Many battered women have had similar
experiences of being challenged,
patronized, or told that our problems
are insignificant. In the face of
such inexcusable treatment we must
remember that NO WOMAN DESERVES
TO BE BEATEN OR VERBALLY ABUSED.
EVERY WOMAN DESERVES TO HAVE HER
STORY TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
The Impact of Domestic Violence
who do not see their mothers abused
but who hear her screams and crying,
the abuser's threats, sounds of
the impact of fists hitting flesh,
glass breaking, wood splintering,
or cursing and degrading language
do witness the abuse.12
The effects of growing up in the
midst of domestic violence can be
devastating for children. Children
of battered women are very likely
to be battered themselves. They
live in constant fear and are often
torn physically and emotionally
between their adult caretakers:
they may develop severe physical
and emotional responses to the violence,
including symptoms of post-traumatic
stress disorder. Children of domestic
violence learn that violence is
an appropriate way to resolve conflicts,
and they are likely to live out
their childhood experiences of violence
in their adult relationships and
in their relationships with their
very upper-middle-class, WASP
father hit my mother drunkenly
on an occasional Saturday night.
Sunday morning she would explain
away her bruises. I lived my whole
childhood under this shadow--the
possibility of violence, the sounds
in the night, and the toll it
took on me that she put up with
Many battered adult women heard
verbal abuse or witnessed battering
beginning in their early childhood.
Some were physically or sexually
abused by the same person who battered
their mothers. Under these circumstances,
it is easy to understand how we
might come to believe the degrading
and harmful messages we have received
about ourselves. It is easy to understand
how we might find ourselves in relationships
with men who abuse us verbally and
men began to learn violence at an
early age. Many men who batter grew
up witnessing their fathers abusing
their mothers; they may well have
been physically or sexually abused
as children. They often came of
age in families where male dominance
was never questioned and where physical
punishment "in the name of love"
was accepted. When our families
teach us to accept male dominance
and violence as a way to relate
to one another, this message is
difficult to defy.
Efforts are beginning in many communities
to break the intergenerational cycle
of violence that exists in so many
families. Often, these begin with
community-based programs designed
to intervene on behalf of children
whose mothers are being beaten.
Innovative programs that teach nonviolence
and conflict resolution skills to
preschoolers are being developed
and duplicated in child care centers
in diverse communities. Workshops
on teen dating violence are being
offered to middle- and high-school-age
children. All of these efforts aim
to teach girls and young women that
we have a right to be free from
violence and the fear of violence
and to teach boys and young men
a different way to relate to girls
and women and to the world.
Elder Abuse: Battering of Older
as young children are especially
vulnerable to violence from within
our families, so too are older women
at particular risk of being exploited
and battered. In recent years, awareness
has grown of the special problems
facing older battered women, and
this has resulted in special laws
protecting elders from abuse in
all fifty states.
who are battered in old age face
many of the same problems as younger
adult women struggling with abuse.
In addition, we may be physically
frail and dependent on the batterer
for daily care. The nearest shelter
for battered women may not be set
up to accommodate our physical abilities.*
We may well be fearful that if we
seek help to end the abuse we will
find ourselves forced into a nursing
home. If the batterer is a spouse
with whom we have lived for many
years, it may be especially difficult
to contemplate separation or ending
the relationship. If the batterer
is our adult child, calling for
help from a social service agency
or the police may simply be unimaginable.
Battered women's activists are becoming
increasingly concerned about our
ability to respond to older battered
women. In addition to the challenge
of making sure that our shelter
services are physically accessible,
there are conflicting mandates for
those who serve older battered women.
Most elder abuse laws are similar
to child abuse laws in that they
require service providers to report
instances of abuse to public health
authorities or social service agencies.
This approach to domestic violence
against older women may conflict
with the deep commitment of the
battered women's movement to empowering
victims of violence and protecting
their right to privacy and confidentiality.
Just as the battered women's movement
has, from its earliest days, turned
to battered women themselves in
learning how to respond to domestic
violence, so will activists and
elder service providers want to
listen to older battered women in
working out how to meet the challenge
of ending violence against elders.
You Can Do If You Are Being Battered
If you are in a violent relationship
right now, there are things you
can do that may help you to be safer,
to assure the safety of your children,
and to work toward ending the relationship
if that is what you want to do.
There are no right answers for every
battered woman. The woman who is
being battered knows best whether
her actions may work to de-escalate
the violence or incite further violence.
