Most people think of physical violence when they think of relationship abuse, but emotional and verbal abuse can be just as harmful. To drive this point home, activist Zahira Kelly started a social media campaign called #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou last week. The hashtag quickly gained traction and went viral.
The One Love Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending relationship violence, is also bringing awareness to this issue. They recently released a short film titled "Love Labyrinth" to show what emotional and verbal abuse can look like. The film is just one chapter of their #ThatsNotLove campaign, which aims to explain the fine line between love and control within relationships and educate people on the early signs of relationship abuse.
"The inspiration behind 'Love Labyrinth' stems from the fact that when a victim is in an abusive relationship, they often feel trapped or don't recognize abusive behavior, but know something is off. Feeling trapped in a relationship is a very real and frightening symptom of relationship abuse, and many people don't know where to turn to for help," Serena Sidawi, marketing and communications manager at One Love, told A Plus.
In the film, a young woman is verbally abused by her boyfriend for hours because she did not answer her phone while out with her friend. She repeatedly apologizes and explains herself, but he just gets angrier and angrier.
"Most people understand that when a partner hits you or gets physical, that's abuse. But what they don't understand are the steps that lead up to abusive relationships, how a seemingly normal and healthy relationship slowly escalates to abuse, and the modern day forms that emotional and verbal abuse can take," Sidawi explains.
You can watch the short film below:
Sidawi hopes the short film will help people recognize some of the symptoms of relationship abuse and seek help.
"Once people see what the early stages of abuse look like, they begin to understand whether or not their relationship is unhealthy. People have a pre-conceived notion about abuse as something that happens to older, married couples and families," she said. "But that is not always the case. Young adults, both male and female, ages 18-24 are at the highest risk for relationship abuse, and we want people to understand the different forms that abuse can take, whether it's physical, verbal, or emotional. All forms of abuse are detrimental to a person's well-being."
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse, do not be silent. Speak up, seek help, and don't let the situation escalate any further than it already has.
You can also help stop abuse by joining the conversation. Educate your family and friends on the signs of relationship abuse and help bring awareness to the issue.
"Abuse affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men throughout their lifetimes, so chances are that someone you know is or has been affected by an abusive relationship, and that is not okay," Sidawi said. "Whether it's sharing aspects of our #ThatsNotLove campaign, attending or holding awareness initiatives, or talking to those around you about the warning signs, we want everyone to know that they have a role to play in this."