As explored in Netflix’ American limited series Maid (2021), the topic of domestic violence is not always as straightforward and a lot of the time, women decide to stay in abusive relationships more often than not for reasons such as fear, financial needs, children and in this case, simply being unaware of the fact that they are being abused.
The miniseries tells the story of main character Alex played by Margaret Qualley, who impulsively leaves her abusive partner Sean (Nick Robinson), following an episode of aggressive behavior. In order to protect her three year old daughter Maddy, single mother Alex is left no choice other than fleeing their home with no financial stability or a place to stay. While seeking help from a social worker, they were provided the opportunity to stay at a domestic violence shelter until they were financially stable. However, Alex stubbornly declined the offer as she claimed they were not being abused by Sean, whom had severe drinking problems. This was rather due to the lack of knowledge of the single mother, who viewed domestic violence to be physical – where marks and bruises are left to prove that a woman is in danger.
Following a cold and sleepless night at the ferry station, Alex’ best bet becomes returning to the social services and accepting the offer to stay at a domestic violence shelter. Simultaneously, this is where the single mother is made aware of the fact that domestic violence comes in various shapes and forms, and that she and Maddy were in fact exposed to domestic violence.
There’s beds at the domestic violence shelter, but you said you’re not DV?
Yeah. I’d really hate to take a bed from somebody’s that been abused for real.
“Abused for real.” What does that mean?
Beaten up. Hurt.
And what does fake abuse look like? Intimidation? Threats? Control?
It is crucial to know that domestic violence comes in various forms including control, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, economic abuse and in Alex’ case; emotional abuse. Emotional abuse consists of yelling, dismissiveness and public humiliation among others. As explained in an article by healthline, women in emotionally abusive relationships struggle to recognize the abuse and in contrary tend to put the blame on themselves when they are manipulated by their significant other.
According to CSEW, a total of 1.2 Million women of England and Wales experienced domestic violence as of 2020 and as of 2018, less than 20% of the women who experienced abuse filed a police report. In the UK, a “Refuge”, which is equivalent to a domestic violence shelter is ought to provide a safe environment for women to escape to when trapped in an abusive relationship. More often than not, refuges do not accept victims who are local to them as a woman in danger is advised to move as far away from their abuser as possible. It takes a lot of courage and will for a woman to let go of her past as a victim of domestic violence and starting over independently, particularly if she was financially dependent on her partner. According to the NDVH (National Domestic Violence Hotline), victims of domestic of abuse are likely to return to their partners due to shame, fear and low self esteem among other reasons.
Although the miniseries only explores the abusive behavior of a partner, it is essential to note that all violent behavior can be considered domestic violence – including family violence. The government of Alberta, Canada has defined family violence as the abuse of power in a trusting family dynamic. A toxic environment as such can often impact children, step-children, parents, grandparents and even pets. Red flags of emotional abuse in a dynamic of such may include control, neglect, name-calling, swearing and abandonment.
Despite the fact that emotional abuse does not leave the victim with a mark or a bruise, it can impact the victim’s mental health severely. As stated by wadvocates, more than 50% of women who suffer from mental health also suffer from domestic abuse. Common diagnoses include PTSD, depression and anxiety. Accordingly, the unfortunate event of recurring suicidal thoughts is proven to be 3.5 times in victims of domestic abuse.
In an article by The Conversation, Rhian Parker also clarifies that women who are already suffering mental health issues are 40% more prone to experiencing domestic violence than others. This also applies to vulnerable women such as pregnant women, and particularly younger women like Alex between the ages of 20 – 30.
Ladies, there is no such thing as “fake” abuse. If you experience any of the actions listed below as demonstrated by Brides, do not hesitate to seek help via any of the organisation listed at he end of this article, or in an emergency dial 999.
Control: Feeling like you’re put under a microscope by your partner. Meaning, your partner controls your daily routines and leave you little to no freedom in making your own decisions.
Gaslighting: The term “gaslighting” is a form of manipulation that often makes the victim question their rationality. This may lead to second guessing and doubting yourself and your reality.
Blame: Feeling responsible for the way you are being treated and naturally justifying that this is what you deserve.
Yelling: This may be a common one to ignore, but yelling and shouting can install a fear within the victim that makes it impossible for her to speak her mind.
Threats: If your partner uses the “if, then” statement or in any way attempts to blackmail you.
Stonewalling: The term “stonewalling” expresses declining to communicate with you, which can also come across as a form of abandonment.
Isolation: Feeling like you’ve got no one else to vent to and that your partner is your only support system – because they have told you so!
Volatility: This term refers to the constant change of behavior in your partner where one day they spoil you with presents and another they treat you poorly.
Defense: The need to constantly defend yourself due to the lack of proper communication between you and your partner.
Contempt: Being treated with disrespect by the other party, where he allows himself to communicate through sarcasm, disgust and arrogance among others.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, do not hesitate to seek help via the UK helplines below:
Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Contact: 0808 2000 247
Contact: 0207 846 8350
Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline
Contact: 0808 802 1414
Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline
Contact: 0800 027 1234
Live Fear Free
Contact: 0808 80 10 800
The Men’s Advice Line
Contact: 0808 801 0327