Abusive Relationships

Background Research: -Hoda

  • What is an abusive relationship?

Starting with the definition of abuse, it means to treat someone disrespectfully, with violence, or insult on regular bases. “Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner” (The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness & Action, n.d). This sometimes may happen because the abuser may have been abused before. 

“In the diagram above, the Power and Control Wheel assumes she/her pronouns for the victim and he/him pronouns for the perpetrator, but the abusive behavior that it details can happen to people of any gender or sexuality. The wheel serves as a diagram of tactics that an abusive partner uses to keep their victims in a relationship. The inside of the wheel is made up of subtle, continual behaviors over time, while the outer ring represents physical and sexual violence. Abusive actions like those depicted in the outer ring often reinforce the regular use of other, more subtle methods found in the inner ring.” ((Power and control, 2021) https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/power-and-control/

  • Types of abuse:

We will discuss the relative types of abuse regarding romantic relationships 

  1. Physical 
  2. Sexual: Sexual abuse is physical abuse if it includes rape or any forced physical act to serve sexual purposes. “Withholding or using sex as a weapon” is also abuse (Team, 2021).  
  3. Emotional/ Verbal
  4. Mental/ Psychological

Romantic Relationships: -Hoda

  • What does an abusive relationship mean to others?

– Negative comments or damaging self confidence (may not be intentional) 

– Manipulation: going around one’s beliefs and changing them to the other’s own benefit/ can be emotional too

– When one of the partners feels that they do not have the space to express themselves, so they keep silent to avoid conflict 

– Ignoring boundaries or disregarding consent 

– Gaslighting: causing a partner to question their own rationality (Saripalli & Huizen, 2021)

– Control

– Ghosting: when someone cut you off or disappear without an explanation  

– Silent treatment: (2 pictures below)

  • Real life example of an abusive relationship:

We will assume that the girl’s name is Lara. Lara is a pretty pure girl, who comes from an A class family and is a senior in an international school. Lara loves trying new food and eating, yet she is in good physical shape; All her friends know this fact about her. She loved one of her classmates named Mohamed. Mohamed is a handsome generous young man, who comes from a great family. After talking for months, Mohamed loved her too and decided to confront her with his feelings. He asked her to be his girlfriend and they’ve been happy ever since until one day, they were sitting with their friends and that was when the bomb dropped. Lara asked Mohamed to go to McDonald’s, as she was craving fries even though they just had dinner a while ago. In front of the whole group, Mohamed suddenly screamed, “don’t you get full? You never stop eating!.” Lara tried to avoid him after embarrassing her in public and she chose to hold her mobile, but that was just the beginning of hell. He threw her phone on the floor and hit her so hard, where she held her tears to not cry in front of everyone. He chased her after she ran to the toilet and kept shouting at her. This was just a day in Lara’s everyday life. It was the “normal”.  


You’ve been with your partner for almost 2 years. Since day one, you share every detail of your life together. You became the closest people to each other even closer than your best friends. Days go by, you fight and reconcile like everyone in life. All of a sudden, you discover new traits coming to the surface that you never saw in your partner like anger issues and jealousy. You are in deep love with them, as they are caring and protective of you, so will you let these traits pass by?

Remember, in this game, you will go through a rollercoaster of emotions, but you have to decide wisely and realistically. Feel every choice before proceeding on!

    • Let these traits pass by because you love your partner –> you might get annoyed of them over time and feel drained OR feel that this was the best decision you took because you are happy with them no matter what
    • Confront them and speak about it softly –> they might change, and they might not
    • Confront them and speak about it firmly –> they might end up being stubborn and sticking to it
    • You believe that traits never change so you accept them for who they are
    • You believe that traits never change, and you figure out that you can never live with these traits

Without noticing, you have found yourself distanced from your friends most of the time and more than the normal. This lets you ask about a friend from the opposite gender, who you’ve known 9 years ago, and keep in touch with them. How are you going to reach out to them?

    • Reply on an Instagram story
    • Text them on WhatsApp
    • Give them a call

A back story is that 6 years ago, this friend expressed that they had feelings for you, but you both let it pass by and stayed on good terms as friends only. This friend then got in a 4 year relationship. However, when you were venting to your partner, a super jealous side of them comes out with anger and aggression.

“Are you serious? Did you really talk to them before telling me?”

“Yes, I was just checking up on them.”

“Checking up? You cheat and do things behind my back and act as if nothing happened you stupid!”

“Are you calling me names now? A cheater and stupid?”

“You will stop talking to them from now on and this is a mistake that I will forgive if you only did so.”

