This article is reprinted from Challenges
DOES THE ABUSED WOMAN FEEL?
A woman who
has been abused over a long period of time is afraid. Not only is
she afraid that she, herself, will be seriously hurt, but if she
has children, she fears for their safety also. Her feelings of fear
link her to all other women, from all classes of society, in similar
situations. Fear might be a womans first and most immediate
feeling during or after a beating, but other negative feelings may
surface when she is not in physical danger. The abused woman is
apt t develop doubts about herself. She might wonder if she is justified
in fearing for her life and calling herself an abused wife.
Most likely, however, a woman who thinks or feels she is being abused,
probably is. Or, she may feel guilty, even though shes done
nothing wrong. An abused wife may feel responsible for her husbands
violence because in some way she may have provoked him. This has
her placing the shame and blame on herself--instead of her abuser.
The longer she puts up with the abuse and does nothing to avoid
or prevent it, the less she likes herself. Along with the feeling
of being a failure, both as a woman and in her marriage, may come
a real feeling of being trapped and powerless, with no way out.
Why do women
Women have learned that it may be their own feelings of fear, guilt,
or shame that keep them in a relationship that is physically abusive.
Often, social and economic pressures compel a woman to stay. Or
she stays for lack of somewhere to go for shelter and advice or
because she feels that she loves her husband and lives with the
hope that he might change, if only she can hang in there.
Tragically, in most cases, the abuse continues, for in fact her
husbands behavior has nothing to do with her actions.
for staying with him may seem as compelling. A woman may feel that
a divorce is wrong and that she should keep her marriage together
at all costs. Perhaps she feels her children need a father. She
may be isolated with no outside job and few friends. The friends
and relatives she does talk to may give her little support, perhaps
because her situation frightens them and they dont want to
admit to themselves that such violence could occur. If she confides
in a counselor, she may also be encouraged to save the marriage.
And, along with her emotional dependence, she may worry about being
able to find a job to support herself and her children. If she has
her husband arrested, he may not be able to support her. If she
doesnt have him arrested, he may bat her even more severely
for trying to leave him. Is there a way out? Most women suffer these
attacks for years before they finally find the courage and determination
to take steps to keep from being victims of further abuse.
What can a battered woman do?
The first step is to admit to herself that she is being abused and
that she is not being treated fairly. She has the right to feel
safe from physical harm, especially in her own home.
A woman needs to talk to people who can help. Good friends can lend
support and guidance. Organizations devoted to womens concerns
and not bound by societys traditions can assist her. Emergency
shelters for women, hotline, womens organizations, social
service agencies, community mental health centers, and hospital
emergency rooms are all possible sources of support.
Above all, a
woman has to determine her own best course of action. With the help
of informal and formal help sources, including individual counseling
for the husband as well as herself, a woman may be able to bring
an end to the problem.
National Institute of Mental Health.