Overall, your safety can increase
the more you become aware, inform
others, find support, and implement
a safety plan.
During an attack, here are some
things you can do to take care of
Stay as calm as you possibly
Try to shield yourself, especially
your head and stomach.
If you are able, and if it won't
put you at greater risk, call
911 and get emergency assistance.
the best you can to end the
attack with the least amount
Even if you are still in the situation
and see no immediate way out, there
are things you can do to plan for
Become familiar with your state's
laws and legal policies pertaining
to domestic violence.
Find out about restraining orders:
how to get them and where to
get an advocate if needed.
a support network. Get connected
with your local battered women's
service, join a support group,
and develop your network of
and watch for warning signs
of your partner's abusive behavior/attitude.
your children how to call for
through a safety plan and write
it down. Let others know your
plans when appropriate.
your abuser is drinking or drugging
and you can get to Al-Anon meetings
(see chapter 3, Alcohol, Tobacco,
and Other Mood-Altering Drugs),
you may find support and strength
to make a change.
Making a safety plan while you are
still struggling with a violent
partner can help in two ways: First,
it can give you a sense of hope
in what so often feels like a hopeless
situation. Second, it can actually
bring you a bit closer to leaving
a dangerous situation. There are
battered women's service organizations
in many communities. Most of these
organizations help battered women
develop safety plans. Safety plans
include steps you can take to increase
your own safety and the safety of
are alternatives to staying in a
battering situation. More and more
women are leaving men who batter,
and they are finding help in making
a new life despite economic hardships.
Women everywhere have been organizing
to help battered women leave abusive
situations, to provide shelter and
a more responsive legal system.
Women have found the courage to
tell their stories publicly. WE
ARE NOT HELPLESS AND WE ARE NOT
who batter can be prosecuted for
crimes such as assault and battery.
In addition, special laws protect
battered women in all 50 states.
These civil abuse prevention laws
are very similar from one state
to another. They give battered women
the ability to go to a local court
to obtain immediate protective orders
against the batterer. Protective
orders, often called restraining
orders, can have several parts:
They can order the batterer to stay
away from us and our children; they
can give us legal custody of the
children; they can have a provision
under which the batterer is ordered
to pay support for us and our children.
In addition to abuse prevention
orders, more and more states are
enacting anti-stalking laws. Recognizing
that we are often at greater risk
right after we leave the batterer,
these laws impose criminal sanctions
against a batterer who continues
to harass us even after we have
As a woman struggling to bring an
end to battering, you are the only
one who can decide whether or not
to use your state's abuse prevention
law. Some men are intimidated enough
by the legal system to be stopped
by a court order. If this is so,
obtaining a court order may actually
bring you a measure of safety. In
some men, the tendency toward violence
is so deep that no court order will
stop them. In these instances, going
to court may actually make you and
your children less safe. Working
on a safety plan with a counselor
at your area battered women's program
will help you make this difficult
you do, it is important to remember
that you are the best judge of your
Increasing Safety While in the
Carry important phone numbers
for yourself and your children
(police, hospital, friends,
battered women's program) and
a cellular phone or beeper if
you can afford one.
Find someone to tell about the
abuse and develop a signal for
distress. Ask neighbors to call
the police if they hear noise
of a violent episode.
Think of four places where you
can go if you leave in a hurry.
specific items ready to take
if you leave.
change for phone calls, open
your own bank account, rehearse
an escape route.
review your safety plan and
What to Take with You If You
Decide to Leave
Money, checkbook, bank cards, credit
cards; identification, driver's
license, and car registration; birth
certificates, Social Security cards,
welfare identification; passport,
immigration card, work permit; divorce
or other court papers; school and
medical records; house deed, mortgage;
insurance papers and policies; medications
and refill instructions; change
Increasing Safety After You Leave
you have joint bank accounts,
withdraw some money or transfer
to a private account.
different routes as you go home,
to work, or to your daily tasks.
the people who care for your
children who has permission
to pick them up, and warn them
if you think the batterer may
attempt to kidnap them.
At work, tell someone about
the abuse and have that person
screen your calls. If possible,
show other people his picture
and instruct them to call the
police if he arrives at work.
Avoid the stores, services,
and banks that you know your
it is right for you, get a protective
or restraining order. Know what
it orders and what would happen
if he violates it. Keep it with
you at all times.