This is a guest piece from Carla Morris – Social Worker and Domestic Abuse Worker – as part of UK SAY #NOMOREWeek.
Being young is harder now than it ever has been. Let’s think about the mounting pressures placed on appearance; we have body shape, hairstyles, make up styles, weight, there are the designer brands that influencers with highly desired blue ticks are telling us that we need to wear to “be noticed”. There’s popularity – how many Snap chat, TikTok, Instagram followers do you have? And what about social media in general? Look at all of those beautiful influencers with their perfect hair, perfect bodies and perfect lives – it’s a lot to live up to, isn’t it? We are also always accessible to hundreds or thousands of people, and whether we like to admit it or not, lots of us want and need for those people to like and accept us.
How about relationships? It’s nice to share special moments with a special person, and to share similar interests in music and films, what’s even better are the inside jokes and ‘banter’. What about when the ‘jokes’ and the banter start to sting a little bit? What about when they become less funny to you and instead you start to feel a bit embarrassed, ashamed or sad about the things they’re saying to you? What if their behaviour worsens and they begin to threaten you or hurt you in other ways? There’s no worse feeling than the person you love and care about making you feel worthless, ashamed and unloved, this is what abusive behaviour looks like and it’s not ok.
When this happens to us it can be hard to talk about, especially when on the outside we look great together and are “insta couple goals!” it’s also hard to talk about because although we may know that the person we love is treating us badly, we still love and care for them, so the last thing we want is for other people in our lives such as family and friends to dislike them, then we might also worry that people might judge us for staying in the relationship or blame us for the abuse that we are experiencing. We might even start trying to change the things about ourselves that makes the person we love say and do cruel things to us, because surely it must be our fault? They were never like this before, so they must be right, is it me? No.
Carrying all of this, and the fear and emotion that come with it can be heavy and so what we often see when this is happening to a young person are changes in their appearance, mood and their behaviour. These can be things such as isolating yourself from the outside world, changes in your appearance, low mood and mental ill health and for many young people the burden of experiencing abuse in their relationships can lead to suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and, sadly, suicide. What we already know is that one in four young people experience thoughts of suicide, these thoughts can even occur when things are going well in your life, although significantly, what we also know is that abuse in relationships increases the chances of feeling depressed and experiencing suicidal feelings.
One of the famous Instagram blue tick influencers Love Island’s Malin Andersson bravely spoke out about her own experiences of being in an abusive relationship last year; she talked about the things she would do to shield her reality from the public, and the outside world from knowing what was really happening to her.
Malin has talked in detail about the impact that the abusive relationship had on her mental health and how she wanted things to change; how she wanted the person she loved to change, and how she became trapped in a cycle of abusive behaviours and promises to change from the person she loved. What Malin is clear about, is that aside from the abuse that she experienced, one of the biggest impacts on her was keeping what was happening to her a secret and she has spoken about how the burden of carrying this alongside everything else massively impacted her mental health.
Malin has since actively used her own experiences to help others in similar situations. One of the biggest and most important messages in her activism is to speak out and ask for help. For you, or any of your friends this, can be talking to a friend that you trust, or a professional who specialises in helping people who are, or have been in abusive relationships. These people can help you with safety planning, this could be working through safe places to stay or safe people to contact when you need help or someone to talk to. This plan can be as basic or as detailed as you feel that you need it to be, and will help you to feel safe. Sharing what is happening will also help you to feel safer, supported and less alone.
There are many things that we have learned from Malin’s experience of abuse that she has shared with us, the key thing is the importance of talking about what is happening to you, asking for help, and remembering that this is not your fault.
Finally, in a complicated world, at a complicated age, with complicated relationships and unbelievable amounts of pressure to show the world that “we’re ok!” we don’t always know what’s happening behind closed doors. Behind the social media accounts that are drawing us in with images and lifestyles that we desire, behind the millions of followers and the verified blue tick accounts is the reality. Malin talks about this, Geordie Shore’s Holly Hagan speaks about this, and other famous influencers and ‘reality’ stars are speaking out about this. It’s ok to not be ok and it’s ok to ask for help.
There are a number of domestic abuse services in the UK that offer support for people currently in abusive relationships, support for survivors and also support for loved ones who are concerned of others experiencing abuse. These services work hard to try and protect and support people who are struggling with domestic abuse. In addition, a big part of what they do is around raising awareness and campaigning for change.
One of those current campaigns is UK SAY NO MORE Week. NO MORE Week is an annual, international opportunity for services and individuals, to come together to raise awareness of domestic abuse and sexual violence, in the hope of inspiring others to make change. This year, NO MORE Week will run from Sunday 7 March to Sunday 13 March. There are activities, webinars, and events that people can get involved in for NO MORE Week. This will help promote the work of all the vital services that are supporting the most vulnerable people in our society.
If you are in fear for your safety or have been hurt please call 999.
If you or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse and/or struggling with mental health then the below services may be able to offer some support:
• Women’s Aid (https://www.womensaid.org.uk/)
• National Domestic Abuse Helpline/Refuge (https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ – 0808 2000 247)
• Man Kind Initiative (https://www.mankind.org.uk/)
• HOPELINE247 (https://www.papyrus-uk.org/HOPELINE247/)
• CALM (https://www.thecalmzone.net/)
• Young Minds (https://youngminds.org.uk/)
Safe Spaces are open in Boots, Superdrug, Morrisons & Well pharmacies & many independent pharmacies across the UK. If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you can use Safe Spaces to call a helpline, support service or loved one #NoMoreWeek. More info: uksaysnomore.org/safespaces