How Peterborough composer and Spice Girl Mel B’s powerful domestic abuse film is capturing global attention

A Peterborough composer has teamed up with a member of the Spice Girls to highlight the devastating impact of domestic abuse which is already gaining widespread attention.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 5:01 am
Fabio D’Andrea with Mel B
Fabio D’Andrea with Mel B

Former cathedral chorister Fabio D’Andrea collaborated with Melanie Brown (Mel B) for the powerful five minute film entitled ‘Love Should Not Hurt’ which he directed, edited and performed the soundtrack for.

The shocking footage - which shows a successful, wealthy woman being physically assaulted and controlled by her partner, despite presenting an image of happiness to friends - has sparked huge media coverage and prompted numerous survivors to share their experiences, including many people close to Fabio who have felt able to come forward after seeing the abuse they suffered mirrored on screen.

“I’ve had some phenomenal feedback - it’s gone far, far better than I could ever have expected,” the former King’s School pupil said.

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“One thing which was amazing was the amount of women sharing their personal stories on the video, my social media, Mel’s social media and Twitter. I’m encouraging people to put stories on Twitter with the hashtag #LoveShouldNotHurt.

“That’s how we start the conversation. And once people are having the conversation we can have these things addressed.

“Mel has a platform but many survivors don’t. I feel we need to encourage all survivors, men as well, to speak out about their abuse.

“On a personal level I’ve had messages from friends saying they’ve gone through things they’d seen in the video. People I know well and I had no idea. That’s been an eye-opener.”

Fabio D’Andrea

Love Should Not Hurt is the fourth of 24 videos being shot by Fabio alongside famous faces to highlight important issues, including one on mental health with actor Russell Tovey and another on parenthood and grief with former Hollyoaks star Emma Rigby which was shot at Burghley House.

Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer has also previously danced in one of Fabio’s music videos.

Each film is centred around a piece of music Fabio has produced, and the idea to highlight domestic abuse came during the pandemic when Fabio heard on the news Italy had seen a 14 per cent rise in reported cases and had its own national day to talk about the issue.

This sparked the composer to delve deep into the subject which revealed not only the scale of it across the globe, but the many different ways domestic abuse manifests itself.

“The impact of the pandemic is far more severe on society than just the health side,” Fabio said. “I don’t want to distract from that, but a lot of repercussions we’re seeing are affecting people in some way.”

The idea to contact Mel was prompted by the former Spice Girl, who is a patron for Women’s Aid, having previously spoken about the abuse she suffered during a previous marriage.

“I wanted to use someone in the video who had experienced domestic abuse because I thought it was really important for them to relate to it,” Fabio said.

“Mel being a patron for Women’s Aid was the perfect choice. She’s lived through this herself and has been very vocal about some of the abuse she suffered.

“I reached out to her and instantly she said this is exactly what she wanted to do. We spent a lot of time brainstorming. We really wanted to show different microcosms of abuse in the video.”

Currently, two woman a week in England and Wales are murdered by their partner or ex-partner, while the video ends with a statistic from the World Health Organization that one in three women globally are subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, or sexual violence from a non-partner.

These statistics shocked Fabio, who also had his eyes opened by the different ways survivors can be emotionally, financially and physically controlled for many years, with even their family and closest friends unaware that it is happening.

“There are quite a lot of different abuses women suffer,” he explained.

“Coercive control is how it often starts. Women don’t often start in relationships which are abusive. Mel has spoken about this. It’s small things which start over time. I was ignorant about these.

“I used to say ‘why can’t women just leave?’ But it’s not that easy and that’s what I began to realise and understand. That’s one thing I want to change from the video so people can understand it’s not that simple to leave.

“Women in these relationships are slowly cut off from everyone over their lifetime. Financially they are controlled.

“Mel explained to me, when she tried to leave her ex, he had taken over everything such as her finances. It started with him saying he wanted to help, then he’s in charge of her bank accounts and has changed her login details so she can’t access her own money.

“By the end she didn’t have her own front door key. This happens to many women.

“The husband character in the video is trying to control what she’s wearing. You’ve got financial control in the video.

“Many women are watched and I wanted to show that. Even though they are alone they are never really alone.

“Many women in abusive relationships when working are constantly called by their partners. They don’t have time on their own and are constantly controlled.

“And there’s there physical violence. Coupled with that, speaking to many victims of abuse, part of the reason many women stay in these relationships is these men are often very emotionally stunted. They often cry and are very vulnerable. A lot of women in relationships believe if they ever left the guy would crumble so they have to help them.

“It’s a strange dynamic that women being abused are trying to save their partner.

“On the flipside, to the world everything looks lovely, but there’s something else going on.”

Fabio himself has many wonderful memories of growing up in Peterborough, particularly his time with the cathedral choir where he was able to perform for the Queen and tour America and Canada as a 10-year-old.

But for many children, witnessing domestic abuse can have a devastating impact. By pushing the conversation further into the mainstream, Fabio hopes to join a number of other men who are trying to highlight the issue and make sure it is appropriately tackled so case numbers fall and fewer people suffer.

“I wanted to do something powerful, shocking and realistic,” he added. “We need to talk about this in society. We can’t ignore it any more.

“While making the video, the amount of cases in the news like this was incredibly high. I don’t think people have realised the extent of this.

“As a society we’re not addressing the main issues around it. Unless we start to talk about these issues they will never improve.

“We can try to educate people, break habits and teach younger children that witness these things not to follow in these footsteps. We can then bring numbers down sharply.”

Support services in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire can be found at: https://www.cambsdasv.org.uk/website/home.