TV and Radio

The story of one family who confront a secret of sexual abuse after 25 years

The Family Secret is the story of one family who confront a secret of sexual abuse after 25 years

The Family Secret, Channel 4, Tuesday at 9pm

IT starts with a victim's own words about her motivation for engaging in restorative justice.

"I've been living with this secret for 25 years, which is a long time," says Kath.

"It just eats away at you, like living a double life."

And so begins a programme that focuses on the experience of a victim as she comes face-to-face with her perpetrator.

The Family Secret is the story of one family who confront a secret of sexual abuse after 25 years.

The documentary looks at the process of restorative justice, which bring victims and offenders together to "have that conversation".

With no narrator, told primarily through the words of Kath, who was abused from the age of seven.

"Only the victim and the perpetrator know what happened, I need him to face the truth I need my family to know, we all need answers," says Kath.

"I can't carry on living this lie any more I need to face him and look him in the eye."

It looks back at Kath's childhood, there's footage of kids' parties and memories shared by her family.

Restorative justice practitioner Kate explains the process involved and how she had been working with Kath and her abusers for around six months ahead of their meeting.

It is primarily a process of bringing those harmed by crime and those responsible for it into communication with each other, it's a meeting that Kate describes as likely to be "life-changing" for both sides.

"For some victims they need the opportunity to ask questions and only the perpetrator can answer those questions," she says.

Footage shows Kath's abuser entering the room, he sits down opposite her and her mum and it takes Kath a while before she eventually looks up; you can feel the tension.

The conversation begins and the man starts by telling Kath he worries he "won't have the answers you're looking for".

"I'm concerned you will leave her without the answers you are looking for," he admits.

And it's then the bombshell is delivered when he says, "it all started one night at Grandad's".

It's then the viewer realises the abuser and victim are related - the perpetrator is Kath's brother Robert.

During the restorative justice process, Robert continually minimises his abusive past and suggests it "only" went on for two-and-a-half years.

But in stark reality, the abuse lasted for four years.

And his version of events is not the way Kath remembered the trauma she experienced.

But she doesn't react to his version, she never raises her voice, never swears and while it was clear the impact the abuse has had on her life has been tremendous, what was also evident was that Kath was totally in control.

She is clear in her conversation, adamant she will not get lost in Robert's conversation.

At the end of the meeting, she tells him: "I will not have you in my life now, I can't forgive you. You'll always be my brother, but you're still the rapist who came into my bedroom and did those things".

She plays Demi Lovato's song Warrior and asks her brother to listen carefully to the words before leaving the room.

It's an emotionally draining documentary at times. At times I felt I was intruding on a private meeting and that I shouldn't have been listening.

But Kath is brave to tell her story and to allow the cameras to capture her as she confronts the man who raped her.

Until we come face-to-face with these awful situations and start talking about them, then nothing will change.

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TV and Radio