23/11/2016 9:15 AM AEDT | Updated 23/11/2016 4:21 PM AEDT

'Big Bad Love' Is A Doco Making Domestic Violence Your Business

Sorry, but staying silent is no longer an option.

Women aged 18-24 are most at risk of abuse.
Women aged 18-24 are most at risk of abuse.

Two years ago, filmmaker Briony Benjamin learned that Hollywood actress Rachael Taylor was a victim of domestic violence.

"She detailed her ordeal in a magazine which said one in three women will experience physical violence in their life," Benjamin told The Huffington Post Australia.

"I am one of three girls, so it really struck a personal chord," Benjamin said.

The piece sent Benjamin on a quest to figure out how an abusive relationship begins and why domestic violence is so hard to comprehend when it enters our own lives.

"If this can happen to someone like Rachael Taylor -- I wanted to find out how -- and rather than looking at the end of the spectrum, looking at the very beginning," Benjamin said.

Her documentary, "Big Bad Love" is part of ABC's "Opening Shot" series which gives five emerging filmmakers the opportunity to create a film aimed at bringing a fresh perspective to the issues young people face today.

The film focuses on two young survivors who revealed at the time of their relationship, they had no idea they were victims of domestic violence.

"We're talking about girls who have been strangled on a daily basis, beaten and hospitalised," Benjamin said.

Women aged 18-24 are most at risk of abuse and experts agree violence thrives in isolation, which is why trying to understand what it's like for these women; the shame they feel and why it is so difficult to leave is so crucial.

"These young women just thought they were in love with damaged men that needed their help," Benjamin said.

Briony Benjamin Media
Comedian Becky Lucas fronts the documentary, speaking to domestic violence survivors, experts and psychologists including Dina McMillan.

The ultimate message of the documentary Benjamin explains, is that there is always something you can do.

"It's not easy, it's not comfortable but your silence really does send a message," Benjamin said.

"If you don't do anything you're basically condoning it or saying 'I'm okay with that' which is not how most people feel and that's what we see in our street experiment that's featured in the documentary," Benjamin said.

Understanding the psychology of an abusive relationship, the warning signs and moving away from the victim blaming culture are all parts of a conversation young people need to be having.

Demanding a victim leaves the relationship, judging them if they don't and criticising their abuser are all things that don't work.

"For both of the young women in the film it was their friend who was their lifeline in the end," Benjamin said.

Following a preview screening on Tuesday, Benjamin said she'd already received the highest compliment.

"A girl in the audience thanked me afterwards and said, 'I've got a friend who I'm worried about and I'm going to call her tonight.'"

Another friend of Benjamin's who'd seen the documentary also found himself intervening in an altercation between a couple at a restaurant. "He just sort of tried to calm the situation by asking if they wanted some water," Benjamin said.

For the two young women featured in the film, it has opened up a conversation with their family members about that time in their lives.

Creating a space for such conversations Benjamin explains, whether you are a victim yourself, or have a friend or family member you suspect might be is the first step to addressing this national crisis.

"We're more powerful than we think we are and we can actually play an important role in saving someone's life," Benjamin said.

"Big Bad Love" airs on ABC2 and iView on Wednesday November 23.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

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