Why do women stay with men who beat and rape them? Why don’t they leave? Why do they remain in abusive relationships even as the violence escalates?
Most women have at least one dependant who must be taken care of, many are not employed, their parents are either distant or unable or unwilling to help. She may lack the access to cash; she or the children may be in poor health, may face a decline in the living standard for herself and her children. Many older children may resent this decision. She may believe that she will be charged with desertion or losing the children and cash assets if she leaves. Some battered women have an ideology that may include: she does not believe in divorce, marriage is forever,” till death do us part”. They may believe that it is crucial to the children for them to have a mother and a father, no matter how terrible the father is, and she believes that she can put up with anything for the children’s safety. She may be emotionally dependent on the man, having never relied upon herself for the simplest decision. The abuser may have managed to isolate her from her friends and family and she therefore feels that she has no one to turn to. She may feel responsible for his behavior and try to change herself, therefore giving herself a very low self-esteem. Since abuse comes in cycles, she believes that he is basically good and this time he has changed. (23)
Battered women understand that there is something wrong with men who alternately hurt them and then nurture them, though they do not know what causes this. They seem to think if they love them enough, give up enough, or submit to enough, that they will somehow be able to change the batterer’s behavior. Battered women are trained to accept responsibility for the abuser’s outburst. She is trained to make excuses for his imperfections; e.g. if she was a better wife he would not want to hit her.
First, let’s define abuse, battering, and psychological abuse. According to West Virginia Sate Law it is defined as: The occurrence of one or more of the following acts between family members who reside together or who formerly resided together:
Battering is not just physical aggression. Rather, Battering constitutes the systematic use of violence and the threat of violence in order to control, subjugate, and intimidate women. Without feat, there can be no battering.
Psychological Abuse is defined as verbal degradation denial of powers, isolation monopolizing perceptions, occasional indulgences and threats to kill. (23)
1. Attempting to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury with or without a dangerous or deadly weapon.
2. Placing, by physical menace, another in fear or imminent serious bodily injury.
3. Sexually abusing a person under the age of 18 years.
Now let’s discuss how small girls are raised in society. They are raised to accept men’s temper tantrums without allowing it to diminish their love for their mate. They are raised to believe that men are imperfect and that they must put up with any and every imperfection that man may have or lose any chance of getting love in return.
In 1995, domestic violence increased by 6.8 %, over 1994 reports. Law enforcement agencies investigated 9,267 (96.5%) of these complaints. Of the complainants who were victims, 1,005 (11.5%) were male and an astounding 7,784 (88.5%) were female and 3,371 (35.1%) of them had filed a previous complaint. Repeated abuse victims suffered 2 homicides. 2,750 simple assaults and 75 felonious assaults. Protection Orders were violated in 125 (1.3-%) cases.
8,377 females (87.3%) 1,050 females (10.9%)
1,221 males (12.7%) 8,545 males (89.1%)
The US Justice Department estimates that there were 500,000 incidents in the United States in 1993. There were 45,000 marital rapes or sexual assaults included in this number. (15)
Domestic Violence accounts for 11.7% of the emergency room visits for women who are currently with a partner, although 27% report a history of domestic abuse. 81% of the women who had attempted suicide had a history of domestic violence. (15)
29% of all female murder victims were slain by their husbands or boyfriends in 1993 study. (15)
21% of stalkers had been prior intimates of the victims. (15)
The average offender was 32, while the youngest was 10 and the oldest was 99. (15)
The average victim was 30, the youngest was 1 and the oldest was 89.
Average response time was 14.62 minutes. (15)
Wife abuse was the most common type of abuse reported with 48.1% of these reported in 1995, most were reported on a Sunday with 18.0% and in the hot summer month of August with 10.7%. (7)
Statistics closer to home include the Kingwood Detachment of the WV State Police received 14 complaints, they investigated 13 of them, 12 of them had a previous compliant against them. The sadness of the situation is that only 4 were arrested, 2 were referred and 8 they did not really do anything with. (7)
The Sheriff’s Department of Preston County received 17 complaints, but they only investigated 10 of these. Still of these 10, none were arrested and 15 were referred to counseling. (7)
The Kingwood City Police department investigated all 9 of their cases. Two were prior complaints; they arrested 7 of these and referred only two of them to counseling. (7)
Of the 10,859 reported cases in 1995, only 31.2% were arrested while 66.4% were referred to counseling, the other 15.2% were in essence talked to by the officer and promised to never do it again; a promise that an abuser cannot keep. (7)
90.5% (7,039) used their hands or fists to abuse the victim, 1.7% (136) used a gun and 4.7% (368) used a club, and 3.0% used knives. (7)
There were 7,587 simple assaults in West Virginia in 1995, 206 felonious assaults, 27 homicides, and 1,774 other extents of abuse. (7)
Women learn to recognize cues that a battering incident is on its way; a certain look in the eyes, a change of facial expressions, a change in voice, or a change in the conversation the usually takes place in the home and the tension gets to an all time high.
