As Covid-19 keeps the world on lockdown there has been a ‘horrifying global surge’ in domestic violence, which is the main reason why I have decided to write about the newly released movie entitled The Invisible Man, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel published in 1897. Normally I am not fond of aggressive horror gore movies as I do not like scare and terror films. Violence begets violence in my opinion, but this futuristic thriller encapsulates some very important messages on the topic of partner abuse, so I digress.
The film opens with Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) trying to escape an abusive violent relationship with long-time optics expert boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the dead of night. Her well thought-out plan is a success but does not go off without a hitch. As the movie unfolds it doesn’t take long for audiences to feel the bone-chilling fear that abused women often feel and how females’ concerns about their safety are habitually ‘invisible’. This film is captivating but fairly one dimensional so without giving anything away, I will say that this story does a good job portraying how abusers are likened to stalkers, with victims never knowing what abusers will do next or when they will show up. The take-away message of this movie is clear – out the abuser and get out! But why would anyone stay with a destructive vicious partner in the first place you ask? Leaving an abusive relationship is complicated; something people who have never experienced abuse might not realize. This is because abused individuals can feel embarrassed or shamed, have low self-esteem, struggle with beliefs that abuse is normal, or they might even love their abuser still. Sometimes there are also financial, cultural, religious, or language considerations. But most often victims of domestic abuse are just too afraid to leave and carry a lot of emotional scars due to the trauma. Though as Cody Kennedy reminds us, “Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you.” Submission vs. Dominance – leaving an abusive relationship means regaining control of one’s life but the execution of the plan is always the most dangerous time for abuse victims since vacating troubled relationships threatens the abusers’ sense of power and control; often resulting in escalated anger and hostility by the offender. But defeating violence and mistreatment is achievable via exodus, though as Asunta Harris affirms, ‘Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen It takes positive steps every day. Let today be the day you start to move forward.’ Amen.
Directed by Leigh Whannell, I liked how this film, true to life, underscores that domestic violence happens in all walks of life and at any socio-economic level. Cecilia, the attractive smart lead is seen fleeing her beautiful ultra-modern ocean front glass house mansion, expensive cars, handsome bright ‘tech mogul’ beau… to room with a childhood friend turned cop James (Aldis Hodge) in his modest home where Cecilia shares a bedroom with his young daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). Welfare over luxury. A testament that all the money in the world is worthless if personal safety is at risk. The terror Cecilia feels throughout this film is palpable even when she thinks she is in a safe place. Her trepidation and anxiety are justified but it’s painful to watch the enormous toll and mental agony one still feels even once the danger and torment has lifted. Always jumpy always hyper-alert, always thinking you’re crazy or something bad is waiting right around the corner. There is nothing more frightening than fearing for your personal safety. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, ‘Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.’ Assault and battery plant seeds in the mind that can live and grow even when the perpetrator is not in plain sight. However, Cecilia’s endless dread cannot be dismissed as simple paranoia, especially in this futurism flick. This movie also highlights how others can be pulled into relationship drama with harmful consequences and shows how people can serve as enablers who help facilitate the crime and even aggravate the situation knowingly or not. The impact of abuse and its aftereffects are not pretty.
As a doctor in mental health I have personally worked at several community agencies with individuals who are fervently trying to escape domestic violence situations. So how does one go about gauging such risk you ask? First, it’s important to recognize the problem as follows:
What Is Domestic Violence? Does your partner ever…
- Insult, demean or embarrass you with put-downs?
- Control what you do, who you talk to or where you go?
- Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
- Push you, slap you, choke you or hit you?
- Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
- Control the money in the relationship? Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
- Make all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs?
- Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
- Prevent you from working or attending school?
- Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse or tell you it’s your own fault?
- Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
- Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
- Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?
If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. Understanding what domestic abuse is and why it happens can help initiate the healing process.
With so much global uncertainty due to Covid-19 there has been a frightening spike in ‘intimate terrorism’. The problem is so enormous that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for urgent action to combat the international flood of domestic violence incidents, urging governments to ‘put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.’ Typically, when families with a history of domestic violence are forced to spend a lot of time together tensions raise and the risk of harm increases. Unfortunately, this is just another illustration of the widespread collateral damage caused by this awful coronavirus crisis. Regardless, the safety of abuse victims is paramount, and the cycle of domestic violence can be broken in a productive non-violent way (unlike the caustic saga portrayed in this intense fictional film, which I do not condone). There is help for both victims (safe houses/shelters) and abusers (certified batterer intervention programs). For assistance contact: List of domestic violence hotlines – Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org › wiki › List_of_domestic_violence_hotlines
P.S. I loved how the dog in this movie barked at the hidden wickedness. I’ve forever said we should trust a dogs’ reaction. They can always sense good vs. evil! Bless.