Last night’s episode of Love Island was nothing short of shocking – and not because of the dramatic re-coupling that we had anticipated for days.
Viewers were treated to a worrying display of manipulation and emotional abuse, and insight into exactly why islanders require mental health support when they leave the villa.
Here’s a quick recap: during a private chat, Joe Garratt – who is exceedingly jealous of Lucie Donlan’s budding friendship with Tommy Fury – said he isn’t happy with the pair hanging out, and tells her ‘it’s time to maybe get closer to the girls’.
He said this despite Lucie expressing that she doesn’t enjoy their company as much, and then proceeds into guilt-tripping her and making subtle threats to end their relationship if she doesn’t comply.
A certain level of jealousy in a relationship is only natural but this behaviour isn’t normal, it’s known as gaslighting. Over time, a gaslighter will make his or her partner doubt their own sanity and step by step, they erode their self-confidence in an attempt to control them.
What’s more, the gaslighter will often isolate their partner. After their conversation, where Lucie was visibly upset, only one person went to check if she was OK. Meanwhile, several people offered their support to Joe. He even had a happy chat with Molly-Mae Hague, where the two joked about swapping partners.
As someone who has been in an emotionally abusive relationship, I felt uncomfortable watching this play out. Years ago, I had a partner who gradually broke down my confidence and regularly told me ‘everyone hates you’ (this wasn’t the case) and used to throw verbal abuse at me in a quiet, whispering tone, which meant that almost no one believed me when I told them about it.
They never heard him yell and he had never hit me, so surely there was no cause for concern? It took me years to bounce back from this relationship and I suffered mental health problems at the time, because of it.
Mental abuse is just as painful as physical abuse, because the other person chips away at who you are for such a long time that once you finally come up for air and escape the situation, you might not recognise yourself anymore.
I wasn’t alone in how I felt last night. Twitter was awash with people, both men and women, calling for Joe to get kicked out of the villa and one woman tweeted to say she had reported the incident to Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, because she had ‘been through that exact thing’.
I’ve reported to Ofcom. I feel sick watching having been through that exact thing.
— Nina Sawetz (@nina_future) June 16, 2019
What’s most concerning is perhaps that Love Island producers chose to use this moment as entertainment. While islanders are banned from masturbating in the villa (which is a completely healthy thing to do), they are apparently more than welcome to abuse each other, so long as it makes for good TV.
Sherif Lanre was axed for allegedly using racial slurs and kicking Molly-Mae in the crotch, but I fail to see how Joe’s behaviour is any less offensive. This isn’t the first time he’s done this either; at the start of the show, he was so possessive of Lucie that several of the other islanders, including Amy Hart, protested.
Viewers on the other hand compared him to one of the main characters from Netflix’s You, the murderer and stalker, also named Joe.
The most dangerous part in showing the scene between Joe and Lucie, and condoning it by letting him stay in the villa, is that it normalises gaslighting and emotional abuse.
Let’s not forget that many Love Island viewers are young, impressionable teenagers who may not understand or recognise what took place on screen. Lucie herself is only 21 years old.
Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as ‘an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour’ – in other words, a partner doesn’t have to hit you for it to quality as domestic abuse.
A recent study also revealed that domestic abuse victims are three times more likely to suffer from mental illness, including conditions such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
With that in mind, if ITV, as it claims, truly cares about the mental health and well-being of the people taking part in its show, producers should review their guidelines, all of the contestants should receive emotional support and Joe should get kicked out, immediately.