An SAS Who Dares Wins contestant who had endured years of domestic abuse has spoken of how emotionally tough she found one episode of the TV show when a fellow recruit opened up about the sexual and physical abuse he had suffered as a child.
Civil servant Nicola, 40, has revealed how her own experience of abuse encouraged her to take part in SAS Who Dares Wins - to prove she is stronger than now than she ever was.
Nicola went on the show after suffering ten years of domestic abuse in relationships earlier in her life.
She says she always looks to take on challenges to prove to people she is tough, adding:
"I had kept my suffering quiet for so many years and my boys had seen me at my lowest and saddest.
"One day I woke up and realised I was missing out on my children growing up because I was focusing on the drama too much and not the special moments with my children as I wasn’t in a good place."
She is now happily married to a man who, she says, treats her like a princess.
Nicola told Jo Thoenes, of Forces Radio BFBS Brize Norton, how difficult she found it to watch fellow recruit Oliver open up about personal details of his life.
She had grown close to Oliver on the show and found it emotional to hear him talk about his abuse.
In episode three, Oliver lets his guard down in a rare moment of vulnerability and opens up about the sexual and physical abuse he survived as a child. He said:
“I don’t like to show my weaknesses and vulnerability because that’s what f***** me over when I was a child.
“My childhood was normal apart from a few bad events, it wasn’t all of it.
“I found myself in a situation where I was sexually and physically abused at the age of seven which lasted maybe about a year.
“That was difficult, but it was more difficult living with it, you know? I kept it a secret for like 20 years.”
Oliver takes the first steps towards trusting people by asking Nicola to walk with him to a quiet place and support him while he cries. About this experience, and what it was like to watch it on TV, Nicola said:
“Oliver was the first one I met at the airport. He’s an incredible, incredible person.
“It was really emotional watching that last night.”
It wasn’t just Oliver’s emotional revelation that made for uncomfortable viewing for Nicola. Fellow recruit Mark, whose Drag Queen name is ‘Cybil War’, spent a lot of time with Nicola as their beds were next to each other. The result was that a strong bond formed quickly.
In episode three, viewers saw Mark voluntarily withdraw from the series after a gruelling uphill challenge which broke both teams physically and mentally.
Mark was the tallest recruit in the team, so was tasked with holding the back end of the 150kg log. Nicola had not realised Mark had voluntarily withdrawn because she was on a different part of the mountain and did not get a chance to say goodbye.
Nicola reveals that due to editing the series down into six one-hour episodes, a significant amount of the physical and emotional trauma the recruits experienced would not be shown on air. She said:
“At the top of the mountain, when Ant said, 'Ooh it’s a bit dangerous, we need to get them down,' you didn’t see that we actually had to carry the log half way down, get in a freezing cold lake up to our shoulders, run back to the van and then when we got there Ant said right take your jackets off, you can run back up now.”
This was something that Directing Staff Billy Billingham later pointed out in a tweet the day after episode three had aired.
Challenges that take hours are “squeezed” into shorter segments. She said:
“Even the water task, with the waves, that just went on forever and it was freezing.
“The Sickener went on for three hours and before these tasks we’re made to run up and down.”
These extreme, seemingly never-ending challenges are taken on by all the recruits but this year, they weren’t aware one of them was, in fact, an undercover member of the Directing Staff, former SAS man Jay Morton. Nicola was shocked by the revelation. She said:
“I was quite short at the back so I couldn’t see what everybody was gasping at.
“There were signs. He was never cold. He would sleep in his underwear whilst we were all wrapped up warm.”
Fans of SAS Who Dares Wins have commented on social media that it had to be obvious to the recruits Jay was the mole because he must have smelt of chocolate after every chat with the DS.
At each catch-up, during which Jay would let the DS know how the recruits were coping, Ant would give the mole a selection of chocolate bars to enjoy. She said:
“I was giving him all my rations. So, if I wasn’t eating my egg or a bit of bread during the day I’d be giving it to him to try and give him food because he was a man and needed it more than me.
“So, he was taking that and going off and eating chocolate.”