5 Things Big Little Lies Taught Us About Domestic Violence
Occasionally a show comes along that makes us all sit up and pay attention. Big Little Lies was one of those shows. What started out as an innocuous rich white ladies murder mystery drama set in a gorgeous beach town soon turned into a gripping story about the violence in women’s lives and the ripple effect it can have on a community. Here are some of the things that the show got on point about domestic violence and how it unfolds: * Spoilers ahead *
Domestic abuse comes in many forms Celeste’s relationship with Perry portrayed exactly how the cycle of violence works – tension would build for a while and lead to an explosion, followed by the honeymoon phase of apologies and promises that this would never happen again. And yet it would. The isolation she faced, the minimizing, denial, blame from the abuser are all too common scenarios when it comes to domestic violence. Victims are often in denial that they are being abused and rarely reveal this abuse to friends or family. The other women in the show also have some forms of abuse happening in their lives – Renata’s husband has hidden all this financial information from her which eventually leads her to bankruptcy, and she loses everything she built. Bonnie was physically and emotionally abused as a child by her own mother. These are forms of abuse that we often don’t think of as domestic violence but financial abuse is domestic violence and family abuse is domestic violence too.
Victim blame is real Time and again Big Little Lies showed us the frustrating fact that victim blaming is real, most often embodied through the monstrous mother in-law who refuses to believe that her son was an abuser. She even blames Celeste for the fact that he raped Jane suggesting that “he probably thought women liked this.” Victims often blame themselves for the violence that happens in their lives, we see this through the struggle that Celeste experiences. She blames herself for her husband’s death not because of the staircase incident but because as she says “if I hadn’t decided to flee that day, he would not have been so angry and come to the school dance.” It must be noted that Celeste was almost beaten to death by her abuser at this school dance and yet she blamed herself for bringing that on.
Children know much more than you think they know Some of the most moving protagonists in this show were the children beautifully portrayed that children often hide the fact that they know about the abuse from us, to protect us. Celeste stays with Perry because he is a good father to her kids and because she doesn’t want to let her kids know what is happening. Sadly enough, the kids already know. In the case of Max and Josh, they in turn start harming one of the kids at their school. Another case in point about children knowing more than you think they know in this show is Jane’s son Ziggy. He not only knows about his friend Amabella being abused in the first season, but also finds out the truth about his dad in the second season and doesn’t tell his mom, to protect her from more hurt. Beyond the scope of this show, research has shown that most of the times kids know of the abuse happening in their household and often suffer from secondary trauma.
Abusers don’t just happen As Celeste points out in the iconic court scene when she is interrogating her mother in-law, “Abusers don’t just happen, they are often victims of abuse themselves.” Perry Wright, who abused his wife Celeste and raped Jane (and who knows how many others), was a victim of abuse himself while growing up. Research shows that kids who grow up in abusive households have a much higher rate of growing up to become abusers themselves. Similarly, kids who have experienced (including witnessing) childhood abuse also have a much higher likelihood of experiencing abuse as adults. This is often a result of unresolved trauma, unhealthy coping mechanisms and normalizing abusive behavior. It is therefore very important to give the child an opportunity to heal from the trauma of abuse through therapy and help them to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Your friendships can save your life, literally The female friendships portrayed in this show give us so much life! The Monterrey five are brought together by an accident but the way the show up for each other and stick together is no accident. The most important thing they do for each other is to believe one another. They believe Celeste when she reveals her abuse, they believe Jane when they find out about her rape. Believing survivors is one of the most powerful things their friends can do for them, the words “I believe you” can change someone’s life. The women in this show stand in solidarity with each other – not judging but supporting – knowing that everyone has their own struggles and trusting that they have the means to figure it out. Knowing that your friend is experiencing abuse is not easy and it’s even more difficult when they are not ready to leave. Letting your friend know that you are there for them, checking up on them regularly and meeting them wherever they are is the best thing you can do as a friend. Leaving an abusive relationship is not a onetime thing that happens, it’s a complicated process and having a strong support network who you can rely on can literally save a life.
1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced abuse in their lifetime. If you are experiencing abuse know that you are not alone. We are here to help you. At Daya we empower survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Daya’s culturally specific approach ensures that, each year, over 400 survivors break barriers related to language, culture, and immigration status to reclaim their independence and safety. Daya empowers survivors to live the abuse-free lives that they deserve.
Call our confidential hotline at 713-981-7645 or visit our website at www.dayahouston.org