DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
News

Ian Wright: ‘I didn’t realise the abuse you get is not your fault’

The football legend is raising awareness of domestic abuse by sharing his own childhood experiences and exploring how the trauma affected him 

Ian Wright is fronting a new documentary. Image credit: BBC / Brook Lapping Productions / Dan Dewsbury

Ian Wright is fronting a new documentary about domestic abuse. Image credit: BBC / Brook Lapping Productions / Dan Dewsbury

Ian Wright, the former England footballer and Arsenal legend turned TV pundit, has talked to The Big Issue about the trauma he suffered at the hands of his parents.

Growing up in south London, physical and psychological abuse were regular features of his home life. For decades, he kept this a secret but now he is sharing his story to raise awareness and better understand the impact domestic abuse has on children and the adults they become.

“I was fully on edge all the time,” he told The Big Issue. “It’s not easy to get over those feelings of neglect and abuse and the pain that hurts, and the mental pain that hurts even more. I didn’t get any hugs when I was younger, it’s just not something that happened.“

Wright scored 128 goals for Arsenal in the 1990s and made 33 England appearances but a disruptive and abusive childhood made for a rocky start to his professional career. 

“When I was a little guy, around nine or 10, I was probably the most angry I’ve been in my life,” he said. “And unhappy and sad. And I was very confused because I didn’t realise the abuse you get is not your fault.

“There were a lot of times when I did go outside and played football, and everything turned into anger instantly. Fights when I lost a football match, crying if I lost a football match – that kind of emotion was always very close to me.

“What I think about more than anything else is how much I didn’t realise how unhappy I was. I didn’t say anything to anybody. I just felt like, why is this happening to me, why do they dislike me so much? Why is my stepdad so nasty? And my mum so nasty?

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

“I can remember clearly seeing my stepdad manhandling my mum. She was so small. We were all living in the same room, so my brother and me would have to turn away. And my stepdad would do whatever he did.

“The worst thing was when you could hear it but you couldn’t see it,” he added. “That frightened me the most. Because he was such a big guy and you didn’t know what he was doing and she was so much smaller. You could hear her apologising. Even to think about that now, it’s always hard.”

The interview comes ahead of a new BBC documentary. In Ian Wright: Home Truths, he revisits the house and room he grew up in, which still brings back painful memories. He meets other domestic abuse survivors to learn about their experiences and talks to support workers tackling the issue today.

In the last year, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse and in 90 per cent of cases, there is a child present.

According to Women’s Aid, a charity which fights to end domestic violence, one in seven young people under the age of 18 will have lived with domestic violence at some point.

The issue has been brought into stark focus during the pandemic, with some victims trapped at home with no escape from their abusers. Calls to the UK’s largest domestic abuse helpline rose week on week in 2020 as Covid raged.

In March, Jess Phillips MP, who has become one of the country’s most high-profile domestic abuse campaigners, told the House of Commons society had just “accepted” dead women as she read out the names of 118 women and girls killed as a result of male violence in the last year.

More recently, the Domestic Abuse Act received Royal Assent and is now the law of the land. Campaigners have described the new legislation as a milestone and a “real achievement” for all involved in its passage.

It includes greater protection in family courts, recognition of children as victims, a guarantee that survivors escaping domestic abuse will be in ‘priority need’ for housing and legal duty on councils to fund support in safe accommodation.

Writing for The Big Issue after the new law hit the statute book, Women’s Aid chief executive Farah Nazeer said that while there is much to welcome in the new legislation, campaigning must continue to address its gaps.

“Although local authorities are now required by law to fund support for survivors in ‘accommodation based’ services, the Act does not use the word ‘refuge’ at all,” she said. 

“We have a real fear that by not specifying the need for a refuge, women and their children fleeing abuse could be placed in unsafe hostels or B&B accommodation.

“We are already seeing landlords with no experience in domestic abuse setting themselves up as providers of emergency accommodation, and we have fears over these being funded in place of desperately needed women’s refuges.    

“A refuge is so much more than a roof over your head. It is a place where experienced domestic abuse support workers give dedicated support, meaning that survivors feel safe and understood, and receive expert support to recover from trauma and start a new life.”

Ian Wright: Home Truths is on BBC One on May 6 at 9pm and then on iPlayer

Read the full interview with Ian Wright in this week’s edition of The Big Issue available now from your local vendor. The pandemic has been an incredibly tough time for our vendors so please support them now they are able to sell their magazines again.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Wealth tax, tuition fees and vow to 'fix broken Britain': Key takeaways from the Green Party manifesto
General election 2024

Wealth tax, tuition fees and vow to 'fix broken Britain': Key takeaways from the Green Party manifesto

Rishi Sunak sparks hunt for world's tiniest violin after saying he went without Sky TV as a child
Rishi Sunak works at his desk
General election 2024

Rishi Sunak sparks hunt for world's tiniest violin after saying he went without Sky TV as a child

'It's crisis point': Social housing waiting list will cost next government £205bn to clear
building social housing
Social housing

'It's crisis point': Social housing waiting list will cost next government £205bn to clear

Should we end Thatcher's Right to Buy? How scrapping scheme could help solve UK's housing crisis
Andy Burnham has differing views to Margaret Thatcher on Right to Buy
Right to Buy

Should we end Thatcher's Right to Buy? How scrapping scheme could help solve UK's housing crisis

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know