relationship

How To Be A Bystander

I went to a training course last week to learn about what I can do to improve my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We talked about unconscious stereotyping, addressing people from minority backgrounds with respect and how their needs might differ from our own. Eventually, the speaker began talking about being a bystander to a negative situation. This really caught my attention. What could I possibly do to help? How do I know if I should intervene?

She told us the story of an 18 year old girl named Emily who ended her life after being physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend. There were people in Emily’s life who knew that this abuse was going on, including friends. She even reached out to a student resident assistant before dropping it so as not to get her boyfriend in trouble. It is easy, with hindsight, to say ‘someone should have done something!’ but this has nothing to do with blame. I think we have all been guilty of standing by because we didn’t know what to do or how but it is this behaviour that allows things to escalate.

Take cases of severe sexual assault. It is, of course, true that not all men are rapists; if we take the whole population of men, the number who have sexually assaulted women is fairly small. But these offenders are protected by the many who affirm this behaviour with their catcalling and their ass-smacking and their ‘it’s a compliment’, and the people who witness this and do nothing, say nothing, never speak up just re-affirm this unsettling thinking. Our silence says, ‘It’s okay, you won’t get in trouble for this’.

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I’m not saying that it’s always a good idea to confront someone who is harassing another person. It’s not. In a lot of situations, it could make things worse – the harasser could get angrier, become more violent towards the victim or even target you – which is why I’m going to tell you the steps I learned to figure out what to do.

First, recognise the situation. Is there someone at risk or someone who is being threatening? Am I reading the situation correctly? Is it safe for me to intervene? Second, ask for help! Check if there is anyone around you who might be able to help diffuse the situation. This could make it safer for you to do so. Third, consider your group size. Is there enough people to safely intervene? As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, so please do not try and approach on your own! Finally, be a role model. Often, people won’t do anything to help because they see others not doing anything, but you can be the person to pave the way (just not alone!). 

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I think it is important to point out here that being a helpful bystander does not always mean jumping to the rescue during a bad situation. Sometimes you can be more helpful afterwards by providing support, showing empathy and helping someone deal with a situation.

This is especially true now, with rates of sexual assault at university being horrifically high. A recent survey by Revolt Sexual Assault found that 62% of people who had gone to university had been sexually assaulted, with this rising to 70% when considering females alone. Outside of uni, there is evidence to suggest that men experience more emotional abuse from their partner compared to women whilst women reported more forced isolation.

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Being aware of these facts helps us appreciate the weight of the problem. No more ‘oh, it can’t be that bad,’ no more ‘it’s not my problem.’ We live in a society that has turned a blind eye under the pretence that it’s not our business. But violence, and especially relationship violence, is our business. Looking away is what allows things to spiral out of control until it’s too late. Don’t let it be.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Stand together. Help each other. Break the cycle.

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Words by Jessica Yang for Anthem Online.

Sources: The Guardian (2017), Revolt Sexual Assault survey (2018), Karakurt and Silver (2013) Emotional abuse in intimate relationships: The role of gender and age.

Image sources: itsonus.org, Sarah Newey for Revolt Sexual Assault, Google Images

 

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Halves, Wholes & Other Emotional Maths

We all grow up differently. Some people are self-conscious about their weight. Some people hate their noses. Some people think no-one is ever going to like them. Whatever it is, everyone has their insecurities, and from my experience, sex ed didn’t really make anyone feel better about them. The teacher was awkward, the students were worse, the curriculum was reeled off and that was pretty much it. The biology was covered, and ‘pastoral care’ mentioned, but what no-one really touched upon was how big a role emotions and self-image play amongst all this growing up.

I spent a lot of my teen years feeling uncomfortable in my body and insecure about how I looked. I was one of – in hindsight -many people that thought no-one would ever want them. I doubted that anyone would ever feel anything for me, yet maintained the hope that should something happen, it would be the answer to everything. I’d be fulfilled, complete and wanted, entirely satisfied with myself and my life.

