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The Psychology of Jessica Jones: Intimate Partner Violence

November 23, 2015
Jessica Jones
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Marvel's Jessica Jones is definitely not created for children. Jessica Jones is a superhero more relatable to a more mature individual. There were a lot of psychological themes in this series, one of the most salient themes being intimate partner violence.

The first episode introduces us to Jessica Jones, a young woman with powers and a drinking problem who has made a name for herself as a private investigator, mostly taking on cases of cheating partners. Jessica takes on the case of a missing college student. The missing girl's parents hire Jessica to discover where their daughter is. In the process of solving this case, Jessica is faced with having to confront her past.

It is revealed that Jessica was the victim of a mind-controller named Kilgrave for some time, and managed to escape. Kilgrave has the power to compel others to do anything he wants with a simple command. In this way, he controlled Jessica, forcing her into a relationship with him during which he also compelled her to do terrible things. In essence, Kilgrave forced Jessica into a relationship in which she was the victim of intimate abuse.

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Intimate partner violence is a very real problem that affects many individuals in the United States. It is estimated that more than 10 million people are victims of domestic violence each year in the U.S. According to statistics, most victims are female between the ages of 18 and 24. It is not easy to leave a violent relationship. This is what many people misunderstand. Victims of domestic violence are often asked things like "Why didn't you just leave?" It is not that easy. Victims of domestic violence often feel that they have no control. They have often been isolated from their friends and family, and manipulated to believe that the abuser is the only one who loves them. 

Here are a few facts about domestic violence:

1) The abuser tries to control every aspect of the victim's life, including place of employment and income. Because they cannot easily control their place of employment, an abuser will often make or expect frequent phone calls to check-in on their victim.
2) Domestic violence can include physical assault, verbal abuse, isolation, and rape.
3) Almost three fourths of all murder-suicides involve intimate partners.
4) There is a relationship between domestic violence and depression, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, anxiety, and sleep disturbance.
5) Domestic violence is NOT specific to any one ethnic group, culture, gender, age range, socio-economic status, or any other demographic.

Jessica Jones is revealed to have lived through different types of victimization during the course of her time with Kilgrave. Like many survivors of intimate partner violence, she experiences symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including insomnia, substance abuse, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. Like many perpetrators of intimate violence, Kilgrave does not take accountability for his actions. Rather, when confronted, he tries to make himself the victim by pointing out how he has suffered, and by implying that Jessica wanted to be with him. At one point, this creates a different dynamic where for a moment we believe that Jessica may once again re-enter a sort of relationship with Kilgrave to try to help him.

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This dynamic is often seen in intimate partner violence. A perpetrator will refuse to take responsibility for his/her actions. He/She will blame the victim, or others, for both his/her actions and his/her feelings. They will manipulate the victim into believing that the victim has some sort of power over how the abuser feels, and will make promises about changing their behavior.

Jessica finds her way out of Kilgrave's control; in a huge twist, she realizes that she is no longer vulnerable to his commands. Upon realizing that he can no longer control her, she decides to fight against him and prevent him from victimizing others. In the end, Jessica achieves a sort of closure, and is able to pick up the pieces of herself, and go on with the life she has been trying so hard to create.


For more on domestic violence, see:
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence 
The Hotline 
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 
Resources by State 
Where to Get Help for Domestic Violence 
National Hotlines

2 comments on "The Psychology of Jessica Jones: Intimate Partner Violence"
  1. I tried to stay away from this post, coz I'm watching the show atm, but... it's your blog, so I had to read it! A nice piece like always!