This is the moment your partner tells you to cut them off because they don’t like them, as they feel that your friend might still have feelings for you. At this moment, how do you feel you are going to react?

    • Cut off your friend for your partner’s sake as you love them so much –> how will you cut them off? –> this will strengthen your relationship with your partner but breaks your friendship given that this situation will definitely reoccur in the future
    • Negotiate with them softly and bear with the consequences (whether you like it or not) –> elaborate consequence with dialogue
    • Negotiate with them aggressively and bear with the consequences (whether you like it or not) –> elaborate consequence with dialogue
    • Tell them you cut them off while you communicate with them secretly –> which platform will you keep in touch with them on –> your partner might find out
    • Neglect what they said and break up –> how?


Friendships: -Zeina


When people think about abusive relationships, often they think about romantic relationships, and most do not take the time to think that friendships, and indeed all kinds of relationships have the potential of being abusive, either mentally or in a literal physical manner. So, what are abusive friendships, and how do you identify one? According to an article by Victoria Jefferies, a psychotherapeutic counselor, abusive friendships are ones which are especially destructive and negative to one’s emotional and mental wellbeing. She explained that there are several ways to identify abusive friendships, some of which included: being undermined, taken for granted, feeling drained in their company, and over compromising to the point where you’re giving up parts of yourself or not taking care of yourself to take care of them instead. (Jefferies, 2022)      

With the integration of such factors, obtained through secondary research, I have based my scenarios on a close friend’s experience. I felt this experience the most interesting for me to write about because I experienced it with her firsthand. I was able to see most of these events happen. Recently, I reached out to her with the intention of just getting her opinion on the topic and I was reminded by her of this situation. So, I felt it was the strongest example of abusive friendships, which I could discuss as a primary witness. Instead of looking up situations online, or hearing other people’s experiences, I was more focused on experiences I had witnessed firsthand, because this way, I am able to better relate to the story which makes me more effectively able to portray it to others just the way it occurred. After writing each scenario, I conferred with my friend to go over the details with her, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important or lacking to put in writing the true experience. I tried to probe her to explain and describe her emotions after every part of the incident, and that way, I was able to create the options for players to choose from, or the paths to guide the direction of the story. Options were created based on what actually happened, or how the main character had hoped she would have reacted.     


1.It’s the beginning of summer and this new platform, where people can post messages anonymously, is becoming very trendy amongst people your age (13-20). People start using the platform to mock and bully others, and you and your best friend, Malak, whom you’ve been friends with since kindergarten, are fascinated by all the drama, so you invest so much time into staying up to date with all the new messages, but never actually engage. Malak reads out a message, “people who can’t afford to buy expensive brands, just stop trying to be fake by wearing knockoffs, and just accept that you can’t be like us”. She laughs and looks over at you and says “you would relate because didn’t you say your parents are facing financial difficulties now?”. How do you react? 

    • Option 1: You get upset, you make it obvious you’re upset through your facial reaction, get up and leave the room in hopes she chases you and apologies she chases after you and says that it was just a joke and that you should get over it already, without actually apologizing or being sincere. 
    • Option 2: Tell her you’re upset because she shouldn’t be joking about something so sensitive she gets defensive and says that she really doesn’t understand why you’re upset and that if she was in your place she would have been cool with it because you guys are supposed to be *in air quotes* “sisters”.
    • Option 3: You hit her jokingly and attempt a smile, while pretending like it didn’t bother you, when it actually did you start feeling sorry for yourself and your family’s financial situation and you become embarrassed because of it, feeling inferior to others in your school; jealous of what they have that you don’t.   

2.Malak sleeps over at your place and you guys wake up in the morning and carepool together to school. As you’re making your way in, Youssef, a boy in the grade above you, very popular and loved by most girls on campus, walks by. Malak’s had a crush on him for as long as you could remember, and if you had to define her behavior, you’d say it’s obsessive. She smiles at him, but he walks over to you instead and hugs you with a smile, and says “good morning”, disregarding her completely. She seems very upset, gets angry at you, and rushes to class, leaving you behind. Throughout the day, you try to understand what you did wrong, but she gives you the silent treatment. What do you do?

