Fifty Shades of Abuse

original image from Graphic by:Steven Potter

Written by: Stephanie Rodriquez, Media by: Steven Potter

Fifty Shades of Abuse, an event held by Suzanne Ford, a Greenville College student, was held on February 11 in the Upper Union. The purpose of this event was to inform students about abusive relationships and signs that differentiate an abusive and healthy relationship after the controversy Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romance novel, caused by the promotion of the movie, released February 13.

Group meets in upper union for 50 shades of Abuse event. Media by: Steven Potter
Group meets in upper union for 50 shades of Abuse event. Media by: Steven Potter

In her introduction to the event, Ford said, “Knowing that a lot of my friends liked the book, it worried me because of how literature and media can affect us. I wanted to start discussion so people could look a bit more critically at the relationship portrayed in the book.”

The book got a lot of publicity for several months and it became a topic of discussion about the relationship between the main characters, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, and the reality of abusive relationships.

The Journal of Women’s health did research on Fifty Shades of Grey to identify abuse within the book. Many authors read it and wrote summaries to the ongoing themes within the book. There was a consistency in the analysis, reviews and discussions to have conclusive results.

The study explained that about 50% of women who read books similar to Fifty Shades of Grey are more likely to drink, become anorexic, be bullied, or become involved in an abusive relationship. After reading multiple articles, Ms. Ford felt strongly about communicating with the community of Greenville College and inform them that literature and media creates big impacts into people’s lives.

Suzanne Ford writes abusive behavior on whiteboard. Photo by:Steven potter
Suzanne Ford writes abusive behavior on whiteboard. Photo by:Steven potter

As she gave a summary on the book, she listed some signs of abuse like manipulation, stalking, coercion, denial, blame, being jealous of friends, control, provoking fights, and the list continues. Consent became one of the biggest factors of the book because Christian wanted Ana to sign a contract for their BDSM relationship. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines consent as “to agree to do or allow something: to give permission for something to happen or be done.” An absence of no, does not mean yes.

During her presentation she stated, “Surprisingly many college students don’t know what to do when their friends are in abusive relationships.”

After much information was given, Ms. Ford passed out some note cards and the audience was to write one physical and one emotional abuse. After a while everyone gave input on what red flags can be and how to detect them.

Some red flags to be on the lookout are as follows;


Emotional Abuse                                                                                      Physical Abuse

–       Threatening self-harm                                                                    –       Isolation

–       Insults                                                                                                –       Aggression/temper

–       Compulsive liar                                                                                –       Yelling

–       Controlling                                                                                        –       Dominance

–       Not supportive                                                                                 –       Unwanted physical touch

–       Derogatory humor                                                                          –       Cyclical: blowups and apologies

–       Projection                                                                                         –       Controlling (clothes, make up, etc.)

–       Passive/Aggressive


Several books like the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, and First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones, and movies portray some form of abuse but they become romanticized so that viewers don’t notice the abuse occurring. Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty portray some form of physical or emotional abuse. Most plots in movies have this idea that sacrificing something to get into a relationship is noble and ideal.

Cheyenne Klein, an attendee of the event said, “It broadened my view of what abuse is and signs of abuse. Learning about the actual definition of emotional abuse helped me look back on friends’ relationships and notice a lot of the signs of abuse. This is going to change how I view relationships in the future and make me more critical when I do see bad signs.”

Ms. Ford’s goal for Fifty Shades of Abuse was to get people to think about this issue, find articles and research the topic more, and to think critically of where the line is between enjoying literature and the real-life relationship.

An interview with Suzanne Ford is shown below



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