You will have heard a lot about a man called Adam this week. He’s a contestant on this year’s Love Island, a show he entered in order to find a “real” relationship – or, at least that’s what he says. He was first positioned as the island’s best looking boy, there to tempt the girls away from their original couples, but has quickly become the resident villain due to his manipulative, gaslighting behaviour towards every woman he shows interest in. As a result, Adam has been called out by viewers, commentators, and now, Women’s Aid.
In a statement released yesterday, the domestic violence charity pointed to the “clear warning signs” in Adam’s behaviour in the villa. “In a relationship, a partner questioning your memory of events, trivialising your thoughts or feelings, and turning things around to blame you can be part of pattern of gaslighting and emotional abuse,” the statement read. “We ask viewers to join her in recognising unhealthy behaviour in relationships and speaking out against all forms of domestic abuse – emotional as well as physical. It is only when we make a stand together against abuse in relationships that we will see attitudes change and an end to domestic abuse.”
It’s not difficult to see that the said warning signs Women’s Aid have highlighted are blatantly choreographed by Adam, if you know what you’re looking for. When Rosie asked Adam why he was ignoring her after the arrival of new girl Zara, he told her that she didn’t need to worry. Just a day later, after boasting about his attraction to Zara to other islanders, he was calling Rosie a “child” and accused her of acting defensively. When later confronted about his behaviour, he kept smirking in the face of her tears – a tactic employed to further upset her and illicit an emotional reaction. Once that happened, Adam could capitalise on what he saw as over-emotional behaviour, and place the burden of blame on to her – allowing him to swan off to Zara and start the process all over again.
Adam’s gaslighting, manipulative actions towards the girls he supposedly likes in the villa are being broadcast to young women, some of whom will be learning what constitutes a healthy relationship
Through Women’s Aid’s branding of Adam’s behaviour as emotional abuse, the charity is correctly highlighting this classic case of gaslighting Rosie. All the more worrying is that it’s not the first time we’ve seen Adam make someone doubt their own perception of reality, after he convinced previous partner Kendall he wasn’t interested in Rosie. He dumped her in favour of Rosie just days later.
A statement from Women’s Aid isn’t to be taken lightly, and it’s not the first time the charity has had to speak out about an islander’s behaviour. Last year, then CEO Polly Neate called Johnny’s controlling nature, after he said that a new boy entering the villa would have to “pry” his partner Tyla from his “cold dead hands.” It’s easy to brush this off as “banter” – as Johnny tried to – but the weight of a denouncement from such a respected charity scuppers this defence entirely.
“[Rosie] has started a conversation,” said Women’s Aid chief executive Katie Ghose on ITV’s This Morning, “This isn’t real life. It’s fun, it’s television. But it’s also a chance to have a conversation about healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships.” Ghose goes on to explain that should Adam’s gaslighting go on, without being called out or challenged, it’s likely that patterns of abuse would begin to emerge.
The counter argument is that this is a reality TV show, it’s a game, not reality – Rosie and Adam weren’t even in a relationship. But Love Island’s viewer demographics are – as you would expect – mostly female, and the show regularly has a 56% share of 16-35 year olds watching. It’s likely that many younger girls are watching too. Adam’s gaslighting, manipulative actions towards the girls he supposedly likes in the villa are being broadcast to young women, some of whom will be learning what constitutes a healthy relationship. Someone, somewhere might just recognise Adam’s behaviour in their own life, and when a women’s protection charity like Women's Aid firmly and categorically says it’s wrong, may seek the help she needs.
Adam’s speciality is getting women to question their version of events, and creating emotional weapons out of their own anxieties. But this assertion from Women’s Aid is making things very clear. It’s a strong, unequivocal message: this behaviour is unacceptable.