    • Option 1: Keep trying to get her to talk to you so you guys could resolve this and move on you become mentally exhausted and the fact that your best friend is upset because you might have done something wrong bothers you and leads you to overthink where things went wrong, and you can’t really focus on finishing your homework when you get home later that day.   
    • Option 2: Tell her that you did nothing wrong and that she could stay upset for as long as she wants to, and come talk to you when she feels she’s ready to stop being a child she replies “nothing wrong? Hah. if that’s how you see it then i have nothing to say to you. Try to think hard and when you’re ready to apologize, maybe I’ll consider talking to you again”
    • Option 3: Apologize even though you don’t know what you did wrong she’ll tell you that it’s okay, but that you shouldn’t get close to her man again, or else you’d see another side of her. (and so you know where you went wrong, but you say nothing back just so the problem doesn’t get bigger)    

3.One day, you find that someone sent a hurtful message about you, attempting to spread false rumors about how you hooked up with Hassan and engaged in sexual activity with him. You start having a panic attack, and tears start to accumulate in your eyes, before they start rushing down your face. Your first instinct is to call Malak, tell her what happened, and find a way to fix it. Rumors spread fast and people start joining the conversation calling you bad names and making the situation worse. Mid-crying, you say to Malak, “you do know this is not true, right?”. She responds “I’m not really sure, maybe it is. I’ve been feeling very distant from you lately, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you were hooking up with him”. What do you do? 

    • Option 1: “How could you say that?” and cry harder, feeling alone, and helpless she doesn’t really apologize for what she says and continues to be cold till you eventually hang up on an open end.  
    • Option 2: Hang up, close your phone, hide in bed, and starve yourself for the day you faint while getting up to go to the bathroom, you’re weak and mentally unwell. Your parents worry and try to convince you to go see a doctor, unaware of what has happened. 
    • Option 3: Get angry with her and tell her that you’ve had enough of her, and that she is an inconsiderate and cold-hearted person you guys fight and she tells you that she thinks you guys should stop talking to each other for a while and you agree.    

4.After a few days of not talking, and Malak ignoring you at school, she appears at your house and starts acting like nothing happened… “Hey”, she places her bag on the ground, proceeds into your closet, tells you to get dressed and that you guys are going to this restaurant because she heard Hassan would be there and she wants to bump into him “accidentally” because she feels pretty. How do you react? 

    • Option 1: You’re glad she’s back to talking to you and that she seems okay. You don’t want to risk another fight that might cost you your friendship with her, so you get up and go out with her you repress your emotions, you’re not really in the mood the whole time, avoiding people, trying to keep your head low, and staying quieter than usual.
    • Option 2: Get angry and start arguing with her about how she could just barge in like nothing happened after accusing you of hooking up with Hassan, even though she knows you enough to be sure you’d never do such a thing she says it was just something she said in the moment and brushes it off and goes on to try to pretend like nothing happened and get you to go out   
    • Option 3: Tell her that you’re not really feeling that great and that you don’t want to go out she’s going to keep nagging you, ignoring your feelings and focusing on what she wants which makes you more upset  

5.The next day at school, you’re sitting alone during lunch break, and Malak approaches you, acknowledges the issue and asks how you are doing. You tell her that you’re broken because what happened could ruin your reputation, and possibly any chance you have of getting into a good university if it gets out of hand, or onto your record. She seems panicked and tells you that she needs to go do something, and apologies for not being able to be there for you. She seems odd, and you can’t seem to figure out why. When she leaves, Hassan appears suddenly and sits by your side. What do you do?

    • Option 1: Look at him, confused, but let him stay it gets awkward, both of you are silent, but you can feel he has something to say  
    • Option 2: Tell him to leave immediately out of fear that Malak would see you and get upset he rushes to tell you that he just has one thing to say and that he’d be gone 
    • Option 3: Get angry at him “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” because it’s his fault you are in this situation to begin with (or at least that’s how you feel) he gets defensive and asks why you’re mad at him when, just like you, he’s a victim.   

6.Hassan looks at you, and says “remember that sometimes it’s the people you least expect to hurt you, who end up stabbing you in the back”. You ask him what he means, and he tells you that he found out that Malak was the one who started the rumor, and that he’s sure. You are shocked, and in denial at that moment. How could the closest person to you; your best friend, do that to you? You feel all kinds of emotions rush through you as you remember that she’s obsessed with Hassan, and that she was always jealous about how he was more friendly with you than her. What do you do?

    • Option 1: Chase after her and get into a violent fight both of you get expelled from school for a week and it goes into your record. People find out she was the one spreading the rumor, but you are afraid she might hurt you more because she knows so much about you.
    • Option 2: Tell your parents and let them get involved even though they are very conservative and might call you a liar your mom believes you, but because your dad is the head of the house, and he doesn’t believe you, he makes things stricter for you at home, and decides to take you out of school and put you in an all girls school away from your hometown 
    • Option 3: Self-destruct and overthink how your future is ruined, and that your best friend stabbed you in the back you develop trust issues, you are scared of developing relationships, you are constantly wary of people and their intentions, and you become obsessed with overachieving at school.  
    • Option 4: Stop going to school, skip classes, isolate yourself from everyone, and enter a phase of severe depression you fail your classes. You become numb emotionally and refuse to talk to even your parents. You take a short leave from school to go to therapy and heal on your own. 


