I’ve slipped up the past few days on my #Blogtober challenge, so I’ve decided that rather than give up, I will be posting more than once a day. The way I thought I’d “theme” these multiple posts was to highlight one serious issue each day and then also a do a “lighter” piece.
I was having a conversation with someone the other night about controlling behaviour. Many of us know of at least one friend, family member or co-worker who have been at the receiving end of some sort of abuse from a partner. Maybe it’s even happened to you. All types of abuse, whether physical, verbal, emotional or psychological, are far too common these days; when the topic comes up amongst my friends, heartbreakingly too many have a horrific story to tell about someone in their past who has subjected them to some sort of abuse. The thing is, we talk about physical attacks so much that sometimes the topic of controlling behaviour as a means of emotional and psychological abuse seems to slip through the net. Maybe it’s because it leaves no actual scars on the skin, no broken bones that show up on x-rays, no visits to A&E in the middle of the night and no bruises hastily covered up with makeup. So what do you do if you think someone you care about is being subjected to emotional abuse?
If I’m honest, I don’t know. The reason the topic came up was because a mutual friend of ours, a person who we both know has MH issues and we’ve always treated with extra care, has been at the receiving end of some worrying controlling behaviour from their partner for months now. Frustratingly, we don’t know what to do. It was little things at first. When they went out with friends, the partner would send constant messages so they would come home nearly in tears and in the beginnings of a panic attack. Soon they stopped going anywhere alone. Anybody who questioned it was quickly cut out of their life by the partner. They weren’t “responsible” enough to take care of their own belongings, so they were taken away. Every minute detail of that friend’s life was micromanaged; they were only allowed to speak to certain people socially, and even a visit home to introduce the partner to their family ended in the situation being controlled in a way that they had to come home early. Everything from accusations of infidelity to made-up health issues and stories about how that person’s friends had been horrible to the partner were brought up as ultimatums.
It’s so easy to look at these situations from the outside and think “I would never let it happen to me”. The same people who advocate against domestic violence often only see the marks left by physical abuse, but don’t see emotional control with the same weight because the scars aren’t visible. It’s not “as bad”. It’s “easier to walk away”. No one is “physically controlling you”. There isn’t a hand wrapped tightly around your arm, or your neck, and there is no one threatening to physically hurt you, your family, or your friends. “Why don’t you just stick up for yourself?” If it is a man being controlled by a woman, friends make the joke that he is just “whipped”. Not allowed to see your female friends? Oh it’s just a bit of jealousy.
Only it’s not.
Controlling behaviour is NOT ok, regardless of gender. That type of control is way too common, and we really need to stop normalising it. Excessive jealousy should be a huge red flag, whether it is coming from a woman, a man, or someone of a non-binary gender. Above all, if you see this happening to someone, don’t just walk away from them. Don’t assume they can take care of themselves just because they aren’t being punched in the face, because sometimes, the emotional scars left are just as bad as physical ones.