A leading firm of family law solicitors has hit out at Coronation Street over its portrayal of domestic violence in a storyline that is gripping the nation.
Tracy Barlow has been arrested for the murder of her apparently-violent partner after months of fooling neighbours into believing she is being physically abused.
But lawyers at Woolley & Co, which specialises in dealing with sensitive domestic cases, believe the way the soap has progressed the plot will discourage more battered partners from getting help.
“I believe the storyline in Coronation Street is going to have a detrimental effect,” said Lisa Macdonald, a family law expert with Woolley & Co. “When victims find the courage to talk to someone about their problem, they are more likely to be met with scepticism in the light of this storyline rather than being given the help and support they desperately need.
“At the start of the new year, a client of mine who was suffering domestic violence had the courage and strength to seek help. When I asked her why she had not come forward before, she said she feared 'no one would believe me, especially after the story on Coronation Street'.
“Not being a fan, I didn't know what she was talking about, so I watched a couple of episodes and discovered the Tracy Barlow storyline. This is a young lady who has consistently lied about being a victim of physical and emotional harm. Tracy's friends and neighbours are rallying around and giving her support. When they discover the truth, they will feel betrayed.
“My client pointed out that her friends and neighbours might be more cautious about becoming involved and offering assistance if they were not sure about the situation.
“Victims of domestic violence commonly have low self esteem and little confidence. They need support and encouragement to seek help. However, influential the program has been, it appears to be to the detriment of true victims of domestic violence. What are the producers of such an influential program thinking about if the public are now tempted to even think that someone who complains of domestic violence is 'doing a Tracy Barlow'?”
Domestic violence claims over 150 lives a year and affects millions more.
Woolley & Co was founded in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire in 1996. It has legal experts in Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Burton on Trent, Cirencester, Chippenham, Gloucester, Worcester and Norfolk.