I was at a sexual assault and relationship violence workshop today at school, required for all freshmen. And some of the examples of relationship abuse made me think of my favorite television show, The Big Bang Theory. These particular examples are not violence, death threats, or rape. They were listed under the category that some people will heartlessly argue is not abuse, which makes it worse for the people who are being abused because they are misunderstood.
And it chilled me to realize that Leonard Hofstadter is being abused by Priya Koothrapali.
Here are the examples that apply to Leonard and Priya.
1. Telling the person you are dating who they may and may not hang out with.
Priya has prevented Leonard from seeing Penny, someone who was his friend for years before their now ended relationship. Priya did not ask him to stop spending time with Penny, she told Leonard that he “needed” to “cut the cord” with her. (I’m not even going to get into her Skyping her ex-boyfriend just one episode after making Leonard stop all communication with Penny.)
Later, when Leonard wondered aloud why Penny did not tell him that she was leaving the country for a while, Priya asked if he was spending time with her, and when he said no, asked why he’d be surprised that Penny did not tell him. She repeatedly called him asking where he was, and yes, he lied, but he lied because the truth – he was with his guy friends (that did not even include Penny) – would have made Priya upset, and he was ashamed of the real truth, that he was talking to his friends about getting his best friend’s internet stuff back. This brings me to the second point.
2. Belittling people based on their hobbies or their friends, calling them “boys” or “babies” in order to manipulate them into doing what the abuser wants.
“It’s sexy to date a boy trapped in a man’s body.”
That was said to Leonard by Priya as she left his apartment because she was annoyed by the guys obsessing over Sheldon’s internet stuff. She said it in a way that even Sheldon understood she meant it as an insult, and Leonard was so ashamed of this he did not call her to come and pick them up when the car broke down on their journey to get the internet stuff back from the hacker.
Belittling someone you are in a relationship is a form of abuse. And Priya did this to levels that made Leonard uncomfortable to go to her if there was a problem, unless the problem was related to something that Priya deemed acceptable – which we have not seen yet on the show but I’m guessing that she would help him if it was something that she considered to be mature or “good”.
3. Threatening to break – up with them if they don’t do what one wants.
“Give him what he wants or we’re done.”
Priya threatened to end her relationship with Leonard unless he signed Sheldon’s new room mate agreement. Yes, Sheldon was blackmailing her, but it was not Leonard’s fault that Priya’s parents did not know about the relationship, and he was not the one threatening to tell them. Yet she gave him an ultimatum unless he did what she wanted. That is also a form of abuse.
All of these forms that I have listed were gathered by the workshop leaders from legitimate web and text sources. And all of the instances from the show that I listed are canon facts.
Priya Koothrapali is inflicting at least three (and more, less obvious and therefore debatable ones that I have not included here) forms of relationship abuse against Leonard Hofstadter. He is uncomfortable talking to her, she gives him ultimatums and tells him whom he can and cannot see. She is an abusive girlfriend, and that is why I want Leonard out of that relationship as soon as possible.
Before I would just prefer that he not be in the relationship because Priya seemed a little controlling. Now I need him out now, because these less stereotypical ways of abusing someone are terrible for anyone in that kind of relationship. No one deserves it, and no one deserves to be blamed for it.
Please, Leonard. Get yourself out of this relationship.
It’s never your fault. Even if you’re a guy.