We need to talk about Netflix’s new hit series, “You.” If you haven’t heard, the show centers around Penn Badgley’s character, Joe Goldberg, as he develops an extreme infatuation for Elizabeth Lail’s character, Guinevere Beck, to the point where he will stop at nothing to be with her.
This is not lust and this is not love, this is a dangerous obsession. This is stalking. This is intimate partner violence.
“You” crosses the line between a healthy and extremely unhealthy relationship while highlighting concepts of gaslighting and abusive behavior. We need to stop acting as if these behaviors are normal. In today’s world, it is extremely important to know the signs of dating violence and obsessive behaviors. Not only could knowing these warning signs help someone you love, it just might just save their life.
Here are some signs of dating violence you might have missed while watching “You:”
Remember when Joe watched Beck from her window every night? From the very first episode, it was clear that Joe’s infatuation for Beck was an obsession rather than an attraction. Many victims of dating violence and abuse never see it coming, and their abuser wants it that way. They build them up with gifts, love and affection. The victim doesn’t see these as obsessive behaviors because it feels nice to be worried about. Abusers make you reliant on their affection and then flip the switch.
Remember when Joe stole Beck’s phone and constantly checked her messages to find out where she was, who she was with and what she was doing? This is a huge red flag. If your partner is constantly reading your messages or going through your phone, that’s not love, that’s controlling behavior. Trust is a major part of a relationship. If your partner can’t trust you or is constantly wondering where you are (more than just checking in), this could be an early warning sign of emotional abuse.
Remember when Joe eliminated Beck’s friends one at a time and justified his behaviors as “doing what’s best?” We won’t give any spoilers here, but abusers often wear the mask of the perfect boyfriend/girlfriend while isolating their partner from their friends and family. Their partner is blinded by the thought that someone has their best interests in mind and is looking after them. Once this happens and their abuser turns on them, victims believe they have nowhere to turn (which is not true at all!). They’ve pushed everyone away who had a “weird feeling” about their significant other. Our point? If your friends and family feel uneasy about the person you are dating, hear them out.
Remember how Joe ensured Beck just couldn’t stay away from him? Too often, victims return to their abusers. With excuses such as “I’ll never do it again,” “It was a lapse of judgement,” “I love you, can’t you forgive me?” Some individuals truly believe that their partner won’t hurt them again if they go back. It is important to know the warning signs, as abusers will tell you anything you want to hear to regain control.
While “You” is completely fictional, parts of it aren’t so far from reality. If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse, dating violence or any of the above situations, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
For many, that light comes from Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC)’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) program, the region’s most comprehensive sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence center, offering victim services to patients across their lifespan — at no charge to the patient.
Laura Clary is clinical program manager of the SAFE Program at GBMC; her email is LCLARY@gbmc.org. GBMC’s fourth annual “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event to benefit the SAFE and DV programs will be held April 6th at 9 a.m. in front of the South Chapman building on GBMC’s Main Campus (6545 N. Charles St. Towson, MD 21204).