Coronation Street's domestic abuse storyline is so close to home for Hull's Ian McNicholl
AS HE relaxed to watch Coronation Street, he expected to follow the lives of the much-loved soap characters like any other viewer.
But as scenes of domestic violence and manipulative behaviour began to unfold on the television screen before Ian McNicholl, it brought back the horror of his own 17-month hell.
Character Tyrone Dobbs is currently in an abusive relationship and is regularly attacked by his pregnant girlfriend Kirsty Soames.
For Ian, the scenes are uncomfortably familiar after he was subjected to more than a year of physical and mental abuse by his girlfriend Michelle Williamson.
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She burnt him with an iron, sprayed bleach in his eyes, poured two kettles of boiling water over him and put lit cigarettes up his nose before she was eventually jailed for seven years.
As Ian, 50, watched the storyline develop, he contacted Coronation Street producers and offered to share his experiences with actors Alan Halsall and Natalie Gumede, who play Tyrone and Kirsty.
They welcomed his offer and he recently met them on the Manchester set, offering to be a continued support and adviser as the plot thickens.
Ian, of Hull, said: "It's very brave of them to run that storyline.
"People are interested in my experiences.
"When I told Alan about the kettle and I showed him pictures of my injuries, he couldn't believe it.
"Michelle manipulated my relationships with my friends and I can see that happening in Tyrone and Kirsty's story.
"I saw the storyline begin to unfold and, as a victim, I recognised things she was doing."
Ian said he believes the storyline in the soap, which is watched by millions of people every week, will "prick at the conscience" of perpetrators and those who are aware of violent relationships but have not yet told anyone.
He said: "The surreal part of this is the storyline is being beamed directly to a crime scene.
"There will be people watching that thinking, 'that's me' – men and women.
"For any victim, trust is in really short supply. Your trust has been abused and you have no way of knowing who to trust. Coronation Street is showing the physical and psychological side of abuse."
Ian, who was given a tour of the Coronation Street set during his visit, is an honorary patron of national charity ManKind, which supports male victims of abuse.
He said producers agreed to show the charity's helpline number at the end of a recent episode, which saw Kirsty slam Tyrone into a wall.
"Before the programme finished, people were ringing. They had to shut the helpline down at 1am because they were getting so many calls," said Ian.
"If somebody said to me four years ago I'd be contacting Coronation Street to offer my help, I wouldn't have believed it. It's very rewarding to be able to help people."
Alan, 30, said he admired Ian for sharing his experiences to help others.
"It's brave of Ian to speak out, because there's still a stigma attached," he said.
"Not many men want to admit it's happened.
"I feel a responsibility with a storyline like this.
"I'm just an actor trying to portray what has been written for me. But if it helps raise awareness and helps other guys come forward and say that a woman hit them, then that's great and it's job done for Coronation Street."
Ian said there is not enough support for male victims of domestic abuse and the support should be equal.
"Services should be victim-driven," said Ian.
"Nobody likes to think they are going to be a victim. But you have two choices – do nothing, or deal with it, move on and share your experiences to make a difference. That's all it's about for me."
Call 01823 334244 for support from ManKind.