No one’s life is a circus for other people’s entertainment – not even if they are a reality TV star, not even if their entire career has been about public visibility. Sometimes, when distressing events in a celebrity’s personal life play out in public ways, it is not only their right to privacy that is important, but also our refusal to normalise certain actions.

            Kim Kardashian is being stalked and harassed by Kanye West, her former spouse, whom she is still legally married to despite her efforts to dissolve the partnership. The couple have four children together, whom Kardashian raises. None of this is news to most people – we are already privy to these details, and much more.

            West’s grandiose Valentine’s Day aggression of sending a truckload of roses to Kardashian was quickly followed by him sharing screenshots of her private messages to him, including ones expressing her worries that his actions could endanger her current partner and children.

            West is not behaving in a romantic fashion. These are acts of emotional violence that intimidate Kardashian and her loved ones. They are unacceptable behaviour, full stop.

            When West’s diagnosis of mental illness became public, Kardashian stood by him graciously. In the official statement she released, she also took the opportunity to address “the stigma and misconceptions” around his condition, thus depersonalising the situation in a way that was also useful for other caregivers and the ill.

            About half a year later, in January 2021, Kardashian formally filed for divorce. Till date, the divorce has yet to come through, and West’s refusal to resolve the legal terms are believed to be the reason. Furthermore, West has chosen to make some of their conflicts public – posting about being unhappy that their eldest child has been allowed by Kardashian to use TikTok, for instance.

Kardashian has clearly felt pressured to present her side of the story publicly too. Now, her statements on social media acknowledge West’s “constant attacks” and how his hostility has impacted their kids. “Divorce is difficult enough on our children and Kanye’s obsession with trying to control and manipulate our situation so negatively and publicly is only causing further pain for all… I wish to handle all matters regarding our children privately, and hopefully he can finally respond to the third attorney he has had in the last year to resolve any issues amicably,” she posted earlier this month.

Kardashian’s situation may be in the public eye, but it is far from unique. Similar to Britney Spears, who was abused and controlled by her family for thirteen years in full view of the world, Kardashian is experiencing forms of abuse that many others do. We may not necessarily be able to help her, but we can admit what’s wrong in her situation and recognise it in and around our own lives – where it may indeed be our place to intervene or to act. Far too often, a controlling partner is deemed romantic and a controlling parent is deemed caring. But abuse is not love. The misuse of the word “love” should never be used to justify abuse – yet it is, all the time, just look around…

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express in February 2022. “The Venus Flytrap” appears in Chennai’s City Express supplement.