Shweta Mishra, aged 21, met her ex-boyfriend at a friend’s party. They soon became close and started seeing each other. The guy had recently gotten out of one relationship and used to get very abusive at times. He would get drunk and talk about his ex-girlfriend which badly affected her self-esteem, to the point where she started considering herself ugly. He would also call her names and say that she was with him only because she wanted money. She started doubting her own attractiveness and self- worth slowly. His abusive behaviour did not end there. He would get jealous if she talked to any other guy and even forbid her to talk to the attract ones.
He would try to touch her inappropriately when he was drunk which she detested. One day, it got much worse than the other days. He was badly drunk and started touching her inappropriately. She had started hating the smell of alcohol to the point that it made her nauseous. She said a repeated no but he went on groping her. That night she had the worst breakdown ever. The worst part was that he blamed her for being frigid and difficult the next day and told her that now she would make him the bad guy.
Shweta started having series of breakdowns where she would hate herself. She started scratching herself as she felt ‘dirty’ and ‘ugly’. She would feel his face on her body and want to cut herself. Finally, she decided to walk out of the relationship to preserve herself. But even after months, she still has trust-issues in relationships. She had several episodes of breakdowns even after that when she hurt herself to ease the pain.
Does any of the above scenario sound familiar? Have you been mistaking an abusive relationship for ‘love’? If so, read on.
Love in young age is full of hormones, tumultuous changes, confusion and chaos. Adolescents and young adults often find themselves lost when it comes to finding out information on safe sex practices or healthy relationships. Popular media promotes eve-teasing, stalking, possessiveness and ownership behaviour as ‘love’. With increasing peer pressure to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend, a young mind which is already grappling with questions of self-worth is seduced with the idea of having someone as partner. Most victims choose to continue being in abusive relationships just to avoid the shame of ‘breaking-up’. The communication gap between parents and children while growing up makes the situation even more difficult.
So how do you recognise these signs of abuse?
Emotional abuse or psychological abuse is categorized by a pattern of behaviour that leaves another person feeling isolated, degraded or worthless. It is a way for the abuser to maintain power and control in the relationship. Psychological pain can be just as bruising as a slap or punch, even if it leaves no physical mark. Let us talk about these in detail.
Intimidation can be subtle, and includes veiled or indirect threats. The partner could be watching each movement, checking on your whereabouts, checking your phone or spring up on you unexpectedly. This can have a damaging effect on a person’s overall sense of safety and lead to anxiety.
Sometimes, intimidation is not so subtle. We all know the infamous acid attacks on the victims who had the courage to say no to their spurned lovers. There are far too many instances of the partner threatening the girl with self-harm or suicide in case she leaves him.
This is another form of abuse which could leave the abused trapped, unwanted and ashamed. ‘If you don’t go out with me, I will tell everyone what we did in bed.’ Worse, the abuser could get explicit photos or videos of the abused and blackmail the partner into doing things they might not be ready for.
Abuser might call the partner ugly, fat, dark, stupid or similar such which eventually leads them to believe that it is true. The sense of self in teenage years is still fragile and such behaviour might lead to withdrawal and depression.
The Silent Treatment
Sometimes the abuser might use non-communication as form of punishment to coerce the other partner. They might completely ignore the partner till they give in to their wishes. There are abusers who refuse to acknowledge the presence of their partners in public and are responsive when alone.
‘You can’t wear that!’ or ‘You cannot hang out with those friends’ or ‘You cannot go there’ is something which abusers use to erode the self-esteem of the other person. This may make one feel unacceptable and feel bad about themselves.
Any sexual contact or activity with an intimate partner that makes a person feel uncomfortable, with the purpose of controlling through fear, threats, coercion, manipulation or violence. This may be with or without the presence of physical violence at the time of the act or within the relationship. These happen mostly as there is lack of parental consent and the victims do not want to talk about it due to fear, guilt and shame.
The victims could be both men and women, young adults who are in same-sex relationship, all ages- tween and upwards. Most such victims who were forced to have sex are less likely to use condoms. The perpetrator is frequently an intimate partner. Date rapes, forced oral sex, unwanted touching – all constitute part of sexual abuse.
If you have faced any of the above, it might be time to walk out of the relationship. This is not always easy but try talking to someone you trust – a friend, sibling or trustworthy adult. And always remember – IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.