Bruises on the Heart

Box office glorification of abusive relationships skews reality

Gennifer Geer, Managing Editor

“I am trapped. He’s everywhere, overwhelming me, almost suffocating.”

These are not words you use to describe a person who loves you.

Yet this is how Anastasia Steele dotes on her heartthrob Christian Grey.

With the release of the film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” several public figures, organizations and publications openly criticized the movie for romanticizing abusive relationships.

The most frightening thing about this box-office hit is its lack of awareness. To find the abuse, you have to be looking for it.

Not because it’s a stretch to call it abuse, but because it’s hidden so well. As Hollywood portrays it, the relationship is romantic, loving.

Just like a real-life abusive relationship.

What makes an abusive relationship so dangerous is its invisibility to the abuser, the victim and evev everyone surrounding them. If someone involved isn’t actively hunting for the signs, it will remain hidden.

However, Hollywood doesn’t always mask abusive behavior. Disney’s recently released “Cinderella” depicts the usual story, and though her stepmother’s cruelty is exaggerated, Cinderella experiences manipulation typical of an emotionally abused child. Her stepmother isolates her from the rest of the family, constantly insults her and convinces her it is just her duty as a daughter to serve the family.

Using roundabout logic, a parent can easily disarm a child and exert damaging control. As with abusive romantic relationships, emotional abuse of children is harder to discern than physical abuse.

Though physical abuse can result in blatant bruises and broken bones, emotional manipulation and degradation are harder to see. The abuser can believe he or she is just voicing his or her opinion, standing up for his or herself or is adequately punishing the

victim for bad behavior. In turn, the victim internalizes toxic words, lives a lifestyle of fear and develops deep-rooted self-hatred.

You can’t see the control an abuser exerts over the victim like you can see physical harm. It’s difficult to define the brightline — where does a mean comment turn into abuse?

It depends on the damage.

Abuse is constantly telling you people won’t like you for your beliefs.

Abuse is scaring you into hiding your feelings.

Abuse  is using the words “I love you” as a bargaining tool.

No one deserves to be degraded, ignored or exploited like they’re a robot instead of a human being.

If you know people who are experiencing this, telling them they’re “overreacting” when they talk about their situation only reinforces their feeling of unworthiness.

Instead, open their eyes to the signs of an abusive relationship. Victims feel trapped by their abusers. Maybe they don’t have someplace else to go. Maybe they feel guilty for their abusers’ failures. Maybe they’ve watched that someone they love threaten suicide if they don’t change.

The best way to handle such an engagement is to leave the situation.

It’s scary — I know.

But once you gather courage and support, it’ll end up saving you.