Family violence researchers have developed a list of severe violence risk markers for identifying battering potential by men. In addition to living below the poverty level, the men are unemployed or lower skilled, use drugs; have a different religion than their partner; saw their father hit their mother; are not married to but live with their partner; have some high school education; are between 18 and 30; or their partners use severe violence toward children at home.
An analysis of severe husband-to-wife domestic violence indicates that husbands who were sober during the incident tend to blame their wives for the violence while husbands consuming alcohol tend to assume responsibility. (15)
Only about 20% of the abusers are violent outside the home (1). Batterers seem to have “Dr. Jeckyl / Mr. Hyde” personalities. The behavior inside the home is extreme, seeming to swing from sweet, kind and loving to what seems to be the devil himself quickly. However, unlike true psychopaths, they do know shame and remorse at their “bad” behavior but seem to be unable and /or unwilling to control it.
You are more likely to be physically assaulted, beaten and killed in your own home at the hands of a “loved one” than anyplace else or anyone else in our society. Children are more likely to be kidnapped by their own parent than by a stranger. (20)
One third to one-half of all American women are battered or abused by their husbands or lovers. (5, 13)
A woman is abused in the U.S. every 18 seconds. One in six wives reported being struck by their husbands. One in 22 woman is the victim of physical abuse each year. Their husbands beat up six in 1,000. Two in 1,000 have husbands or partners who have used guns or knives against them. (5, 15, 16, 17, 18)
The average battered wife is attacked three times a year.
Three out of ten teenaged boys believe there is nothing wrong with a man hitting a woman.
One-fourth of teenage girls and one-third of teenage boys believe it is okay for a husband to hit his wife. One in four wives and 1/3 of husbands believe that a couple slapping one another is normal, necessary and good.
Twice as many boys as girls believe hitting a woman is not good but sometimes necessary. To prove this point, a group of college students developed three skits to perform in malls, the first; two young men fighting, the second; two young girls fighting, and the third; a man and a woman fighting. The results were frightening. People stopped the two young boys from fighting, they also stopped the two young girls from fighting; however, no one even tried to stop the man and the woman from fighting. Comments such as ” I wonder what she did to deserve that?” and “I’ll bet she deserves that.” and “I wonder what she did to get herself into that situation?” The students were dumbfounded, they performed the skits several times over, and each time the responses were the same. This would lead me to believe that people think domestic violence is appropriate and acceptable behavior.
The “typical” batterer has a poor self-image and low self-esteem. He will blame his behavior on the woman for some imagined infraction of “his’ rules. He believes males are supreme and lord of their homes and his court is his family to do as he sees fit with. He believes no one has the right to come into his home and tell him how to raise his family, or how to do things. He believes his way is the only way to do anything.
The batterer often uses “kinky” or violent sexual behavior in order to become aroused or maintain his arousal. In his heart he believes his acts of violence are excusable and should go unpunished and he does not expect his violence will get out of conscious control.
The batterer sometimes will wake a woman up from a sound sleep to initiate an acute battering incident; deprivation of sleep is one of the batterer’s forms of controlling the woman.
The sadistic behavior of the batterer includes threats to damage or destroy people or favored things of the woman. They have been known to hold pets as hostage as a means of control. Psychological manipulation may include public humiliation, ridicule, criticism, verbal abuse, jealousy, therefore making the woman want to stay in away from here friends and family which in turn causes depression and is dangerous to the woman because she is cut off from the very people who might be able to help her. The batterer will tell the woman that everyone is against her and turn everything around that people say so that she believes this myth.
Stress occurring outside the home is often brought into the home- unemployment, trouble with police, trouble with friends or people at work. Privacy is the most important element in the abusive situation. There is no one there to stop it or interfere.
Violence occurs because the home is conducive to violent exchanges.
The greater stress individuals are under, the more likely they are to be violent to their children.
The typical battered woman: Is considered to be battered if she is subjected to repeatedly to coercive behavior: be it physical, sexual, and/or psychological: by a man attempting to force he to do what he wants her to do, regardless of her own desires, rights or best interest. Has low self -esteem. Has low self-image. Suffers great guilt at not being able to control or stop the abuser’s behaviors. Lives with great denial of her own fears and rage, this denial enables her to function on a daily basis. Appears to be passive, but can be strong often manipulating people and objects in her environment, at least enough to avoid being killed. Suffers continual stress. Suffers psychosomatic ailments and depression. Extremely isolated. Desperately believes she and her actions can alone stop the abuser’s behavior.
