What is Battering?
Battering is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence. Battering happens when one person believes they are entitled to control another. Assault, battering and domestic violence are crimes.
Definitions: Abuse of family members can take many forms. Battering may include emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, using children, threats, using male privilege, intimidation, isolation, and a variety of other behaviors used to maintain fear, intimidation and power. In all cultures, the perpetrators are most commonly the men of the family. Women are most commonly the victims of violence. Elder and child abuse are also prevalent. Acts of domestic violence generally fall into one or more of the following categories:
- Physical Battering - The abuser’s physical attacks or aggressive behavior can range from bruising to murder. It often begins with what is excused as trivial contacts which escalate into more frequent and serious attacks.
- Sexual Abuse - Physical attack by the abuser is often accompanied by, or culminates in, sexual violence wherein the woman is forced to have sexual intercourse with her abuser or take part in unwanted sexual activity.
- Psychological Battering -The abuser’s psychological or mental violence can include constant verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness, isolating the woman from friends and family, deprivation of physical and economic resources, and destruction of personal property.
Battering escalates. It often begins with behaviors like threats, name calling, violence in her presence (such as punching a fist through a wall), and/or damage to objects or pets. It may escalate to restraining, pushing, slapping, and/or pinching. The battering may include punching, kicking, biting, sexual assault, tripping, throwing. Finally, it may become life-threatening with serious behaviors such as choking, breaking bones, or the use of weapons.
Why do Women stay?
All too often the question "Why do women stay in violent relationships?" is answered with a victim blaming attitude. Women victims of abuse often hear that they must like or need such treatment, or they would leave. Others may be told that they are one of the many "women who love too much" or who have "low self-esteem." The truth is that no one enjoys being beaten, no matter what their emotional state or self image.
A woman’s reasons for staying are more complex than a statement about her strength of character. In many cases it is dangerous for a woman to leave her abuser. If the abuser has all of the economic and social status, leaving can cause additional problems for the woman. Leaving could mean living in fear and losing child custody, losing financial support, and experiencing harassment at work.
Although there is no profile of the women who will be battered, there is a well documented syndrome of what happens once the battering starts. Battered women experience shame, embarrassment and isolation. A woman may not leave battering immediately because
- She realistically fears that the batterer will become more violent and maybe even fatal if she attempts to leave;
- Her friends and family may not support her leaving;
- She knows the difficulties of single parenting in reduced financial circumstances;
- There is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear;
- She may not know about or have access to safety and support.
Barriers to leaving a Violent Relationship
Reasons why women stay generally fall into three major categories:
Lack of Resources:
- Most women have at least one dependent child.
- Many women are not employed outside of the home.
- Many women have no property that is solely theirs.
- Some women lack access to cash or bank accounts.
- Women who leave fear being charged with desertion, and losing children and joint assets.
- A woman may face a decline in living standards for herself and her children.
- Clergy and secular counselors are often trained to see only the goal of "saving" the marriage at all costs, rather than the goal of stopping the violence.
- Police officers often do not provide support to women. They treat violence as a domestic "dispute," instead of a crime where one person is physically attacking another person.
- Police may try to dissuade women from filing charges.
- Prosecutors are often reluctant to prosecute cases, and judges rarely levy the maximum sentence upon convicted abusers. Probation or a fine is much more common.
- Despite the issuing of a restraining order, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating the assault. Ñ Despite greater public awareness and the increased availability of housing for women fleeing violent partners, there are not enough shelters to keep women safe.
- Many women do not believe divorce is a viable alternative.
- Many women believe that a single parent family is unacceptable, and that even a violent father is better than no father at all.
- Many women are socialized to believe that they are responsible for making their marriage work. Failure to maintain the marriage equals failure as a woman.
- Many women become isolated from friends and families, either by the jealous and possessive abuser, or to hide signs of the abuse from the outside world. The isolation contributes to a sense that there is nowhere to turn.
- Many women rationalize their abuser’s behavior by blaming stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment or other factors.
- Many women are taught that their identity and worth are contingent upon getting and keeping a man.
- The abuser rarely beats the woman all the time. During the non-violent phases, he may fulfill the woman’s dream of romantic love. She believes that he is basically a "good man." If she believes that she should hold onto a "good man," this reinforces her decision to stay. She may also rationalize that her abuser is basically good until something bad happens to him and he has to "let off steam."