What are the signs of a toxic relationship?
Signs of a toxic relationship can vary from being extremely obvious to being a little more concealed, however, some include jealousy, controlling behaviors, lying, ignoring your needs, constant stress, hoping for change, and walking on eggshells.
At Modern Match lingerie we've taken the month of November, Woman Abuse Prevention Month, to share the stories of women who have survived abuse, overcome it or continue to, and are creating change in the society we live in.
We reached out to Marie Humbert via Instagram earlier this year and had the opportunity to interview the Swiss-Ghanian Actress. Marie is an activist for gender-based violence and is an abuse survivor herself. In her interview Marie speaks about living in a toxic relationship and the changes that needs to be made on a global level.
MM: Hey Marie, thank you for agreeing to be a part of our interview series this month. First and foremost, let’s let our audience get to know you a bit! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Marie: My name is Marie Humbert, I’m an actress, content creator, art consultant, social activist and advocate. My father is from Switzerland and my mother is from Ghana, I’m fluent in French and English. I’ve lived in nine countries spanning across four continents. I love to travel, movies, books, food and fashion, particularly the French effortless, ‘garçonne’ style and more recently bold African designers. Along with acting, I devote my time to women’s empowerment and raising awareness around gender-based violence (GBV). I’ve been living in Ghana for the past six years but relocated back to Europe earlier this year. One of my personal goals is to celebrate, connect and support African creative talents.
MM: Thank you for sharing and letting us get to know ya a bit better! You’re an advocate in ending gender-based violence, at what time was your spark ignited? When did you go “this is something I need to be advocate for?”
Marie: I have always felt the need to stand up for gender equality and women’s rights, there is no doubt that I am a proud feminist. Moving to Ghana a few years back was definitely an awakening. Women in Ghana are the rocks of the nation, they hold everything together, they work, provide for their families, take care of their children while simultaneously keeping up with all the household duties. Yet, patriarchy is so deeply rooted that most women are underpaid, undervalued and at constant risk. Harmful methods such as FGM and child marriage are still accepted and practiced in some regions. Silence culture, social stigmatisation, victim blaming and shaming are some of the tactics used to keep GBV in the dark, treated as a taboo subject rather than the global epidemic it undeniably is.
GBV and gender inequality are intricately linked, we must hold perpetrators accountable and protect the vulnerable. Personally, it got to a point where I just couldn’t stay silent and felt a strong urge to be a part of the change I want to see.
MM: Wow, I could imagine that living in it and seeing it first hand would definitely trigger an awakening. I understand that this can be hard to open up about, but I believe that you yourself are an abuse survivor, would you mind sharing a bit of your story with us? How did you reclaim your power?
Marie: Growing up with a strong mother figure, I never doubted the power I possess as a woman. However, life is unpredictable and you get tested all the time. I found myself dating a ‘bad boy’ in my early twenties and that obviously shifted everything. However, it wasn’t until I was out of that toxic relationship that I realized how traumatized it had left me. There is a lot of misconception around the idea that victims of abuse are in full control of whether or not they can leave. Abusers use many techniques that for instance, consists first in ‘love bombing’ to gain your trust, once they have it, they proceed to destroy your self-esteem and isolate you.
Being able to recognize when you are the victim of emotional and psychological abuse is not as clear and straightforward, you are so gaslit that you confuse toxicity for ‘passion’. In my case, this abusive relationship that I misinterpreted for passion, allowed the physical abuse to be forgiven in the constant hope that it will never happen again. My abuser would usually perform grand gestures in pleading for forgiveness. He would assure me it would never happen again, tell me how much he loves me which is why he acts so ‘crazy’, or worse, make me feel like I had a role to play in his violence towards me. Making the decision to stay or to leave is extremely delicate and dangerous, you are so terrorized, you feel you simply cannot leave. I’m so grateful that in the end I managed to leave, that is how I took the first, most important and crucial step in reclaiming my power.
