We thought the way our dad controlled mum was normal – but it wasn't, says daughter of ITV’s Ruth Dodsworth

ITV presenter Ruth Dodsworth's daughter has revealed how she believed her dad's controlling behaviour was normal.

Coercive Jonathan Wignall made his family's life hell for almost a decade during his 18-year marriage to the broadcaster.

Wignall used to set an alarm to check Ruth's nightly forecasts and fitted a tracker underneath her car.

He also hounded her with hundreds of calls a day demanding to know where she was and who she was with, and regularly checked her phone to delete any contacts he didn't like.

The former nightclub owner's campaign of abuse only ended when one night their children warned their mother not to come home because he was going to kill her.

Ruth's daughter Grace has now bravely opened up about what life was like under his command and how it wasn't until she was older she realised his behaviour wasn't normal.


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Speaking on ITV Tonight, Grace said: "This was our reality, this was our lives, it was normal for us. 

"And then all of a sudden we're having all these professionals telling us that's not right, and everything we've known is pretty much gone."

Ruth also shares her experience on the programme, Controlled By My Partner? The Hidden Abuse, which airs tonight.

"I had no idea that the threats and manipulation my ex-husband used for almost a decade were actually a pattern of criminal behaviour," she said.

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"It wasn't until my own children began to fear for my safety that I realised what was going on wasn't normal.

"In October 2019, I finally called the police and my then-husband was arrested."

The show comes two days after Ruth revealed Wignall had photographed her in a hospital bed then sent it to their kids with a sinister message.

In attempt to manipulate them after his arrest, he reportedly said alongside the picture of her hooked up to several wires: "This is what it looks like when you don't want your children anymore."

Bravely sharing a screenshot on Tuesday night, Ruth said: "Three years ago I was taken into hospital.

"He photographed everything. I never knew why.

"After he was arrested months later, this is the message he sent my children.

"He couldn’t manipulate me anymore. So he tried to manipulate them. #coercivecontrol #DomesticAbuse."


Wignall was caged for three years after subjecting broadcaster Ruth to nine years of controlling abuse.

He pleaded guilty to coercive behaviour and stalking and was handed a lifetime restraining order.

Speaking after Wignall was sentenced, Ruth appeared on This Morning to encourage other victims to report their abusers.

She said: "At its worst, when things escalated, I'd been in work and during that week he had been phoning me hundreds and hundreds of times a day, turning up at the office, texting me 'where are you?', asking who I was with.

"That particular day he started drinking early in the day and by the time my children got home from school they were phoning me saying 'mum, don't come home, he's going to kill you' and I think, for me, that was a turning point.

"I didn't go home that night because I think if I had, I wouldn't be here now in any way, shape or form.

"It took confiding in someone else for them to say 'Ruth, if you don't ring the police I will' – and that really changed everything."

But Ruth is now terrified for the day Wignall gets out of jail as he is expected to serve just half of his sentence.

In March, she said: "I've spent this afternoon with South Wales Police learning how to protect my home/family ahead of his possible imminent release.

"That's our reality. Alarms everywhere! It's all good but it's not over.

"Lifetime restraining order, yes. But that's just a piece of paper. He's a dangerous man."

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The offence of coercive and controlling behaviour was only recognised as a crime in England and Wales from December 2015.

Similar offences were brought into law in Scotland in 2019 and Northern Ireland last year.

How you can get help

Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:

  • Always keep your phone nearby.
  • Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
  • If you are in danger, call 999.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
  • Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
  • If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
  • Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.

If you are a ­victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support ­service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected]

Women’s Aid provides a live chat service – available weekdays from 8am-6pm and weekends 10am-6pm.

You can also call the freephone 24-hour ­National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

  • Controlled By My Partner? The Hidden Abuse airs at 8.30pm on May 5 and on catch-up on ITV Hub

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