TV weather presenter Ruth Dodsworth has spoken out about her harrowing experience of domestic abuse to urge North Wales victims to take part in a new survey.
The broadcaster who works for ITV Wales suffered a campaign of harassment and stalking during her 18-year marriage to Jonathan Wignall which saw her controlled financially, isolated from friends and family and “living in constant fear”.
Her ex-husband was jailed for three years at Cardiff Crown Court in April last year and handed a restraining order against contacting Ruth after pleading guilty to one count of coercive and controlling behaviour and stalking.
The mother-of-two is now using her experiences to help police improve the way they handle abuse cases and is encouraging victims of domestic abuse and all crime to share their views in a new survey.
The online poll has been launched by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin as part of a major review of the services provided to victims of crime.
Before his election, the Crime Commissioner pledged to establish a new Victims’ Panel to give survivors a greater voice on the care and services they receive during their journey to justice.
It’s also a key priority in Mr Dunbobbin’s Police and Crime Plan which provides a blueprint for North Wales Police to follow.
The aim is to help the Commissioner better understand survivors’ experiences to identify ways of improving the response to victims in the future.
The survey is now live and victims have until Monday, February 28, to complete it.
Journalist and former radio researcher Ruth said: “It’s important we speak up – we have a voice and we need to use that to help others.
“If our experience can help just one other person to recognise or have the courage to come forward then everything is worthwhile.
“It’s vital we have those conversations about what went well and what did not. We all need to support each other.
“Nothing can be as frightening as the experience we have already been through. Let us use that now. We cannot change what’s happened in the past but we can change what happens in the future using our voice as a way of challenging things for the better. That’s a very powerful thing.”
Ruth married her ex-partner in 2002, a year after they met. His controlling behaviour increased over time but it is only now, in hindsight, she says she can recognise the warning signs were already there.
“It was every single trait of coercive and controlling behaviour – it ticked all the boxes. I had no money. I had a lunch money allowance because he felt that if I had access to money I could go out and have affairs.
“It’s all to do with that control. You cannot go out. You have to have your hair a certain way and you can’t talk to certain people. I wasn’t allowed to talk to friends of his that he felt were a threat.
“He offered to pay my children to go through my mobile phone. I woke up in the middle of the night and he had my thumb pressed on my IPhone to get into my mobile phone. He would delete contacts from my address book.
“I spent most of my life walking on egg shells. You live in constant fear because you don’t know when the next argument is going to happen. More often than not it was physical.
“Alcohol was a big factor in Jonathan’s behaviour – it contributed to the Jekyll and Hyde scenario. He could change mood at the flick of a switch.
“I’m a journalist and I’d covered stories like this yet I couldn’t recognise it in my own relationship. I couldn’t recognise it was coercive and controlling behaviour and that this is a crime. It was quite a journey.”
Mr Dunbobbin is hoping her powerful words encourage other victims to come forward to complete the survey and help improve support for other victims going through the system.
“Listening to Ruth’s experiences of abuse is deeply distressing and I applaud her courage and bravery in sharing her personal story to help other victims of crime,” he said.
“Everything I do as North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner is centred on protecting victims of crime and ensuring their care and needs are being met in the best possible way.
“I want to learn what is working and what needs to improve and would urge all victims of crime to help me by completing this survey. Your views really do count and can make a difference on the services we provide to vulnerable people in the future.”
Ruth, who has two children, Grace, 18, and 16-year-old Jack, has recently remarried and is enjoying life again.
The 46-year-old is proud to be able to use her experience to benefit other victims and continues to support South Wales Police, alongside her daughter Grace, as part of their police training programme to help officers recognise signs of emotional or physical abuse.
“An abusive relationship is not like going into a typical crime scene – there might not be a body on the floor. It’s reading between the lines,” she said.
“When police officers came to my house, it was a lovely home. They read between the lines and realised this was more than a simple argument.
“If those two officers had just walked away and told him to sort himself out, he would’ve killed me. Their actions saved my life.
“I didn’t confide in anyone. I didn’t really recognise or understand it myself. It’s very difficult to reach out to people. I felt it was admitting failure on my part. The more you talk, and the more you inform and educate, the more educated we all become.”
The TV presenter urges other victims of crime to come forward and help bring change.
“Pease do speak up and give your feedback, talk about what experiences – it’s one step in making the world a better place for all of us,” she said.
“I’ve had hundreds of thousands of messages. So many people have said because of my story I recognise in myself and others what domestic abuse and coercive control is. The response has been huge and overwhelming. Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship and that’s horrifying.
“Use your voice and experience to try and turn an awful time into something positive. I never wanted to be a poster girl for misery. I want to be a poster girl for the person who’s had a pretty horrendous experience but has gone on to have a wonderful life.”
Victims of crime can complete the survey by visiting: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VNA_survey22 and the deadline for submissions is Monday, February 28.