Bella & Sheggz; Spotting Emotional Abuse On and Off Screen
Life imitates art, or does art imitate life? Just like in real life, domestic abuse varies and includes abuse of every kind; physical, psychological, emotional, and sexual. Television, movies and reality TV also show us the various forms and intensities of abuse can be meted out in relationships.
Most recently, the current season of Big Brother Naija has made a buzz on Nigerian social media. The relationships formed during the show have been the centre stage of viewers' interests and have grown into a focal point of the show.
Over the years, Big Brother has produced couples and even spouses off the show. Kiddwaya and Erica, Teddy A and BamBam, Tobi and CeeC, Nina and Miracle, the list goes on.
Becoming romantically involved once on the show has become a strategy even. This year, housemates were mostly paired up by the second week.
If you're following the show, you’ve probably also seen videos and tweets that provide additional context expressing concern for a particular housemate. We are talking about the dynamics between two housemates, Bella and Sheggz.
"The emotional abuse I’m witnessing in this BBN house is very bad. How are people around them not saying something? Why are the organisers allowing him to continuously control/manipulate her. It’s horrifying," Twitter user @iamrenike said.
At the show's start, Sheggz's behaviour had already raised concerns with viewers. An alleged ex-partner came forward with allegations of abuse from him.
"He got aggressive, he was grabbing me choking me. I go to the stairs an I'm trying to run down as quick as I can. So that's how I obviously missed a step so I fell down," the reality show's former partner said in a video. "I was rolling. I was just rolling rolling rolling, landing on my leg, my leg just snapped. It snapped."
"Sheggz is so worried about public perception of him, it’s like he came on the show for reputation laundering or something. Also, Why should anyone tag you an abuser because you have tattoos and earrings when you are not the first person to have such profile on BBN?," Twitter user @Kofoworola_aa said.
This instance is not the first time reality TV has raised concerns over depicting/enabling psychological abuse, with women regularly made to feel inadequate or uncomfortable with a man’s actions during an on-screen relationship.
Unlike the pairs mentioned above, Bella and Sheggz' relationship has shown strong indicators of abuse and emotional manipulation. Their "love" has been marked with arguments, insults, verbal beatdowns and a lot of tears.
Over the years, it’s become apparent that domestic abuse takes many forms, one of which can be emotional in the form of belittling, isolating from friends and family, unreasonable demands, controlling behaviour and manipulation.
Emotional abuse is a pattern of behaviour in which the perpetrator insults, criticises, embarrasses, shames, blames, humiliates, manipulates and generally instils fear in an individual to silence, control, or isolate them.
Though this type of abuse does not involve physical violence, it may include threats of violence towards the victim or their loved ones. It is one of the most complex forms of abuse to identify as it toggles between subtle and overt.
In the early stages of their relationship, Sheggz began “love bombing”, showering Bella with obsessive adoration and affection, which can make the abuse even harder to spot.
Several red flags indicate the presence of emotional abuse. We've seen Sheggz and Bella get into altercations, and later he goes over to wear her down with ‘I love yous’ and apologies.
"Prayer and fasting for Bella. She needs immediate deliverance from Sheggz manipulation #BBNaija," Another viewer said.
Remember, this form of abuse is typically subtle and hard to identify.
If you experience some of these signs in your relationship with someone and your interactions with them leave you feeling anxious, confused, depressed, frustrated, misunderstood or beaten down, that relationship is probably emotionally manipulative.
Red flags or signs of emotional manipulation include;
- Isolation: Emotional abusers try to separate their victims from their support systems, like friends and family. Abusers expect their victims to put everything aside to meet their needs and prioritise the perpetrator’s needs over their own, causing the victim to depend on them solely.
- Invalidation: Abusers invalidate your feelings, undermining, dismissing, or distorting your perceptions or reality. They refuse to acknowledge your feelings and instead superimpose their thoughts, feelings and decisions on you. An emotionally abusive person will call you crazy or emotional or accuse you of overreacting when you disagree with them.
- Name-calling and insults: They’ll blatantly call you derogatory names, insulting you matter-of-factly. They may deride and dismiss you in public, say hurtful things to you jokingly, and then gaslight you when you take offence. They may insult your appearance, undermine your abilities and achievements and put down your interests. The abuser’s goal is to humiliate and shame the victim into submission.
- Control: Abusers like to control their victims’ lives, determining what they do, when, how they do it and with who. They may monitor their victims, force them to spend all their time together and keep them from doing what they love and interacting with others.
- Manipulation and gaslighting: An abuser will deliberately upset you, knowing your triggers, and then shame you for getting upset. They guilt trip and gaslight their victims and may deny that specific events, arguments, or disagreements ever happened.
- Other red flags include unpredictability, love and acceptance appear to be based on performance, withholding affection and them being threatened by outside support systems.
If you’re being emotionally abused, you’ll be made to wonder if your recollection of events is accurate or if even your memories can not be trusted, causing the victim to turn to their abuser for validation.
For additional information on identifying emotional abuse, these articles may help: