Domestic Violence

Annually, six million women in the U.S. are battered and more than 2,000 women are beaten to death. If you’re a battered woman, you probably have low self-esteem, believe in family unity and a stereotypical feminine role, accept responsibility for being battered, suffer from guilt and deny the terror and anger you feel, are socially isolated, are afraid for your life every day, and believe that no one can resolve your predicament. If you’re a batterer, you probably have low self-esteem, believe in male supremacy, blame others for your actions, are pathologically jealous, use drinking or drugs and wife beating to cope with stress, use sex as an act of aggression to enhance self-esteem, don’t believe your violent behavior has negative consequences, and often experienced or witnessed violence in your parent’s home.

The first stage of domestic violence is the buildup of tension triggered by frustrations or particular events in the batterer’s life. This may take days, weeks, or months. The second stage is explosion, where battering occurs. The third stage is contrition where the batterer offers abject and effusive apologies, vowing never to do it again This last period can last weeks or even months and is the part of the cycle that’s seductive. If a woman takes action by going to a shelter, seeing a counselor, filing charges, or seeking a divorce, the batterer’s apparent contrition encourages her to drop charges, reconcile, and move back. This phase doesn’t last, though, unless the batterer has gotten real help.

Oftentimes, battering starts or increases when a woman is pregnant. Pregnant women are three times more likely to be battered than non-pregnant women. Moreover, while most women are beaten on the face and chest, pregnant women are beaten on the abdomen. Experts believe that the batterer feels threatened by the potential loss of the woman’s attention, increased economic pressures resulting from having a baby, or thoughts of his own mother and the unsatisfactory support he received.

It’s difficult for people who haven’t experienced domestic violence to understand why someone stays. Many
victims do leave, but the reasons why many others stay are complex. They include:

  • Fear. “If I leave, he’ll beat me worse when he finds me.”
  • Economic dependence. “Who’ll support the children and me?”
  • Parenting. “A crazy father is still better than no father at all.”
  • Religious and family pressures to keep the family together.
  • Savior complex. “If I stay, I can help him get better.”
  • Survival. “He’ll follow me if I leave and kill me.”
  • Fear of his suicide. “He says he’ll kill himself if I leave.”
  • Fear of being alone and unable to cope with children and home.
  • Denial. “It’s really not so bad.”
  • Love. “When he’s not abusive, he’s loving and caring.”
  • Duty. “I said I’d stay married to him ‘until death do us part.’”
  • Guilt. “He says our problems are my fault and he’s right.”
  • Shame and embarrassment. “I don’t want anyone to know.”
  • Identity. Some women need a man to feel complete.
  • Optimism. “Things will get better.”
  • The Stockholm Phenomenon. Hostages held for a period of time begin to identify with their captors. Women held hostage by batterers live with unending terror and stress, which wears away their ability to resist and leaves them confused, exhausted, and without the energy needed to make changes.