Looking in the mirror and not only seeing the ‘ugly’ and the negative seemed an insurmountable thought for me. I was stuck in a rut of worthlessness, hopelessly looking to be wanted and reassured. I had the expectation that finding someone who saw more in me than I did would automatically bring happiness, irrespective of how I was feeling. I was not prepared for the emotional experience that thinking would bring about.

21244662_10211805042095761_2026440898_nThere’s that saying; ‘looking for my other half’, that people use when they talk about finding that person who is their soulmate. Whether that’s important to you or not, I think there’s something about this quote to bear in mind. No-one else should ever be your other half because you are already a whole. This is actually quite a new revelation for me, but one that has made all the difference, both to my relationship with others and with myself.

Adopting this perspective is, in essence, very flexible. It can mean that you need to go and be single and find happiness with yourself completely alone, but it doesn’t have to. It can mean constantly surrounding yourself with family and friends to build up morale, but only if you want it to. Whichever suits, my point is that no matter how endearing your environment is, the positive words from people around you cannot fill the sadness of how you see yourself forever. You must give yourself time to learn, to help yourself.

I am a huge advocate of drawing from the people around you. Having hated myself for so long, I have found so many parts of myself that I now love through other people and how they saw me. A few years ago, however, these positive words will have needed to be regular; I was in constant need of recognition that I was of any value. What they were saying wasn’t sinking in, because deep down I still couldn’t see past what I saw.

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When no-one was around to reassure me, I plummeted back into sadness, which took a toll on almost every aspect of my life. As I watched myself let everything slip away, I realised that I was losing myself. I decided that something had to change. I took a deep breath and a step back. I spent a summer with less social media and less communication with friends. It gave me a chance to reflect on myself, the words of others, and how I wanted to see myself. I built up confidence, proving to myself that I was of value rather than needing someone else to tell me this. It was a long process, and how I went about it may not suit you at all, but what matters is making that change.

I finally allowed my friends’ words to change my own mind, and as a result, I’m starting to embrace a happiness which is beyond fulfilling. This happiness comes from within. This is where we come back to that quote because that is what we all deserve. You are – always have and always will be – enough, but we need to take charge of our own self-worth to truly realise that. No-one can permanently plug that self-doubt you have, no-one can fill that space of insecurity forever. Using the people around you and their appreciation for you, you can build up the image you have of yourself into a whole that you become happier with.

While I think that’s important for wider life, it’s also important for the health of your relationship. You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t let go for the benefit of yourself or your partner because your entire world depends on how their opinion of you builds you up. Even whilst in a relationship, you are two very different individuals who have their own lives but needn’t depend on the other. Value one another for the love you give but have enough confidence in your self-worth that you don’t need it to be satisfied.

As I said before, everyone is different, and everyone improves themselves differently. Your environment, be that a relationship, friends, or family is a gold mine for learning about what others value in you. The importance of the emotional awareness that sex ed neglects, lies simply in seeing this within yourself. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself taking the world by storm because knowing yourself – the ‘to-be-improved’, the value and the good – is nothing to be afraid of. Rather, take your happiness into your own hands and go for it, in love, ambitions or everyday life, all while knowing just what a good egg you truly are.

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Images from Rubyetc, Picture Quotes and The Online Odyssey.
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

I Don’t Need Two Halves To Be Whole

Singing birds in the morning sun,
or do they quiver at what you’ve done?

Echoes of laughter bounce off walls
just like the therapy balls
that weren’t good enough either.

Love is learnt in pairs
But then surely I am half empty.
Or am I half full, with her brown eyes,
much deeper than cuts and
much brighter than cigarette butts.
Pay attention:
Thick skin sentry. 

Every new pair he’ll slip through,
in between cracks, which can be filled into.

And she has already outgrown you.

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I have always thought that I’d be half empty because I didn’t want to inherit any resemblance of my father. Thinking about it now though, if he were to be anything in my life, he would be the sickness.

Like with sickness, sometimes the less you know the better. I never had a great relationship with my father. I think this answers a lot of questions about my teenage relationships: the over-attachment, the insecurity, only being able to understand love and kindness from guys when it came in the form of degradation.

