Domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, is not as black and white as one might believe – the filmic idea of a drunk husband coming home from the pub and blacking his wife’s eye for not doing the washing up cannot and does not represent every survivor’s experience.
Charities have long highlighted how domestic abuse can take the form of emotional manipulation and controlling behaviour – something officially recognised in the UK in 2015, with the introduction of a law specifically targeting “controlling or coercive behaviour”.
Now the CEO of Women’s Aid has taken aim at ‘banter’ – the catch-all term that too often allows people to say whatever they like, however offensive, under the guise of ‘just having a laugh’ – and specifically, at a comment from a Love Island contestant.
In an episode aired Monday 10 June, Jonny Mitchell remarked that a newcomer to the show, Theo Campbell, would have to prise contestant Tyra Carr from his “cold, dead hands”.
In a statement released on the Women’s Aid website, CEO Polly Neate said this type of comment revealed problematic ideas of ownership which paint a woman as a possession, not a person.
“When Jonny said that new arrival Theo would have to prise Tyla ‘from my cold dead hands’ it was not romantic,” she says. “It did not demonstrate just how much he liked her. It was possessive and controlling.
“What can be all too easily passed off as banter, actually carries the underlying sentiment that this man believes he owns this woman.”
Campbell and Mitchell had clashed earlier when Campbell had chosen Carr in the ‘recoupling’, prompting a heated exchange between the men.
In the episode, available on ITV Player, new contestant Campbell is heard commenting on Mitchell, telling Carr: “I believe he [Jonny] is on you 24/7. To me that shows how insecure he is at the moment and to not even let you out of his grasp or out of his sight, and he’s losing his head.”
Attempting to listen in on the conversation, Mitchell then states out of earshot of Campbell: “He’ll have her to pry her out of my cold, dead hands.”
At one point, the voiceover helpfully adds: “Yeah Jonny, take a chill pill. It’s not like the first thing Tyla’s gonna do is run off with Theo. It’s the second thing – after she’s put on some fresh lippy.”
Neate goes on to say that “sexist remarks” such as Mitchell’s must be challenged at every opportunity.
She writes: “All of us have a duty to call out this sort of behaviour and challenge these sexist remarks when we hear them.
“The fact that Tyla says she was left wanting to run away from a controlling relationship in the past, shows just how easy this sort of behaviour, if unchecked, can slip into a controlling and abusive relationship.”
In the episode, Campbell makes a similar point telling Carr: “If he can lose his head that easily, imagine like you go to a club or something and you’re getting a photo with another boy and that, he’s gonna lose his s*** with you […] He’s not gonna be any different outside.”
It’s now acknowledged that psychological torment – jealousy, obsessiveness, constant contact, limiting interaction with friends, controlling finances, online spying – can be as destructive as physical abuse.
Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Online or digital abuse
The Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf. Call 0808 2000 247 or visit nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk.
Images: ITV2 / Rex Features