Ian Wright: Home Truths – Abused in childhood, a black hole of suffering and rage

There are no happy endings when the Arsenal striker investigates domestic violence

Ian Wright: Home Truths – “abuse creates a vicious cycle,” he says. Photograph: Dan Dewsbury/Brook Lapping/BBC

Ian Wright: Home Truths – “abuse creates a vicious cycle,” he says. Photograph: Dan Dewsbury/Brook Lapping/BBC

 

The hurt glimmers in the footballer’s eyes throughout Ian Wright: Home Truths (BBC One, Thursday, 9pm). Sometimes it intensifies into a gravity well of half-buried trauma, such as when he returns to the single-room bedsit where he and his brother would face the wall in terror as his stepfather beat their mother.

Occasionally it dims – particularly as he pays tribute to a supportive teacher, the first positive male role model in his life. But it’s always there: a black hole of suffering and rage.

It was there on the soccer pitch, too, the former Crystal Palace and Arsenal forward explains in this gripping and painfully raw film. “I felt there were no consequences,” he says of the wild tackles and after-the-whistle lunges. “Some of the ways I acted were deplorable.”

Maurice, his older brother, would clamp his hands over Ian’s ears so that he didn’t hear the sound of their mother being beaten. ‘We’re really close, but we never talk about this stuff,’ Wright says

As a Match of the Day pundit Wright is irreverent and capricious, with an expertly burnished bloke-down-the-pub persona. But the cheeky chappie is set to one side as he speaks to his older brother, Maurice, about the abuse they witnessed as kids. Maurice would clamp his hands over Ian’s ears so that he didn’t hear the sound of their mother being beaten. “We’re really close, but we never talk about this stuff,” Wright says.

He has a lot to get off his chest. It’s upsetting, for instance, to hear him recall how his mother, lashing out at a convenient target, would tell her son that she wished she’d had an abortion rather than given birth to him. But it is to his credit that he and his producers have set out to create a piece of journalism rather than simply a first-person tale of adversity and redemption.

Wright sits down with Wes, a domestic abuser who has signed up to a programme to curb his violent tendencies. And he meets a former social worker who agrees that, in the 1970s, when Wright was a boy, abuse was not acted on unless a woman was literally beaten “black and blue” – and even then not much would necessarily happen.

He also shares some frightening statistics In 2019, 1.6 million women in the UK experienced domestic abuse. And in 90 per cent of domestic-abuse cases a child is present.

There are no happy endings. Wright, now married and with a young family, still lives in the shadow of his childhood, and the chill will never lift entirely. His message at the end is simple but powerful. “Abuse creates a vicious cycle,” he says. “It’s up to all of us to stop it.”

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