives of serious offenders. Routledge.
Rape Crisis. (2017). Myths about rape. https://rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsvsrealities.php
Rogers, C. H., Floyd, F. J., Seltzer, M. M., Greenberg, J., & Hong, J. (2008). Long-term effects of the death of a child on parents’ adjustment in midlife. Journal of family psychology, 22(2), 203.
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