Battering knows no social, economic, racial or cultural lines. Nearly 50% of all women have been battered at one time; fear of poverty keeps women in the relationship (1).
As long as men consider women as property, and as long as that view is supported by the law, some of them will feel free to abuse, damage, and destroy their women as they see fit.
Battered women have sought restraining orders and all too often found such orders offer little deterrence to a violent man. Family members are more likely to use violence in the home when they think the costs of being violent is less than the rewards. The absence of effective social control over family relations decreases the cost of one family member being violent toward another. Certain social and family structures reduce the family relations and reduce costs and increase the rewards of being violent.
THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
Once the cycle of violence has started, it is almost impossible to stop.
Violence does not occur all the time nor does it occur in a random way. There seems to be a pattern that starts out slowly with some tension build up, then there is an explosion of anger, possible beating, then the third stage where the man either stops the violence, is kind, loving, contrite, and apologizes to the woman, or kills the woman.
Then the cycle starts all over again, if he has not killed the woman. This does considerable damage to the woman’s state of mind.
During this tension-building stage, minor-battering (slaps, punches, controlled verbal abuse, and psychological warfare) may occur. The woman’s attempts to calm the batterer by either staying out of his way or being extremely kind, loving and compliant. More than anything, she wants to prevent the violence from growing into something more dangerous. This is really a double-edged sword because of her docile behavior, the abuser believes he has the right to abuse her in the first place. She may go to incredible lengths to try to stop the danger level. She will cover for him in hopes of winning his favor, make excuses for his bad behavior, and isolate herself from anyone who may have been able to help her.
As the cycle progresses, her attempts to placate him become less effective and each partner senses a loss of control over the situation. This adds fuel to the fire and the psychological anguish is at its worst. Waiting for the big explosion, some women will provoke an incident just to get it over with, to release the tension. The woman will withdraw emotionally. Angry with her for her emotional unavailability, the batterer becomes more abusive and oppressive. Soon an acute battering incident occurs.
The acute stage is set apart from the minor stage in that it is often more destructive, more uncontrollable and the violence has escalated to the point of rampage, brutal injury and sometimes death. In this stage only the batterer can put an end to the violence.
The woman will distance herself from the attack and from the pain although later she may remember each detail precisely. Like other survivors of trauma and disaster it may be days or months before severe depression and/or emotional collapse set in. There is a sane rationale behind the woman’s seemingly passive behavior in the face of acute violence. Most batterers are stronger and physically larger than the woman is. She knows from past experiences that it is useless to fight back. Anyone attempting to interfere, (even a strong man) is likely to get hurt. Police do not like to respond to domestic calls for the above-mentioned reason, so calling them would seem futile to the woman. Also, 90% of battered women who call for police intervention, actually do sign the warrant for the abuser, but of the 10% who do, only 1% of these cases ever get prosecuted.
When this phase of the cycle ends, then starts the third stage, the honeymoon stage. This is the most damaging stage to the woman’s psyche. It is the tranquil period where the batterer is warm, loving, nurturing toward the woman. He promises to never let it happen again and begs forgiveness. The woman may join in on the illusion of bliss (1). She convinces herself that he will change, that he won’t ever do it again, once because of the fear of poverty without him. This kind man is the one she loves the man she married. She believes she is the sole support of the batterer’s emotional stability and sanity; his only link to the normal world. She feels responsible for his well being. The truth is without professional help and the true desire to change; there is very little chance anything will change, ever.
It is in the honeymoon stage that the most severe psychological damage is done. The illusion of interdependency is firmly solidified, for he is dependent on her forgiveness and she on him for his caring behavior. Underneath the cycle of tension, violence and forgiveness that makes theirs a truly terrifying love, each partner believes death is preferable to separation (1). Neither believe they are capable of surviving without the other, for the abuser will instill in the woman that he will have a nervous breakdown, kill himself, (actually only 10% of the abusers will go through with this threat), become a drunk or loose his job if she leaves.
Many battered women believe suicide is the only way to get out of an abusive relationship. It is a fact that more women die at the hands of their abusive partners then husbands die at the hands of their wives (1).
When professional intervention does not occur, battering relationships escalate to the point of suicide or homicide. There are six million crime victims annually, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The cruel irony of staying at home because of fear in the streets is that the offenders are not strangers climbing through windows, but they are the loved ones who live within our homes with us. You are more likely to be physically assaulted, beaten, or killed in your own home than anywhere else and by a family member, not a stranger (3).
BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME
The battered woman syndrome (BWS) is a summary term for the many social, psychological, economic, and physical variables threat tend to hold women in abusive relationships for extended periods of time. Learned helplessness arises in oppressive relationships from which the victims cannot easily escape. If some battered women appear to have been taught by their batterers to be helpless, it is probably a signal that they have not yet been taught how to resist their negative indoctrination and how to force abusers to become more egalitarian without necessarily having to leave them or kill them.
The theory of learned helplessness is how people lose the ability to predict whether their natural responses will protect them after they experience inescapable pain in what appears to be random and variable situations.
The process of learned helplessness results in a state with deficits in three specific areas: how battered women think, how they feel and the way they behave, e.g. when the battered woman perceives she is danger, she is likely to respond using the most predictable method of protecting herself. Sometimes that means using deadly force, other times it means a total withdraw, emotionally, from the situation.
IDENTIFYING LEARNED HELPLESSNESS:
If the child witnessed or experienced abuse in the home, was sexually molested or abused as a child or teenager, had critical periods which the child experienced noncontigent control, e.g. early parent loss, alcoholism in the family, frequent moves, stereotyped sex roles socialization, supporting rigid traditional roles, and suffered health problems or chronic illnesses, they are likely to experience learned helplessness.
In adulthood: If the woman has experienced a pattern of violence, has been sexual assaulted, has a partner whose jealousy, overpossessiveness and intrusiveness isolates the woman, has been threatened to be hurt or killed by the abusive partner, has experienced psychological torture, knows the man has the capacity and the ability to kill or torture because of seeing it preformed on animals, children or inanimate objects that belong to the woman and may have sentimental value to the woman, and finally if the man or woman use drugs or alcohol. These factors somehow teach the woman that she can not do anything, nor can she have anything of value without the man destroying it so she therefore relies on him for even the most basic need (1).
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER:
People tend to develop certain psychological symptoms that continue to affect their ability to cope with life after the original trauma occurs. Battered women tend to believe that there is nothing she can do to bring a positive effect. She no longer feels she can predict the outcome of a response she would make would be good or bad she therefore chooses only responses that may protect her.
AFTER THE ABUSE, PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Women need emotional support, counseling and good friends to deal with the abuse and to get back on track. Counseling is especially important in order for the woman to not get another abusive man. Through worksheets and talking with other abused women she can learn how to undo the brainwashing that has been done to her. It is important for the woman to know that she does indeed have rights and what they are.
BILL OF RIGHTS FOR ABUSED WOMEN
The right to be successful.
The right to compete.
The right to set your own priorities.
The right to be treated with respect and not be taken for granted.
The right to have and express your own feelings and opinions and have them taken seriously.
The right to ask for what you want.
The right to ask for information from professional.
The right to say no without feeling guilty.
The right to get what you pay for.
The right to make mistakes.
The right to take time for my own leisure.
The right to your own body.
The right to change your mind.
The right to choose not to assert yourself.
The right to be treated with respect.
The right to be listened to and taken seriously.
The right to determine your own lifestyle.
She must also get her self esteem back, and in order to do that she must again know what she is entitled to.
I am the one in charge of my life.
I am a worthwhile woman.
I deserve to be treated with respect.
I can decide for myself what is best for me.
I am not the cause of another’s violent behavior.
I can identify my needs and wants, ideals and goals, through meditation, contemplation, or prayer.
I can and will terminate relationships that drag me down.
Every day I will: Forgive myself and others for failure.
Thank God for guidance and blessings
Credit myself for my achievements.
Thank others for the help they’ve given me.
Laugh at myself when I do something foolish.
Talk and share with people I trust.
Tell people how much I love them.
I AM NOT ALONE. I CAN ASK OTHERS FOR HELP!!!
Although these may seem irrational to a person not in an abusive relationship, they are of utmost importance to a woman who has had most of her rights taken away from her by an abusive partner. She needs to know that these are rights and feelings that even children are entitled to. It takes time and caring and stamina for the woman to claim her rights, but when she does, she may realize what she has missed out of life. She will slowly come to realize that the man manipulated her entire life. Her family is still there for her, the same with her friends. When she takes the glasses off, she will be seeing the world through her own eyes for the first time in perhaps years. (17,18)
WHERE TO GET HELP OR INFORMATION
Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center
Morgantown, WV 292-5100
Kingwood, WV 329-1687
Grafton, WV 265-6534
West Virginia Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 352 6513
West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
P.O. Box 85
181B Main Street
Sutton, WV 26601-0085
(800) 352-6513 (crisis line)
National Counsel on Child Abuse and Family Violence
1155 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
National Victim Center
309 West 7th Street, Suite 705
Fort Worth, TX 76102
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
6400 Flank Drive, Suite 1300
Harrisburg, PA 17112
National Institute of Justice/NCJRS
Rockville, MD 20850
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