Sticking together: Why people continue to be in abusive relationships?

  • Collin Rodrigues, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 08, 2016 20:48 IST
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard pose for photographers during a photocall for the film The Rum Diary in Paris. (Reuters)

Hollywood actor Amber Heard filed for divorce from her husband, Johnny Depp, on May 23. She alleged that the Hollywood star had abused her, and provided pictures of her bruised face, as evidence.

In the court petition, Heard also mentioned that Depp had been inflicting physical and verbal abuse on her through their three-year-long relationship.

Abuse in relationships is not only confined to celebrities. Almost every day, newspaper reports detail stories of people who go through physical or emotional abuse in relationships.

Psychiatrist Gittanjali Saxena says generally people who subject their partner to any form of abuse, suffer from issues related to power and control. “The abuser could also have a pampered childhood, in which the parent allowed him or her to do whatever he or she wanted, thereby inflating the person’s sense of importance and ego. So, he or she would now want a partner to do what the parent always did,” she says.

Read: Separation: Buffer time to prepare for the battle called divorce

Fear of the unknown

Strangely, many people continue being in abusive relationships for many years. Relationship expert Praney Anand says there could be multiple reasons for this behaviour. “Sometimes, there is a lot at stake in relationships or marriages — children, finances, social pressure and legal implications. Some people also become accustomed to a way of life. The fear of ‘What next?’ might sometimes stop people from taking steps to protect themselves,” he adds.

In fact, Anand reveals that at times, people cope with abuse to a point that they do not even realise what is happening to them. He says in such situations, it is important to talk to a friend, or a family member, who you trust. “Seek help from a therapist who has worked with abuse and trauma victims. Do not act aggressively. Do not let guilt stop you from taking an action,” He says.

Child support

Abusive relationships are not only harmful for the couple, but also for the kids. Relationship counsellor Shyam Mithiya says watching either of their parents being abused impacts children psychotically and mentally. “Sometimes, children start believing that one person abuses the other because of them. They feel they are not good and that their parents are fighting because of them. If the abuse among the parents continues, then children can become depressed for life. They learn from their parents how and when they should get angry. They start behaving that way with their peers while playing,” he says.

Charlize Theron grew up with an abusive father. (AFP)

Read: Bipasha-Karan to Aamir-Kiran: Are we ok with divorce and remarriage?

Signs of an abusive relationship

The first sign of an abusive relationship is fear of your partner. If there’s a sense that you have to be careful around your partner, or behave in a certain manner out of fear, it is time to analyse the reason behind your feeling.

Belittling, harassment, emotional manipulation and excessive financial control are also signs of abuse.

Coerced sex and physical assault are definite signs of physical abuse.

- Praney Anand, relationship expert.

Celebrity cases of abuse

In 2009, Charlie Sheen was arrested on charges of domestic violence, after he reportedly tryed to choke his wife, Brooke Mueller.

In 1998, Carmen Electra was arrested after a fight with her then-husband, NBA star Dennis Rodman. Rodman was also charged in the case.

Emma Roberts was arrested for beating up her boyfriend, Evan Peters.

Emma Roberts was arrested for beating up her boyfriend, Evan Peters, in Canada.

In 2009, Chris Brown was arrested for beating his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, before the Grammy awards ceremony.

In the early ’90s, Axl Rose, and his ex-wife, Stephanie Seymour, sued each other on charges of domestic violence.

Halle Berry witnessed domestic abuse when she was a kid. In the past, she has said, “I’m a victim of domestic violence. I wasn’t married to a man who beat me up, but my mother did.”

Charlize Theron grew up with an abusive father who would frequently threaten to kill the whole family. Her mother even shot her father once in self-defence after he came home drunk and fought with her.

Drew Barrymore suffered child abuse and neglect from her father, John Barrymore.

Oprah Winfrey suffered sexual abuse as a child.

Christina Aguilera was emotionally and physically abused by her father when she was a kid.

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