Thursday, January 27, 2011

How can we Help?

by Anne Peterson

*   An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
*   85% of domestic violence victims are women.

In college, while doing research about domestic violence I found a link with people who were abused while growing up and those who became victims of domestic violence. Women who have been abused while children grow up with feelings of shame. They somehow feel they deserve what happens to them.

A victim of domestic violence feels he/she can help the abuser.

A victim doesn’t realize the severity of his/her situation.

In their book, Safe People, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend talk about why some people seem to pick unsafe people.

“One of the chief reasons that we pick destructive people is that we are unable to judge character. Many times, when we are choosing important people in our lives, we do not think of character as the main factor. We look at how we feel, to whom we are attracted, or what seems to “pull” us towards a certain person. Our choices are very subjective.”

Having lost my sister, Peggy to domestic violence in September, 1982 I have given a lot of thought to her life. Although we were not aware of what she had endured in her 10 years of marriage, we were shocked when she was eventually declared dead after being missing for over 20 some years.

People ask why a victim stays in an abusive relationship. Many times a victim will stay because they honestly believe things will improve. When reality hits that this is how it’s going to be, some make the decision to leave the marriage. That’s when things get heated. In my sister’s case, once her husband realized she was divorcing him, then things got worse.

Looking back on her situation I am surprised she kept so much to herself. Victims often feel a sense of shame at not being able to keep the relationship together. The truth is, one person cannot make a marriage work.

Hindsight is 20/20. We wish we had known what was going on in my sister’s life all along. Maybe then we would have been in a position to help her.

Many times the victim will isolate herself from family members or friends. When they need others the most, they pull back.

Today many organizations exist whose main objective is the safety of those who are victims of domestic violence. These places provide safe havens for those who are battered. The vicim’s whereabouts are kept confidential to insure safety for her and family members. With safety experienced the victim is then freer to really look at her situation and to decide how she will proceed.

How can we help women who are in unhealthy relationships?

Be a listener. Hurting women need to talk.

Let the victim vent. It has been a while since they felt safe enough to express their feelings.

Look for tangible ways to lend a hand. Do they emotional support with their children?

Victims need a plan.

Encourage the victim to have a plan. A counselor once told her client to decide ahead of time a plan of action for the next time the partner was abusive.

Important components of that plan include:

Choose a safe place you can go. Make it a place that your partner is unaware of.

Make sure you have some money put aside. Don’t advertise that you have money.

Have a person you trust as a confidant.

If the victim does not take care of herself then she is not in a position to take care of others.

Truths for victims:

You will attract people who are as healthy as you are. Women can work on becoming emotionally healthy. Finding someone who can help them navigate this part of their lives is crucial.

Make sure you have support. Our emotions cloud our vision. Another perspective helps us see more clearly.

Your relationship does not define who you are. A partner does not make you more valuable than you are.

Learn that you are a woman of dignity. Do not allow others to disrespect you in any ways. Don’t make excuses when others mistreat you, like, he wasn’t feeling well, or I made him mad, he’s usually not like this.

Take care of yourself. Often victims are caretakers who look to the needs of others and do not look after their own needs. Somewhere along the line they believed that taking care of themselves was selfishness, so instead they focused on those around them. The problem is we cannot take care of anyone if we haven’t taken care of ourselves.

If you decide to leave the relationship, make sure you let others know what you are doing. People need each other, it’s the way we were made. Let others help you. Some would be happy to lend a hand. There may come a time when you will be the one helping someone else, but for now, ask for help.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish Peggy was still alive. I know we would have been involved in each other’s lives. We would have shared a lot of good times and even shared our grandkids.

I’m certain when she married her husband it was for life. No bride ever thinks their relationship will end violently, and yet, some will. 

Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker and author of 42 published Bible Studies as well as the author of articles for You can find out more about Anne by going to her site, Anne is also the sister of Peggy Dianovsky who was a victim of domestic violence.

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