Social transformations occur when 'survivors' share their experiences and take actions that enlighten others, obtain justice, and prevent recurrences of similar events.
What is abuse?
Abuse starts in childhood and is difficult to understand because children trust adults; it's the only world they know, and they lack the tools to comprehend what's happening to them. As children grow up and become adults themselves, many find themselves trapped in unhealthy relationships without often understanding why.
I came to understand abuse in my adult years. In 2015, I fell in love with Laszlo. Over time, our relationship became increasingly violent. But this time, it's different. For the first time, I can observe my relationship. I listen to my inner world, observe my thoughts, feel my negative emotions: anger, jealousy, confusion, stress. I am present and don't understand why I am in love with a man who mistreats me. With a camera in hand, I feel the need to explore what love is and seek encounters with strangers to talk to.
Episodes of physical aggression, especially psychological and emotional abuse, repeat continuously. To these, continuous arguments, threats, and humiliations are added.
"Love, sex, and relationships" is a video-photography project born from an abusive romantic relationship with my ex-partner. Slowly, I become aware of automatic thought mechanisms, defense mechanisms, and emotions explode. I begin to look at anger, violence, discomfort. I talk to myself continuously. Sometimes, I visit my best friend, Claudia, in Mile End, and I share my stories with her. I bring a bottle of red wine with me. She listens, and we talk for hours. She advises me to leave him, to extricate myself from the situation while I still can.
But I don't see what she sees.
I was so attached to that pain that I could not separate myself from it and did not recognise it.
I had lost my self-esteem.
I thought there was something wrong with me and not with him.
He said he loved me. I was attracted to him.
One day, I start writing a lot of questions on a blank sheet of paper. The first one – what is love? I decide to leave the house with my camera in search of dialogue. For the first time, I wonder if what I call love is this arguing, blaming, insulting, fighting, and not understanding each other.
Many of us treat ourselves this way, hiding, shouting, shutting ourselves off. We don't confront our fears. Is it due to our deepest insecurities, the ones we know we have but don't want to acknowledge?
In love, sex and relationships I confront my mind/trap by meeting other couples and individuals whom I interview, listen to, and photograph.
What is abuse?
Abuse in a relationship is more common than one might think. A parent, a sibling, a friend can abuse us. And we can abuse them. Sometimes others don't know they're abusing you, and you don't know you're abusing them.
It can happen in both cases.
There are complex automatic thought and behaviour mechanisms of which we are not aware. Sometimes we understand the discomfort and distance ourselves; other times we stay in trap situations hoping they will change. But situations repeat over time. Even with different partners, the energy of the relationship remains the same.
Why? Have you ever asked yourself?
Our spouse, our child, ourselves, can harm us. Abuse kills. There are people (including ourselves) who are filled with negative energy that they have carried with them throughout their lives, and they don't know it. They don't know because they've never been able to see themselves from the outside.
Growing up with a violent parent changes you in ways you can't imagine. The person who should love you unconditionally is the one who makes your life hell.
If a parent does this, what can others do?
A parent who forces you into such an environment is like stealing your childhood because it forces you to be at their level. If they can't control themselves, you have to try to control them. There are no safe harbors to cling to. You start lying.
Many times, you are born and raised in violent environments with violent and frightened parents, and you are drawn to affectionate relationships that later become dangerous to your physical, emotional, and mental health. Often, violence is confused with love, but how can violence and disrespect be confused with love?
Emotional dependency is often created due to personal insecurity because that's what you were taught in your family, not to express yourself freely. One thing is certain – it's difficult to detach yourself from your pain when you experience it as one with yourself.
Self-observation is self-correction.
It's a very complex process that requires work and time. Photography can certainly help. It can make us the observer of ourselves, just as the photographer observes reality and decides what to keep and what not in a photograph.
Have you ever been able to look at yourself from the outside? What did you see in yourself?
What is psychological abuse in a romantic relationship?
Often, it's the initial phase of conflict preceding violence. Unlike physical abuse, which is evident from visible signs on the body, psychological abuse is much slower and insidious. An example can be indifference to the other person's emotions. Abusive behaviours include repeated and systematic actions that damage self-esteem, the sense of security, and the partner's identity, limiting their activities and social contacts, humiliating them, punishing them to make them feel guilty, and maintaining their fear and submission through threats and verbal aggression. Often, victims find it difficult to come forward, which can be attributed to fear and/or lack of awareness. Psychological violence is one of the numerous forms of violence that can manifest within a relationship. In the case of a romantic relationship, women are more often the victims.
Psychological violence represents a form of mistreatment with consequences that can be just as devastating for the victim as those caused by physical violence. However, compared to physical violence, which often leaves visible signs, psychological abuse remains hidden, unrecognized, or underestimated. It often follows a recurring pattern, developing over time in a crescendo of seriousness and can follow a cyclical path, where periods of calm and reconciliation alternate with aggression. It becomes a succession of humiliations, which can include direct personal insults ("you're ugly," "you're stupid," "you don't understand anything"), devaluations related to social roles ("you're worthless as a partner/mother/worker"), devaluations of achievements (in studies or work), public ridicule, generalized control (monitoring movements, relationships, social media, emails, phone calls, passwords, expenses, clothing), accusations and blame attributions by the abuser regarding their own actions ("it's your fault I'm like this," "if you were different, this wouldn't happen"), threats of direct repercussions against the victim, children, or their social network (family, friends, work) if the victim doesn't obey the abuser's dictates.
From here, fear, lack of self-esteem, a distorted sense of identity, and feeling increasingly inadequate, guilty, and incapable arise. From here, the pain.
How many of you have experienced abusive relationships? Do you want to talk about it? If you're a victim of abuse or have experienced abuse in the past, there are many factors to consider when deciding to talk to someone. You may feel embarrassment, shame, or fear of being blamed for what happened to you. You might fear that your abusive partner will find out. On the other hand, it can be very helpful to talk to someone about your experiences.
Another person may be able to...
- Offer support
- Help you plan for safety
- Assist you in accessing resources
- Support you in making difficult decisions
- Help you understand how abuse has affected your physical and mental health
You could also try writing down your thoughts and concerns about talking to someone. Remember, only you can decide if and when to talk to someone about the abuse.
Here's my email: email@example.com.
by Loredana Denicola
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