Netflix drama ‘Maid’ message: Emotional Abuse IS Domestic Abuse
The recent Netflix drama ‘Maid’ is based on the bestselling memoir of Stephanie Land and has been gripping the nation. The programme is particularly powerful because it focuses on emotional abuse and the trials often faced when attempting to leave an emotionally abusive relationship.
Emotional abuse remains an incredibly grey area. You can often see evidence of physical abuse, but evidence of emotional abuse is more complex and can be a lot more challenging for people to understand and provide support with. This harsh reality is highlighted to viewers as they follow the journey and hardship of a young mother, Alex, who attempts to free herself and her daughter, Maddie, multiple times from an abusive relationship with her abusive partner, Sean.
So, what is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse often can start very subtly and may slowly get worse over time. This may be comments on your outfit choice or having a strong opinion on who you socialise with. You may not even realise that you are slowly adapting your behaviour to suit your abuser and to prevent them losing their temper. Over time you may discover that you have become segregated from friends and family and you may feel embarrassed to reach out for help.
Common examples of emotional abuse may include:
Criticism: This can be calling you names or making comments that are excused as “jokes” to try to undermine your confidence and lower your self-esteem.
Intimidation and Threats: This could be shouting or acting aggressively to make you feel scared. They may disrespect your personal space to make you feel small and frightened of what they are capable of if you attempted to leave the relationship.
Guilt Tripping: Examples may include continuously sulking or giving you the silent treatment. They may also threaten to kill themselves in order to manipulate you and make you feel guilty.
Financial Abuse: They may withhold money or give you an allowance. They may prevent you from working or going into further education. This is a way to prevent you from becoming independent from them and to make you feel like you need them to survive.
Undermining: They may make you doubt yourself or not allow you to have your own opinion. They may tell you are oversensitive, or they may suddenly become nice to you after being cruel and nasty.
Controlling Behaviour: They may stop you from seeing friends or family in an attempt segregate you. They may put you down and stop you from wearing certain clothes or having certain hair styles. They may take your phone or insist on reading your messages.
These are just a few examples, but the scope of emotional abuse is very wide and is evolving as we are becoming more knowledgeable about it. Recently aired dating programmes have raised awareness of how often emotional abuse can occur with complaints being made on a variety of shows due to controlling and gaslighting behaviour.
Signs to spot if someone is suffering from emotional abuse
Signs of emotional abuse can be difficult to spot but warning signs can include: a loved one becoming more subdued, they may be insecure, over apologetic or anxious. Another warning sign may be if you witness this abuse first-hand. For instance, if the abuser puts your loved one down in front of you or belittles or criticises them.
If you are concerned that someone you care about may be in an abusive relationship, understand that it may be very difficult for them to immediately vacate this relationship. It may feel frustrating if action is not taken straight away or if they go back to an abusive partner. It may seem like a simple move from the outside, but when living it, it is often not. Offering a friendly ear when you can and letting them tell you their story or directing them to domestic abuse agencies that may be able to help can be some starting points in helping someone you are concerned about.
In the case of an emergency call 999. You can also call 101 to speak to the police in a non-emergency.
Plymouth Domestic Abuse Service (PDAS) and refuge. PDAS can provide support and protection from abuse. They offer a course named the Freedom Project which helps victims to be able to identify abusive behaviours to prevent the same issue occurring in future relationships. For support you can contact PDAS on 01752 252033 and for the refuge on: 01752 562286.
Trevi House provide a safe and nurturing spaces for women in recovery to heal, grow and thrive. They have 3 centres – Jasmine Mother’s Recovery on 01752 255758, Sunflower Women’s Centre on 01752 977614 and Daffodil Family Centre on 01752 270007.
Refuge. You can contact the refuge 24-hour helpline on: 0808 2000 247
Men’s Advice Line. If you are a man experiencing domestic abuse you can call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.
Help for abusers. If you feel that you are struggling to deal with abusive behaviours that you are exerting onto someone else, the following agencies can offer support or programmes you can attend: Respect Phoneline and Ahimsa.