While the highly acclaimed Netflix series Maid, based on Stephanie Land‘s memoir (Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive) has no shortage of important themes, e.g., single motherhood, poverty, childhood trauma, and mental health, what I want to single out in this post is the emotional abuse that lands 20-something Alex (brilliantly played by Margaret Qualley) into her multi-episode life-changing predicament.
Kristen Lopez, Indiewire, sets up Maid:
The audience meets Alex as she’s embarking on a transition far too many have to make: fleeing in the middle of the night, trying not to wake her boyfriend, Sean (Nick Robinson), in order to protect her daughter (and herself) from the emotionally abusive alcoholic. Alex and her child make it out, but that’s only the beginning of where series creator Molly Smith Metzler takes us throughout the series.
At first, though, even Alex herself seems unaware, or unwilling to admit, that Sean has actually been abusive. She doesn’t understand why a domestic violence shelter is recommended to her by a caseworker.
Amy Polacko, Ms: “…Alex is brainwashed by society to believe abuse is purely physical—so the young mom doesn’t even realize she’s a victim.”
The most stunning part of this series that’s taking America by storm is not that it expertly depicts the cycle of abuse. It’s Alex’s metamorphosis along the way—because this mirrors the forces at work in our country right now. Ultimately, Maid begs the question: If a few states are following the United Kingdom’s lead by passing coercive control laws, are we as Americans ready to put emotional abuse on par with physical?
Gina Michele Yaniz, Hollywood Reporter: “‘Maid’ challenges the government’s definition of domestic abuse and urges lawmakers to accept that abuse transcends just physicality and violence, it translates to emotional torture that can ruin someone’s life if they don’t have the resources to free themselves from the shackles of an abusive relationship.”
Psychologist Valeria Sabater, Exploring Your Mind, regarding the specifics of Sean’s abusive behavior:
He doesn’t ever physically assault Alex or her daughter. However, violence is exercised through shouting, threats, contempt, and the desire to isolate and emotionally control her.
An important post for abuse survivors by Amanda Kippert, Domesticshelters.org, first warns of the possible triggering viewers may experience while watching Maid. Then Kippert outlines “The 6 Things Maid Got Spot-On” (and one thing they got wrong).
1. Nonphysical abuse is abuse.
2. Lack of money is a major barrier for single mom survivors to leave an abuser.
3. Nonphysical abuse often goes unreported.
4. Pregnancy can trigger violence.
5. Childhood domestic violence victims are at increased risk for abuse as adults.
6. Survivors are often treated less-than.
And the thing they depicted unfairly? You don’t need to have a police report to call a shelter.