“PLEASE, if anyone is listening and is frightened, please dig deep and find the courage. Find somebody, just ask for help because the system works.”

That is the message from ITV weather presenter Ruth Dodsworth, who recently opened up about her harrowing experience of years of domestic abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, to anyone else suffering the same ordeal.

Ms Dodsworth was speaking to Victoria Derbyshire earlier this afternoon on BBC Radio 2 when she made the plea.

Her life was thrown into the spotlight earlier this year after her ex-husband Johnathan Wignall was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty at Cardiff Crown Court to coercive behaviour and stalking.

Read more about the case here:

Ms Dodsworth spoke about her relationship with her ex-husband and how looking back, the signs were there from the start.

“Looking back it was the same start of the relationship as everyone else," she said. "I was swept off my feet and he was lovely, charming. He would walk into a room and light the room up.

“We were a young couple very much in love and that was how the story started. The story ended very differently and its interesting, I heard you [Victoria Derbyshire] tell the story there and actually thought ‘you know what, even from day one, although it was a loving and romantic relationship, the signs were there.’”

When asked about the signs she referenced in her relationship with the Swansea nightclub manager, Ms Dodsworth said: “Thinking about it, it was a temper that was there from day one, and to start with it was never directed at me. I saw him speak to work colleagues, I saw him lose his temper with family members and it was over what I would consider to be really trivial things like money. Just anything that would annoy him would set him off.

“At first that was taken out on other people and then very quickly as you form that bond, that relationship, you do become the closest person in their world and you’re on hand, you’re close by and that temper very quickly becomes turned on you.

“Looking back that’s exactly what happened. A little bit of jealousy, a little bit of ‘you’re my wife’ at the start is almost quite flattering. It’s quite nice but actually, that then escalates into something more sinister. With us it happened very, very quickly and at the time I just didn’t see it.

She also spoke about her life when the control was at its worst, she explained how he would follow her around the house, constantly taking photos of her. He would call her hundreds of times if she was out and even fitted a tracker to her car and would turn up to places she was at.

He would try and pay their children to spy on her and even tried to get into her phone using her thumbprint when she was asleep.

Ms Dodsworth spoke of how the physical abuse would also get worse, particularly when her ex-husband was drinking.

“The more verbally abusive he got, the more physical he got," she said. "The two almost went hand in hand. It would happen behind closed doors, often in front of the children, but not other people.

“He would lose his temper, he would square up to me, he would spit in my face, he would grab me by the throat, pin me against the wall, he pushed me and fractured my ribs.

“That all escalated within the last 10 years and it was just terrifying.”

Ms Dodsworth stressed that during the abuse, the couple's children were never harmed. She said: “One thing I want to make clear and I know people have questioned this – the decision to leave my children in the house with him – at no point during our relationship had he ever shown any sense of aggression towards the children, its always been towards me.”

It was her children and a friend who convinced her to call the police and end this cycle of abuse. Ms Dodsworth said: “I’d gone to work as normal the Thursday morning and arrived at ITV studios. Quickly he started phoning and I would say within an hour or so he had phoned 20 or 30 times and by this point, because I was in work, I couldn’t answer.

“I spoke to him at lunchtime and it was clear that he’d been drinking. Throughout the afternoon there were constant calls, hundreds. He was getting more and more erratic and volatile and clearly drunk.

“My children came home from school about three o’clock and I think at that point he passed out. They rang me to say ‘look mum, dad’s very, very drunk. We’re fine, grandma and grandad are just around the corner, we’re okay but please don’t come home.’

“About teatime he was awake, and the cycle of drinking had started again. He was trying to get the children to call me to come home and the children were saying ‘don’t come home mum, he’s so drunk and he will kill you.’

“That evening I’d contacted a friend and asked what I should do. I put his calls on speakerphone and my friend said to me “Ruth you cannot go home, he will kill you. And if you don’t ring the police, I will.”

That was the point that changed everything for Ms Dodsworth.When Wignall was arrested and asked why he was harassing her, he replied that she was his wife.

Ms Dodsworth said: “That stock phrase, when I think back now over the years the number of times I’d heard him say that phrase in various different contexts but that was his excuse, his reason. ‘I can do what I like, I can behave the way I want because she’s my wife.’

“That’s how I felt in the end, I was a possession, I wasn’t a human being, part of a loving relationship, I was his wife and that in a sense, in his mind gave him absolute power and reason to treat me as he wished as he wanted and that’s very much what he did. It’s dehumanising, it’s degrading. You don’t realise it at the time. It’s only now that I’m out of that situation that I’m able to look back and I think ‘oh my god that’s exactly what I’ve become. I’ve become his possession.”


On his jail sentence, Ms Dodsworth explained how she never set out with the goal of getting her ex-husband locked up, and believes that he set the wheels in motion himself through his behaviour during their relationship and after his arrests.

She also spoke directly to anyone suffering from domestic abuse in a plea for them to get help like she did and to get out of that situation.

“He had to stand there in front of a judge and a jury and say 'guilty', and that for me in a sense is vindication to anybody who thinks ‘I’m not going to speak up, I’m not believed, it’s not worth the whole horror of a trial'," she said. "That for me made everything worth it.

“For legal reasons the outcome of the case wasn’t supposed to be named. I didn’t want the story to be out there. Within half an hour of the verdict and his sentencing, the story was everywhere and I have been so overwhelmed by the response.

“Tens, possibly, hundreds of thousands of messages. But most overwhelming for me are the number of people who have been through similar. Men, women… I’ve had a letter from an 85-year-old woman whose husband only died five years ago and she spent her whole life living in fear of him.

“There are so, so many people going through similar. It’s been heartbreakingly eye-opening and I had no idea. I still struggle to put myself in that category and just say domestic abuse. I struggle with that but I now realise wholeheartedly that that sums up the situation I was in and the situation so many other people are in.

“I was terrified once I realised how awful it was. I was terrified of speaking up, of talking to the police, of putting my life in their hand and the hands of the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), of the whole system I knew nothing about.

“Oh my goodness, please find somebody, just ask for help because the system works. For me, I hadn’t told friends, I hadn’t told family, I’d kept it to myself but it took one confidante saying to me. And if I can be that confidante to anybody listening, if I could just encourage one person to call for help, to take those first steps. You’ll never look back.

“No one will hurt you again and that more than anything is really what I wanted to say. There is a life, and you can have a life. Trust those around you, trust in the system.”

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, support is available from the below services:

  • Live Fear Free helpline: 0808 801 0800 or info@livefearfreehelpline.wales- 24 hours
  • Welsh Womens Aid - 02920 541551
  • Respect Men's Advice line (for male victims) - 0808 801 0327
  • Broken Rainbow - A National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) Domestic Violence Helpline 0800 999 5428
  • BAWSO provide safe and secure accommodation to Black and Ethnic Minority women and children at risk of or suffering domestic abuse in Wales. 0800-731 8147 info@bawso.org.uk
  • Information can also be reported to the police on 101, or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via crimestoppers-uk.org
  • In an emergency always dial 999.