To the ringing of the church bells, the families and friends of the bride and groom hear the words of the cleric “….until death do you part.” Not even the worst cynic in the crowed would venture to guess that the death of the bride could come about at the hands of the groom or that, some years after the wedding, the battered, pregnant body and the swollen face of the “bride” would be explained to family and friends as the result of a fall down the steps.
Typically, the woman beater suffers from feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, jealously, fear, and rage. All of which can be irrigated and aggravated by alcohol. His frustration in dealing with others and his disappointments related to himself cause his to seek someone on whom to unleash his pent up feelings. The repeated beatings are followed by remorse, apologies, and agreed on explanations for the bruises—and agreed-on explanations for the bruises—and this become a pattern. The fact that he reacts with violence as a means of expressing his frustration has made him dangerous to those closest to him, his wife and family.
Many women stay in such situations because they feel that they have no options. These are often women who are dependent financially, socially, and emotionally and who tend to be nonassertive, passive personalities. They often lack the ability to make their own decisions. This often occurs when a young woman moves from the security and dependence of her parents’ home into marriage or a live-in situation. She shifts her almost childlike dependence from parents to husband-lover. In an equally childlike manner, such women blame themselves for the violent episodes. They feel that they must have done something wrong to deserve the punishment from their men companions. These women live in hope that the next beating will not prove fatal and that the next promise by the husband lover to change his ways will be a lasting one. The man’s promises of reform are rarely kept because he must relearn how to handle his emotions and the outlets for them. This seldom occurs without outside help.
Often when the man’s violence spreads to the children as well as the wife, the woman, in desperation, seeks to escape with the children in fear for all their lives. There are now agencies and shelters that can serve as a refuge for battered women and their families. These provide time for the woman to reorder her life and to plan for a future free from fear. Organizations for battered women anticipate that an outraged, indignant husband who is prone to violence will follow his wife to bring her back “to where she belongs!” This encounter may require police action or can become a meeting where the husband is made to realize the seriousness of his behavior and result in his seeking counseling.
In her attempt to break out of her situation, the battered woman must be careful when she seeks out help from friends or family because they may regard the problem as just another family spat.
Some Resources for Women Who Have Been Beaten
If no special facilities for battered women exist in your area, you may find knowledgeable people and service organization who can help nonetheless.
- Telephone hotline, especially those dealing with problems of rape and alcoholism (see listing in the white pages of the telephone directory).
- Social service organizations (see this heading in the yellow pages).
- Municipal agencies with names like Department of Public Welfare, Department of Social services.
- State agencies with names like department of Social Service.
- National Organization for women (NOW)—either local chapter or NOW at 1957 East Seventy third Street, Chicago, Illinois 60649.
- Women’s groups in law schools.
- Women’s bookstores.
- Women psychologists listed under “Psychologists” in the yellow pages.
YWCA’s or community mental health centers.