There Are Lessons We Can All Learn From THAT Strictly Scandal

There Are Lessons We Can All Learn From THAT Strictly Scandal

    By Rhiannon Evans Posted on 17 Oct 2018

    Think of Strictly Come Dancing, and colour, sparkle and oak-stain fake tans come to mind. But last week, everything turned grey as that Seann Walsh story moved from a drunken kiss to a murky debate on sexual politics – and for some, self-reflection about our own relationships.

    Comedian Seann and his dance partner, Katya Jones, were caught kissing outside a pub – and days later the pictures were everywhere. Seann (in a five-year relationship with actor Rebecca Humphries) and Katya (married to fellow Strictly dancer Neil) publicly apologised for what they said was a drunken mistake.

    But juicy gossip turned into a national hot topic when Rebecca tweeted that she’d left Seann (taking their pet cat). On the night of the kiss – her birthday – she’d expressed concern about something going on.

    ‘He aggressively, and repeatedly, called me a psycho/nuts/mental,’ she wrote. ‘As he has done countless times through our relationship when I’ve questioned his inappropriate, hurtful behaviour.’

    Suddenly, the narrative changed. It’s not the first time the so-called ‘Strictly curse’ has hit. But this is Strictly in post-#MeToo 2018. By saying Seann dismissed her claims as ‘psycho’, Rebecca was alleging his behaviour erred towards coercive control and gaslighting. The process of manipulating someone psychologically by making them doubt their own sanity, gaslighting is now highlighted by charities as a sign of mental abuse.

    Charities came out to support Rebecca and some called on him to be sacked Seann last week appeared on companion show It Takes Two to apologise, saying, ‘The people that know me the most, that love me, they know that I am not the person I’m being portrayed as. I’m still sorry for what I did, but it’s very important for me to get that out there.’

    His appearance received mixed reactions; not least because since Rebecca’s statement, other stories of Walsh’s bad behaviour have emerged – one about him flirting with actress Emily Atack two years ago; another claim about him publicly humiliating Rebecca during a holiday. People are also looking at his past jokes (like moaning he was ‘not allowed to come home drunk’ because of Rebecca) in a new light.

    Soon, the truth of he said/she said became less relevant than the outpouring on social media saying that they recognised such dismissive behaviour. It prompted us to look back at former toxic relationships, or at our friends’ troubling current situations; opening debate and reflection.

    The ‘grey’ nature of the situation makes this Strictly debacle endlessly debatable – and relatable. Not grey in the sense that calling someone ‘a psycho’ is right or wrong – but more illuminating that real life is messy. In the way that people have their own standards for what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable – standards that can change over time; grey in the sense that many of us can look back and only now see something maybe wasn’t right at the time; grey in that you could ask all of your friends about the story and hear each one express a different opinion.

    Most of us – fortunately, hopefully – have never encountered a Harvey Weinstein, a man who allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted women and now stands trial for rape (which he denies). He seems a black-and-white ‘bad guy’. But most of us have met a Seann (or at least the Seann that Rebecca claimed he is), someone who’s made us second-guess ourselves.

    The grey area is so much bigger than the black and white – it’s the place most of us can relate to. It’s also a place any of us could find ourselves in. You might not feel controlled, abused or want to walk away, but would you rather your partner didn’t use certain language? Do you wish they wouldn’t dismiss you when you question something?

    ‘If you recognise a pattern of these unhealthy behaviours and feel as though your partner’s behaviour is having a negative impact on your wellbeing and self-esteem or is even making you change your behaviour, then it might be that you’re not just in an unhealthy relationship but with someone who is abusive,’ advises Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid.

    ‘Emotional and psychological abuse can often be difficult to recognise and build up the confidence to escape from. But if you’re feeling unsure about your partner’s behaviour, it is never too early or late to reach out for support.’

    She may have started a debate that lands in the grey, but Rebecca’s response has been crystal clear. ‘I have a voice,’ she wrote, ‘and I will use it by saying this to any woman out there who deep down feels trapped with a man they love: believe in yourself and your instincts. It’s more than lying. It’s controlling.’

    This week reminds us that it is possible to walk away from a relationship that’s making you unhappy with dignity and respect. As she says, she’s anything but a victim – she’s shown women who might need it, a way forward.

    If you are worried that your relationship is controlling, visit womensaid.org.uk or call the Freephone 24/7 National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Women’s Aid in partnership with Refuge, on 0808 200 0247.

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