MM: That is so true, what you said about recognizing abuse sometimes…especially when you love someone. What made you confident enough to finally speak your truth, and why do you think it is important for women to continue to find their voices and share their stories?
Marie: Stories and experiences vary, as much as I always want to respect a victim’s choice, staying in an abusive relationship of any sort is never the answer. It is important to underline that 1 in 3 women and girls worldwide have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual, emotional/psychological violence in their lifetime.
As women, we are taught to be strong, brave enough to keep it together, to do it all (and well) but there is nothing wrong in being soft. On the contrary, there is power in accepting and nurturing your softness. There is also power in accepting your vulnerability and there are many people waiting to listen, help, support, love and care. Always remember that you not alone. There is immeasurable strength in having the courage to be seen and heard just as you are.
In all honesty, it took me years to feel comfortable to talk about any of this. I think I was keeping it to myself in an attempt to protect my reputation but no amount of guilt, regret, self-blaming endured in silence can make it all disappear. Finding your tribe, sharing your experience with them and being heard changes your life. It helps you to reconnect and believe in yourself.
Reclaiming your power over abuse is being gentle, kind and patient with yourself, it is definitely not a one stop destination but a life-long journey.
MM: My mother always used to say that in certain situations only time can heal wounds. But yes time and finding women with similar experiences to support you sounds ideal. What do you think people can do in their day-to-day lives to create change against gender-based violence?
Marie: Talk, talk and talk openly about GBV. Check the numbers, they are alarming, GBV is in a state of emergency. Don’t stay silent when you see, hear or experience something off or blatantly wrong, especially if you are a man. If you witness a friend or loved one in trouble, step in and stand by them the best way you can. If the person is a stranger, don’t leave them stranded and come in aid however you can. Pay attention and listen, keep checking yourself when it comes to victim-shaming, we are not always aware when we partake in it. Choose to believe the victim first and hold the perpetrator accountable.
MM: What are your thoughts on calling gender-based abuse, Violence Against Women?
Marie: In his TED talk ‘Violence Against Women, It’s a Men’s Issue’ (which I urge everyone to watch right away), Jackson Katz states, “the term violence against women is problematic. It’s a passive construction. There’s no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at that term violence against women, nobody is doing it to them. It just happens. Men aren’t even a part of it!”
We need men to be allies but not just by saying it, by actively doing it and showing up. We need to hold more GBV awareness-raising campaigns that fully involve men. Men are at large the perpetrator of violence towards both women and men. ‘Women and girls often comprise the largest number of people targeted and are the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because of their age, gender, and social status.’ If we do not make sure to include men in the conversation then we are not dealing with the issue at all. As the non-profit organisation Kare For Women puts it, “It is not the responsibility of women to ensure they do not become victims, it is the responsibility of men to ensure they do not become perpetrators. We therefore challenge all men to make active effort to ensure that they do not perpetuate the culture of violence against women at any level, or allow other men to do so, by holding each other accountable. Without perpetrators, we have no victims.”
MM: Honestly, I had never even thought of “violence against women” like that before, but you are so right that makes so much sense. What is one piece of advice that you would give a woman in an abusive relationship?
Marie: It is never your fault, please talk to someone you trust.
MM: Before I ask you our last question, Marie, I want to say thank you to you for sharing your story with us. If you could speak to your 13-year-old self, what would you tell her?
Marie: Protect your energy and space, trust your instincts.
Marie Humbert - Marie is a Swiss-Ghanaian actress, content creator, art consultant, social activist and advocate. She played one of the five female leads, Makena, in the international hit web and TV series An African City which was featured in The New York Times, Hollywood Reporter and CNN. She is currently producing a content series set to be released next year, she is an Oxfam Ghana Enough! Project Advocate and Women Matter Cup Ambassador 2021, both advocating against GBV on the African continent.
Connect with Mary on Instagram
If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who is these are resources to help you find supports in the country you live in: