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"Fifty Shades" sparks conversation regarding domestic violence, abusive relationships

February 15, 2015

But that isn’t the only reason it’s received attention.

Some viewers are led to believe actions in the book and the new film are similar to that of sexual or domestic abuse.

Amy Bonomi, professor and chairperson of human development and family studies, conducted two research studies on the first book in the trilogy.

The first study involved analyzing the book and the characters, Anastasia and Christian, while using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of abuse.

“We found abuse was prevalent throughout the book,” Bonomi said. “Christian uses an ‘interlocking pattern of abuse,’ such as stalking and intimidation.”

Psychology junior Jillian Convery, who said she has read the books and saw the movie, said she could see how someone who did not read the books before seeing the movie might find the film “abusive and horrifying.”

“Christian makes it known more than once that if Anastasia is uncomfortable in any way to let him know and he’ll stop,” Convery said of the novel. “She knew going into the relationship what he liked and what he wanted from her and she continued to see him.”

Bonomi said Anastasia’s reactions toward Christian’s actions have been observed among domestic violence victims in the real world.

For the second study, women between the ages of 18 and 24 were surveyed on if they have read the book and the health risks they have experienced.

“We found women who read ‘Fifty Shades’ were more likely than women who didn’t, to have a verbally abusive partner, having a partner with stalking tendencies, having disordered eating, having binge drinking and having five or more intercourse partners in their lifetime,” Bonomi said.

Bonomi said reading the series does not cause these behaviors, but there is association.

“We cannot show causality — that ‘Fifty Shades’ causes these behaviors,” Bonomi said.

Hospitality business senior Kenia Perez-Aragon, who has also read the books and saw the movie over the weekend, said she thought anyone who may have not read the book would perceive the movie as inappropriate.

However, she said she did not think the film glorified sexual or domestic abuse.

“(Christian’s) character is respecting of (Anastasia’s) needs and wants,” Perez-Aragon said. “I don’t think that embodies anything with abuse or taking advantage of someone.”

Bonomi said she is not suggesting people to not see the film, but instead realize what is occurring in it.

“We’re suggesting kids and young adults be taught skills to critically analyze film, fiction and other types of popular culture,” Bonomi said. “There is, in fact, abuse being depicted in that particular video.”


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