What is domestic violence? A series on Dr. Bradley's sourcebook (part 16) The Battered Woman
The Battered Woman
Although Dr. Berry has made an effort to show how numerous studies have revealed some common tropes among abusers, the same cannot be said for the battered woman. Although women who find themselves lower on the socioeconomic spectrum will be at a higher risk to be abused, there are plenty examples of successful and affluent women giving in to their beaters. One that Dr. Berry mentions is Tina Turner, who stayed with her abusive husband Ike for over 20 years before she finally summed up the courage to leave (Berry 48). Since there is not an abundance of research being done on the victim, scholars are having trouble drawing connections between them. Dr. Berry notes that some researchers who have worked with battered women did not see the stereotypical attributes associated to domestic abuse victims like, passiveness, vulnerability, or docility (Berry 48). Instead, many times the woman was the more functional of the two, and despite efforts to stop the violence, she stayed trapped in an abusive relationship. Another myth Dr. Berry refutes is the idea that the guilt partially falls on the woman for staying in a toxic relationship. She notes that 75% of women who report abuse actually do leave their partners, but once they do they find themselves being stalked or harassed by their abusive ex (Berry 48). This can result in the woman coming back into the relationship in an attempt to save her own life, and thus the cycle is continued. In many cases it may take several departures by the victim until they are finally “out” of the relationship.
In the cases where the woman will stay in the relationship however, she is usually driven by fear. Many battered women have testified that they would experience the worse of the abuse when they threatened to leave their partners (Berry 48). We have talked about how the abuser is extremely dependent on the victim, and will many times act desperately in order to keep the victim in the relationship. In addition to the fear for their own lives, victims are usually threatened by the abuser that they will not see their kids again if the victim leaves. Although these are usually empty threats considering even non abusive fathers have trouble securing 50/50 custody, battered women are usually unaware of this fact. Even more evil than threatening custody, some abusers will threaten the safety of the children if the victim attempts to leave. In addition to being controlled through persistent mistreatment, the abused victim also has to keep the safety of their loved ones in mind when deciding to flee an abusive relationship. Victims are also taught by society that the woman is the caretaker of the family, and that the man is in charge of leading the house. This idea combined with the notion that “love conquers all”, which is an idea commonly prescribed to by society, the woman believes that if she just loves the abuser enough, he will change for her. Unfortunately that almost never happens on its own (Berry 49). Lastly, another factor which inhibits the victim from leaving the relationship right away is the notion of pity. Many abusers were abused when they were young, and the victim usually uses that as justification for their behavior now. Again the victim will try and change the abuser, but with little to no success.
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Berry, Dawn Bradley. The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. Contemporary, 200