Channel 4's brilliant documentary The Family Secret was a portrait of a woman's courage and strength

Kath struggles to come to terms with her past in The Family SecretKath struggles to come to terms with her past in The Family Secret
Kath struggles to come to terms with her past in The Family Secret
In that pre-Christmas TV lull, between the end of the big Autumn dramas and the beginning of the festive schedules, the programme guides are a wasteland of nonsense, but this week a little gem of documentary really stood out.

The Family Secret (Channel 4, Tuesday, 9pm) was an absorbing, eye-opening, emotionally-charged story of a family coming to terms with an abuser in its midst.

At first glance, Kath’s family was a happy one – mum, dad, three kids, grainy VHS videos of birthdays and holidays, smiling children in family snaps.

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But this ordinary family in an ordinary family home is hiding an extraordinary secret –Kath is being sexually abused by her older brother Robert, abuse which goes son for almost four years, and only ends when Kath physically fights him off.

“Everything that was safe in the world wasn’t safe anymore,” says Kath, “it was the start of a nightmare.”

You might have expected this to be a grim, gruelling hour, but this was more about Kath’s courage in speaking out to her family and finding a way to live after the horrors of her past.

At the centre of the documentary is a restorative justice interview between Kath, mum Andrea and her abuser, brother Robert.

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Throughout, Kath is remarkably composed, even when Robert can offer no explanation for what he did from the age of just 10.

Kath has clearly made a superhuman effort not to let it dominate or define her life, and you just hope that continues.

In the end, this wasn’t just about the abuse, horrific thought it was, this was a portrait of a woman’s strength in the face of men’s weakness.

The War of the Worlds (BBC1, Sundays, 9pm) started off promisingly, but by the third episode had slowed to a crawl, as if infected with the same infection that did for the aliens. Deadly dull.

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So Amazon Prime started broadcasting live football, and really – apart from the appalling kick-off times – you would have been hard-pressed to see what made it different. Like Arsenal, it’s pointless.

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