10 signs of an abusive relationship – a Twilight reading

A few of the possibly more critical and aware fans around have pointed out how many key signs of abusive relationships can be seen in Edward’s treatment of his human girlfriend Bella in Twilight, so I thought I’d have a look at the UK’s advice on recognising abuse and see what I could find in the quadrilogy of books.

Below is a nationally recognised list of 10 warning signs for abusive relationships from Women’s Aid, a national UK charity that works to stop domestic and sexual abuse. How many traits of Edwards can we see here?

When you’re done having a look through, take a look at some fan reactions here.

1. Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening…
‘Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes.’

‘Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant.’

‘Don’t be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So try not to fall into the ocean or get run over or anything, all right?’

‘Must I always be the responsible one?’

2. Pressure tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold things, commit suicide, etc.; lying to your friends and family about you; telling you that you have no choice; intimidation…

How many times does Bella fear Edward’s reaction to something? How many times does Edward recite dangerous consequences to her actions? How many times does Edward lie to her dad about her whereabouts and welfare?

Didn’t he know me at all? He wasn’t expecting the force of my reaction, that was clear. He pressed his lips together and his eyes narrowed. ‘Don’t be difficult, Bella.’

‘Edward, let’s just talk this through.’
‘You don’t understand.’
‘There are options.’
Edward turned on her in fury, his voice a blistering snarl. ‘There-is–no–other-option!’

‘Damn it, Bella! You’ll be the death of me, I swear you will.’

In what strange parallel dimension would I ever have gone to prom of my own free will? If you weren’t a thousand times stronger than me, I would never have let you get away with this.

‘Well, I wasn’t going to live without you… I was thinking maybe I would go to Italy and do something to provoke the Volturi… Anyway, you don’t irritate the Volturi. Not unless you want to die—or whatever it is we do.’

‘I thought I’d explained it clearly before. Bella, I can’t live in a world where you don’t exist.’

3. Disrespect: putting you down in front of other people; not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting your telephone calls; refusing to help…
The extracts in #1 contribute towards a general lack of respect, along with his general air of always thinking he knows what’s best for her and making decisions on her behalf.

4. Breaking trust: lying; withholding information; being jealous; breaking promises and shared agreements…
Withholding information about things that directly concern her own safety, being jealous of her relationship with her best guy-friend for the entirety of the novels…

5. Isolation: monitoring or blocking your phone calls; telling you where you can and cannot go; preventing you from seeing friends and relatives…
Forbidding her to see her best bud, Jacob, bribing his sister to follow her during times that he couldn’t, sabotaging her truck so she couldn’t leave…

‘No werewolves.’
’I’m not going along with that. I have to see Jacob.’
’Then I’ll have to stop you.’
He sounded utterly confident that this wouldn’t be a problem. I was sure he was right.

‘Overprotective isn’t he?’ Jacob said, talking just to me. ‘A little trouble makes life fun. Let me guess, you’re not allowed to have fun, are you?’

6. Harassment: following you; checking up on you; checking to see who has phoned you; embarrassing you in public…
Breaking into her house to watch her sleep without her permission (before they’ve even started dating), following her…

‘I followed you back to Port Angeles,’ he admitted, speaking in a rush. ‘I’ve never tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it’s much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that’s probably just because it’s you.’

I twisted them hard to the left, but instead of roaring deafeningly to life, the engine just clicked. I tried it again with the same results. And then a small motion in my peripheral vision made me jump. ‘Gah!’ I gasped in shock when I saw that I was not alone in the cab. Edward sat very still, a faint bright spot in the darkness, only his hands moving as he turned a mysterious black object around and around. He stared at the object as he spoke. ‘Alice called.’ he murmured. Alice! Damn. I’d forgotten to account for her in my plans. He must have her watching me.

‘I wasn’t about to send you off alone. With your luck, not even the black box would survive.’

7. Threats: making angry gestures; using physical size to intimidate; shouting you down; breaking things; punching walls…
He lowered the automatic window and leaned toward me across the seat. ‘Get in, Bella.’ I didn’t answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching the truck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren’t good. ‘I’ll just drag you back,’ he threatened, guessing my plan.

‘Now relax before I call the nurse back to sedate you.’

8. Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex…
Thankfully, no.

9. Physical violence: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling…
Thankfully, no. He does well to restrain those urges until they spend their first night together.

10. Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abusive
behaviour; being publicly gentle and patient; crying and begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again…
His actions are never questioned by anyone in the books, so there is no suggestion that denial is ever needed.

Grand Total: 8 out of 10
: Edward’s possessiveness might be seen as romantic and caring, and his mood swings might be seen as a symptom of his predatory nature, but you cannot deny the presence of these abusive themes.

It’ll come as no surprise that the fans haven’t reacted too kindly to these ideas. What do you think?


30 thoughts on “10 signs of an abusive relationship – a Twilight reading

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  2. I think 9 should be checked, isn’t there a point in New Moon where he throws her into a table or something? I don’t know the books, but I think I remember that happening.

    • That one is more of an accident, Jasper was having an urge to kill her and he shoved her out of the way in an attempt to protect her but instead she feel through the table.

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  5. I’m writing about the Twilight books for my dissertation and I can confirm that this is all accurate. Edwards character is controlling, manipulative and abusive, Bella actually fears angry reactions from him and her life pretty much revolves around making him happy. Although in the books he is portrayed as loving and concerned, which suggests Bella accepts his behavior because ‘he’s doing out of love’ (not a quote from the book, just something a lot of abused victims say)

    • Precisely. It’s actually an extremely common abuse tactic to cycle between loving and kind and angry and abusive. The result is that the victim blames themselves, thinking “but they’re so nice, I’m complaining about nothing”, or “it’s my fault”, or “they just had a bad day”.

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  9. Also the relationship with her father & Jacob never sat right with me, either. When Jacob kissed her, (despite her protests and her telling him she wasn’t interested), after she hurt her hand by hitting him, all her father could do was laugh at her, and offer Jacob an “atta boy”… (If you recall the father seemed to push hard for those 2 to be together.)

  10. In #7, you could also add the fact that in New Moon, when he was out-voted in terms of turning Bella, He goes in a rage and breaks a television in another room. (The book doesn’t explicitly say its a television but Stephanie Meyer confirmed it was.)

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  15. I would argue #10 does happen. Jacob is concerned about their relationship but it’s always played off as jealousy until he becomes a pedo

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  17. I say #2 is inaccurate because he does threaten with suicide but not to make her stay, but to keep her from danger, i.e., dying. He was the one who left in New Moon, so obviously he is fine with them not being together. The only reason why he wanted to die was because he thought she was dead, and he couldn’t live in a world where Bella doesn’t exist, not in a world where Bella is not with him.

    • Except saying that kind of thing at all, no matter the kind of relationship, is one of the most emotionally manipulative things you can do. It guilts the person into staying with you, it makes them feel awful, and gives you extremely powerful ammunition to control them.

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  21. Since Meyers is changing genders of the main characters but leaving everything else intact will this still be considered a abusive relationship.

    • Well said. I do see abusive traits in their relationship, but you alsonly have to consider all the details. Edward is frozen in his mindset as a human(a mindset of where the man is in charge), he is a bloodthirsty vampire, and he can’t live without her because once a change happens in a vampire it’s irreversable. I’m not saying that the relationship shown in the books was the best, but I believe that after Bella was turned into a vampire, Edward wasn’t as controlling because her safety wasn’t threatened.

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