Parental Relationships: -Amr


A child’s personality is heavily influenced by two main factors: their Genotype, their genetic makeup, and their phenotype, the physical environment around them. The parents of a child are arguably the most important developmental factor of their phenotype. Therefore, the way the parents treat their children will heavily influence their mental health (Wolfie, 1985). The children who face physical and mental abuse from their parents are also more likely to develop psychological disorders such as alcoholism, schizophrenia, and Dissociative Identity Disorders. Additionally, the abused childs are very often arrested for criminal activities, such as theft and murder. On the contrary, children who were raised by loving and supportive parents had a much lower chance of criminality and mental illness (McCord, 1983). Therefore, every child deserves a loving home that can ensure the prioritization of their wellbeing over all else. Some research suggests that parents abuse their children because of the hardships that they face in life such as marriage issues, career problems, and work stress.

I have based my scenarios on a child who is facing parental abuse at home in order to raise awareness about the issue of child abuse since it is a very serious that affects our community, and every child deserves loving parents who can provide them with a healthy childhood to ensure their upbringing does not destroy their future.


Background: You are a 12 year old only child living alone with your widowed mother. Your father passed away in a car accident, leaving you and your mother alone and in serious debt. Your mother sells the house and you move out into a smaller house to accommodate for the payments of the debts. Additionally, you see that your mother has started to drink more than usual in order to cope with the stress around her. In Addition, your mother hits you with every minor inconvenience in her life and she curses at you all the time.

1.You are sitting in your room playing with your toys and you hear your mother arguing with the bank on the phone about a late payment. She hangs up the phone and you hear her footsteps angrily approaching your room.

    • Option 1: You run to lock the door before she comes → She breaks the lock and beats you up.
    • Option 2: You hide from her under the bed → she finds you under the bed and beats you up.
    • Option 3: Don’t do anything and just take whatever is coming → She comes in and beats you up.

2.You just got the report card from school and it was very underwhelming since you got 3 Cs and 2 Ds because you can’t concentrate in class anymore because of all the abuse you’re facing at home. However, the school requires a parent’s signature on the report card, but you know that your mother will beat you up if she finds out about the bad grades.

    • Option 1: You forge her signature on the report card → She doesn’t find out and everything goes well.
    • Option 2: You hide the report card, hope she never finds it, and face the consequences at school → She school calls her and tells her about your grades as they never got back the report card.
    • Option 3: Ask her for her signature and face the consequences → she sees that bad grades and beats you up because of them.

3.You come back home and you see that your mother is opening up a bottle of whisky. 

    • Option 1: You get scared and tell her “Please don’t drink that” → she tells you to **** off and go to your room and not to cause any disturbances.
    • Option 2: Ignore her and just go lock yourself in your room → She gets drunk, breaks the lock to open the door, and she beats you up.
    • Option 3: Push the bottle out of her hand → you break the bottle and she beats you up because of it.

4.You know that your mom has been drinking heavily tonight and she has been stressed over the bank payments lately. You accidentally drop and break a glass of water in the kitchen and you hear her shouting and coming.

    • Option 1: Hide under the table. → She finds you and beats you up over the broken class.
    • Option 2: Clean it up quickly before she comes → She asks you what that sound was and you lie about it, you tell her that nothing was broken and she believes you.
    • Option 3: Don’t do anything and just take whatever is coming → She finds you and beats you up over the broken glass.



Huizen, J. (2021, July 13). What is gaslighting? examples and how to respond. Medical News Today. Retrieved November 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/gaslighting

McCord, J. (1983). A forty year perspective on effects of child abuse and neglect. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7(3), 265–270. https://doi.org/10.1016/0145-2134(83)90003-0 

Jeffries, V. (2022, July 20). Emotionally abusive friendships | Mindsum. Mindsum. Retrieved November 2022, from  https://www.mindsum.app/blog/emotionally-abusive-friendships

Power and control. The Hotline. (2021, November 29). Retrieved November 2022, from https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/power-and-control/

The Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness & Action. Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness & Action. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2022, from http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/what-is-relationship-abuse/

Team, R. (2021, August 24). 6 different types of abuse. Reach. Retrieved November 2022, from https://reachma.org/blog/6-different-types-of-abuse/

Wolfe, D. A. (1985). Child-abusive parents: An empirical review and analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 97(3), 462–482. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.97.3.462