What is the common link threaded through the Sunday evening bombshell interview between Oprah Winfrey, Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, and Prince Harry? One simple yet unstated word – by the royals themselves and the media coverage:
When it comes to abuse, people are quick to think of child abuse or domestic violence. When people think of domestic violence, they often think of physical abuse that involves bleeding and hospitalization. I am here to tell you the truth.
Abuse is so much more.
And abuse is all I could hear as I listened to the scandalous accusations from Sunday night’s interview.
Many of my clients with a history of abuse report a more insidious form of abuse, that is abuse of a more verbal or emotional nature. This is the type of abuse that gets minimized. I would argue it is as damaging, or even more so, as it hits in a way that can be hard to put your finger on; hard to define. But it wreaks havoc on the psyche and soul; it does so in such a way that it is hard to lay out and explain to others who are not living it.
I will venture to lay out eight parallels, labeled in the interview as a lack of “support”, and explain how they actually fit clearly in the paradigm of abuse. Don’t let the fact that this doesn’t involve a parent to a child, or a spouse to a partner confuse the situation. This is an institution acting as all of the above, after all, the institution is made up of individuals acting in accord.
Power and Control: Abuse is all about power and control, this is the tool used to maintain power. The extent of the control is laid out at every corner of the interview. Here, I will go into more detail.
Medical Neglect: This is quite simply the refusal of providing medical care to an individual. Ms. Markle identified many efforts to go to an “institution” due to experiencing suicidal thoughts so intense and dire she had to say it out loud or she feared she would act on them. “The Firm” as they referenced it, or at times “The Institution”, would simply not allow her. This places this larger bureaucracy in a parentified role. Both the Duchess and Prince Harry spoke of many attempts to get mental health care, yet their attempts were denied. Normally we don’t think of neglect in relation to able bodied adults, but this type of institutionalized system creates a unique dynamic.
Removal Of Personal Effects: Ms. Markle reported when she entered the marriage her passport, license, and keys were taken from her. This is an example of abuse, cutting an individual off from their identity and ability to freely leave their home. Essentially, the interview seemed to suggest a sense of being imprisoned in their own estate, as Meghan referenced not leaving in four months.
Isolation: To the prior point, clearly removing personal effects isolates a person, but Ms. Markle further went on to state she wasn’t approved by the staff to go dine with a friend. This type of permission requirement again brings us back to a highly parentified system, and one that marks how she didn’t even have control over her own whereabouts.
Punishment: I want to make this very clear, when abusers do not get their way, they resort to punishment. Punishment was such an ongoing theme in the interview that it seemed at the slightest push from the couple, punishment ensued. Some examples include: Prince Charles not taking Harry’s phone calls, removing titles for their children (with far reaching effects that extend beyond mere words), and not allowing them the privilege to work part time as their cousins and other family members are naturally afforded. Furthermore, more punishment and intimidation appeared to be present a few days before the airing of the interview, when negative staff reports were released accusing Meghan of being terrible to work for. Here’s another fact of abusers, they often accuse their victims of abuse, I suspect this could be in operation here: Abusers Often Accuse Their Victims Of Abuse.
Placing Them In a Dangerous Situation, Intentionally: Perhaps the most devastating of all the admissions in my opinion, was the outright punishment and intimidation by “The Firm” in their reported decision to remove the family’s security. This is a shocking move, and possibly the cruelest of those reported. Prince Harry said so himself, he was born into the risk that goes with being a royal. Removing security detail from a royal, whose own mother was killed due to a paparazzi car crash, could result in so many dangerous possibilities, even death, like his mother. Punishment like this goes hand in hand with another abuser tactic: Intimidation. Oxford dictionary defines this verb as: (To) "Frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants."
These are simply a few common examples of how abusers manipulate and abuse, but to me they were the heavy hitters presented in Sunday evening’s interview. There are likely so many more.
The reported racism of the royal couple, and clearly demonstrated in the print media is another topic entirely. But these acts are also abusive: commenting on the potential skin color of a future child in a degrading manner, comparing their precious son to an animal that has been historically used as a racist euphemism, providing the Duchess and Prince with a different set of rules to follow…the list goes on and on. I would even argue that not providing the Duchess with professional support, such as in learning the National Anthem are more examples of neglect, in that it left me wondering if the monarchy was quite possibly hoping to watch them fail, but utilizing a passive aggressive approach to avoid the appearance of any direct responsibility.
Last but not least, I applaud Prince Harry and Duchess Markle for having the courage and strength to stand up to such an overwhelming system, and their move to shifting what has likely been centuries worth of generational patterns of abuse for their family, which direly needs to be addressed. Prince Harry is a courageous and brave husband, Duchess Markle is a bold and strong woman, and their son is very fortunate to have them as parents.
What did I leave out? What would you like to add? Please feel free to comment.