What is domestic violence? A series on Dr. Bradley's sourcebook (part 16) The Battered Woman pt . 2
The Battered Woman
In addition to the fear of being physically hurt or having your children hurt/taken away, the battered woman also deals with subtle social pressures. Dr. Berry notes that even though only about 10% of homes in America fulfill the “ideal lifestyle” of a mother, father, and their natural children all living under one roof, society continues to pressure upcoming women into that pigeonhole (Berry 50). Women are seen as unsuccessful or undesirable if they don’t “have a man”, and all of their personal achievements can be overlooked. Even though decades have passed since that notion of the “traditional family” was conceived, young adults still feel that constant pressure from society to be normal. So when an unsuspecting young woman finds herself in an abusive relationship (or young man), he/she might be inclined to stay in the relationship since it is viewed by society as better than being single. Dr. Berry notes another common notion that abused partners have which is that “any father is better than no father at all” in terms of the child’s development (Berry 50). She notes that through research and experience that notion is hardly ever true.
Researchers have suggested that in order deal with the persistent mistreatment, victims will use a special type of coping mechanism called “minimizing” (Berry 50). This is when the victim reassures themselves that their situation “isn’t that bad” or that “things could always be worse”. By doing this the victim is lowering the standard of the quality of their own life, and settling for something which will then be interpreted as normal. If one continues this cycle over and over, soon the victim will be put under terrible circumstances or be dealing with awful mistreatment, and will still be assuring themselves it’s not that bad. This is prevalent among victims who may be in one of their first romantic relationships, as they won't have the real world experience to know that normative relationships do not feature abuse. Dr. Berry then references researcher and author, Gavin de Becker, who notes why leaving an abusive relationship is not that simple. He found that women often do not leave because no other possibility occurs to them (Berry 50). In his research he found that victims have two central instincts which are at odds with each other within violent homes. One is that humans have the instinct to stay within a secure environment (family), and two, humans have the instinct to flee a dangerous situation when presented with one (Berry 50). By having the dangerous situation also be your source of security, the victim is blinded from other possible options which would lead them to leave their abusive relationship. He notes that it usually takes a strong catalyst, like the threat of ones child/ren, to stimulate the victim into action. Although self-confidence is the foundation on which many people build their success from, it seems to be diminished when one is stuck within the cycle of violence.
Lastly, the battered woman also has significant financial stress on her to stay in an abusive relationship. Studies show that in their first year after a divorce, a woman’s standard of living drops by as much as 73%, whereas the man’s standard of living can improve by up to 40% (Berry 51). Clearly there is a pressure to stay within a violent home if it means that you will be living on a fourth of what you are used to. Dr. Berry also notes that 45% of all families headed by single mothers live below the poverty line. Due to a plethora of factors, like the wage gap, maternal leave, the glass ceiling many women face when trying to get into more lucrative positions, and the overall cost of living always increasing, many families need two sources of income in order to maintain a comfortable standard of living (Berry 51). All of these factors play a part in the victims decision to stay within their undesirable situation, and stress why it is so important to raise awareness about domestic violence, ultimately demonstrating all of the ways one can get out of their abusive relationship when they summon that courage.
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Berry, Dawn Bradley. The Domestic Violence Sourcebook. Contemporary, 200