In episode 3 of ‘Big Little Lies’, the couple is drinking wine in front of a fire, a portrait of domestic bliss, when Perry finds out that Celeste and the kids are going to Disney on Ice without him. He accuses her of purposely excluding him, and grabs her roughly by the neck. When she protests that he is hurting her, he flips the statement around. “Oh, I’m hurting you? he scoffs. “Can we talk about how much you hurt me?”
It is her fault, he means. She hurt him first. He is the true victim.
A victim might wonder, ‘Doesn’t everyone fight?’, ‘what is even normal in intimate relationships?’
In as much as it is important for victims to admit to themselves that what they’re experiencing is abuse, they also need to be emotionally ready to deal with the consequences. Once they recognize they are in danger, the next logical question is, what are they going to do about it? This is evident in Celeste’s struggle to acknowledge the abuse in counselling. Celeste is also seen repeating what Perry has long told her: That she is the cause of the violence. Like many abusive partners, Perry is a master of projection, blaming Celeste for anything that goes wrong.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, you can get the help you need.
Signs that you’re in an abusive relationship
To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.
Your inner thoughts and feelings
- Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
- Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
- Feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
- Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
- Feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Your partner’s belittling behaviour
Does your partner:
- Humiliate or yell at you?
- Criticize you and put you down?
- Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
- Ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
- Blame you for their abusive behaviour?
- See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your partner’s violent behaviour or threats
Does your partner:
- Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
- Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
- Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
- Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
- Force you to have sex?
- Destroy your belongings?
Your partner’s controlling behaviour
Does your partner:
- Act excessively jealous and possessive?
- Control where you go or what you do?
- Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
- Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
- Obsessively check up on you?
Abusers are able to control their behavior—they do it all the time
Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love.
Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior. They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so (for example, when the police show up or their boss calls).
Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won’t show. Rather than acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their kicks and punches where the bruises and marks won’t show.