Interview – Olivia Colman’s fight to end domestic abuse: ‘Women are still expendable’

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Olivia Colman has been campaigning against domestic abuse for a decade. But ask the Oscar winner why there remains such a lack of political will to tackle the issue, and she’s lost for words. “I wish I had the answer for that,” she replies, her eyes twinkling, as she sits in a dressing room at the Unicorn Theatre. “I am mystified.” Year after year, an average of between two and three women are killed by a current male partner or ex-partner each week in England and Wales, while one in four women is thought to endure domestic abuse during their lifetimes.

Homicides of women often do not make the news, she tells me. Yes, occasionally, “there is outrage and there are marches”, she adds, but too often the outcry quickly dissipates. In Colman’s view, the inaction could stem from our collective desire to “bury their heads in the sand” and “prioritise” other matters. “They get outraged for a minute and then it’s like there is a peak, and then you just know it’s going to go off the radar,” she says, although she wonders if the issue lies in the continued belief that “women are still expendable”. She has a point when she asks, “If it was between two and three men killed a week, would that make a difference?”

On the day we meet, Colman is gearing up for an awards ceremony held by the arts charity Tender, of which she has been a patron for almost a decade. Tender uses a range of creative projects – including drama workshops – to teach children and young people about the early signs of domestic abuse, but also what healthy, loving and fulfilling relationships look like. This is particularly important, Colman stresses, when you consider that young people aged 16 to 24 are the “most at risk group” for experiencing domestic abuse. This is an age where people are still “working out” how relationships work and may, out of naivete, wrongly see jealousy from boyfriends as a “sign of love”.

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