Suicide and Relational Violence

Suicide and Relational Violence

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The insanity of abusive relationships is not something you can understand if you haven’t experienced them.

I’ve wanted to write this essay for a while now. I’ve put it off because it brings up some painful memories for me. A couple of years ago an up and coming Bollywood actress named Jiah Khan committed suicide. She left a 6 page suicide note addressed to her live in boyfriend. While the note is painful to read – what I am going to say next won’t make sense until you read it. It is in English. (

Basically, she blames her live in boyfriend for her death because he was abusive to her. We don’t have all the details as he is still being investigated in relationship to this. But the basic outline is that he was physically and emotionally abusive. He made her have unprotected sex with him (yes, she does mention rape – but also that she gave herself to him completely because that’s what he said he wanted). She got pregnant and aborted their child at his request. She bought him things and did her best to please him and he didn’t reciprocate.

It’s an insane letter to read. Why would she be so completely over herself for this guy who was treating her bad, cheating on her and so forth? Why didn’t she just leave?

The answer is because he wouldn’t let her. That’s why these relationships are so crazy. When I was in an emotionally abusive relationship it felt like being a ping pong ball in a hurricane. I had no control over what I was doing. And I was aware I had no control and it totally freaked me out!

One time I was on the phone with my abuser for 7 hours. He wouldn’t let me get off unless I needed to pee. In hindsight, it’s crazy, but in the moment, I didn’t have the ability to hang up on him and I have no idea why.  I was in an altered state. That’s what emotional abuse does to a person.  The abuser abuses because it gives them control over their victim. You cannot help victims of abuse until you understand that.

In hindsight I can understand that I was being conditioned to respond to my abuser’s every whim.  He trained me to pay attention to him almost exclusively.  Jiah’s abuser did the same thing to her. As she couldn’t get out despite wanting to get out, she killed herself. Which as insane as it is, was her attempt to free herself from this man’s control.

There is a wonderful movie called, She’s so Lovely. It stars Robin Wright Penn, John Travolta and Sean Penn. Sean plays the old love interest of Robin. He gets out of jail and wants to see her. She attempts to commit suicide rather than see him. It seems like an insane response if you haven’t experienced the sort of controlling personality that an abuser has.  When I saw this film I thought, yeah – I can see doing that too. Her response was rational to me. Jiah’s death, as tragic as it is and as insane as it is, was a rational response to the insane situation she was dealing with.

People who are in the thrall of an abusive person need to be weaned off their abuser in the same way you wean an addict off their addiction. Because that’s really what it is like, an addiction.  They need help in the form of keeping their abuser away from them. I literally couldn’t even be in the same room as mine without my brain exiting to a safe place. It’s surreal to have your conscious self leave your present because what is happening is so traumatic it can’t handle it.

So don’t opine on how stupid women are who remain in abusive relationships. If they ask for help and reach out, give them tangible help. Give them a place to go where their abuser can’t reach them and limit their access to phones etc so that they can’t reach out to their abuser. Don’t treat them as insane just because the situation they find themselves in is insane. It’s not their fault, it is the fault of the abuser. Once they get out, help them stay out and understand that their desire to go back is similar to that of a heroin addict looking for their next fix. They need you to step up and prevent them from going back to pain that is their abuser.

And if you are struggling with this right now, keep reaching out for help until you find someone who can help you exit. It is hard, but it is worth it.

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