This poem says that I am complete without my father. I am whole without him because my mother was enough, as a parent, as a friend, and most importantly, as a woman. She did not allow him to be the making of her and only now do I realise how empowering that has been for me.

The absence of my father has meant more room for my mother and has come with a profound understanding that I do not need a man to validate me.

I no longer worry about searching for my other half. I am already full.

 

 

Words by Jasmine York
Illustration for ANTHEM by Ellen Forbes

Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Before I expose a very weird moment from 2015, I want to make sure you are aware of what an emotionally abusive relationship is.

Source: http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/emotional-psychological-abuse/emotional-abuse-definitions-signs-symptoms-examples/

I haven’t had the greatest experiences with relationships, I can pinpoint a few guys who I think are amazing people, but I can also pinpoint a time where I was emotionally abused but too young and ignorant to understand. So I’m writing this article is to raise awareness of emotional abuse in relationships.

Let’s name this guy Ben Circles.

Ben Circles and I met around July 2015, and like any other first impression, I thought he was pretty cool (him being an art student, and looking like Damon Albarn from Blur). We were very different people but had similar interests, so me forgetting to think before I act, we decided to go on regular dates.

Ben Circles was in fact, a loner. As peak as it sounds, I don’t think he had a ‘squad’ the only person he spoke about was his recent ex-Girlfriend of two years. During our short-lived “relationship”, I came to realise that Ben Circles had some serious issues with how he views women. I can safely assume he identifies as a feminist just to get girls to like him *vomits*. Late July, I get my first job, and things start to go wrong. Ben Circles began to whine about how my job was limiting our time together. My internal reaction was “Fuck off mate”. My external reaction was “Sorry, let’s meet up after work”. As you can see, I knew it was wrong for him to complain but tried to be nice. One evening in particular when I met him in Southbank, I had a good time but wanted to return home around 10:30pm. Ben Circles became incredibly frustrated with me because I turned down his offer to go back to his house. I make my own decisions of what I want to do and where I would like to go. As we walked towards Charing Cross station, I was incredibly taken aback by his behaviour. To make things worse he pulled a face that looked as if he was about to cry. Mate, grow up. You’re not entitled to me, and crying isn’t going to change my mind.

Ben Circles started to complain about our relationship because: I hadn’t been over to his house, I’d only wear my wigs around my friends, and during lunch I’d look at my food more than I looked at him. At this point I realised that I wasn’t standing up for myself, I began to only consider his feelings over mine. This is one of the first signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.

August 2015: my cousins wedding in Las Vegas. I reached a point where I was ready to dump Ben Circles’ foolishness into the trash. Ben Circles had asked not to be in contact with me while I was in Vegas, because he would become anxious if I didn’t reply to him *rolls eyes*

I’ll let you judge from these receipts:

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This is how emotionally abusive partners manipulate you.

They convince you that you are unworthy.

They convince you that they are entitled to you emotionally and sexually.

They teach you to consider their feelings over yours.

They convert you from human to object.

After the “you probably aren’t worth it”, my feminist agenda stepped forth and said enough! I took out the trash and dusted my hands. You should never ever let anyone speak to you in that way. Men and women like Ben Circles are nothing but dirt. They’ll never love or respect you, only abuse you.

If you are reading this article and realising that your partner is a “Ben Circles”, please remove them from your life. Fuck the memories and fuck how long you’ve been together. If someone is emotionally abusing you, there’s every chance things could worsen, and even end up physical. If you have children together, you ought to protect them too before social services steps in or worse, your partner begins to abuse them.

After Ben Circles, I entered my first year of university with the mind-set “fuck relationships”. Now I can happily say I met the most wonderful guy that’s ever entered my life; you are worthy of being loved and respected. If your partner is emotionally abusing you, you need to act on it. Abusive relationships are not romantic, they are poisonous.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those who supported me during the Ben Circles period. Thank you for giving me confidence and laughing at his ridiculous behaviour.

Peace, Love and Cacti
Courtney McMahon

 

 

Further advice and help can be found here: http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/emotional-abuse.html

Words by Courtney McMahon, definition originally by http://www.healthyplace.com
Images courtesy of Courtney McMahon