Second Blooming (July 2012)
July 1, 2012
Abuse: You Don't Have To Live With ItStudies find that one-third to one-half of adult women has been abused by their spouse or significant other. Appalling? Yes. And it occurs at all socio-economic levels. When I was a counselor for Navy Family Advocacy, my husband was shocked to learn that one of my cases involved an army Colonel. You do not deserve to be hit or abused, and you do not cause it. The batterer is responsible for his abusive behavior, using violence as an ineffective way of problem-solving or exerting power.
What kinds of abuse are there? Physical (slapping, hitting, burning); sexual (when, where, and how he wants it without regard for your feelings); verbal (yelling, rage, threats and intimidation); psychological and emotional (you’re useless, ugly). Abusers tend to blot out feelings other than anger, trying very hard to be their vision of “manly.” In general, they don’t know how to handle anger, frustration, or conflict.
Both the victim and the abuser feel trapped because: they don’t see a way out; there’s a basic lack of protection; or, they feel fear, shame, and isolated in their predicament. Yet hope and love are not necessarily extinguished, with caring and affection often still existing. Frequently the abuser will shower the woman with gifts after the abuse, promising it will never happen again. And often, too, the woman expects the gifts and believes the promise. Although more often it is the male who is the batterer, there are also women who resort to violence. Abuse is not acceptable for either sex.
Being in an abusive relationship is obviously an unhealthy way to live. If this is your situation, you have three choices:
1. Leave him. Have a plan and be careful.
2. Choose to stay and hope he will change; enlist outside help.
3. Stay, but give up hope that he’ll change; endure the abuse. (If this is your choice, your ability to live a Second Blooming or thrive in the future is severely limited.)
If you’ve been in this situation, you probably know that violence tends to escalate over time. Although abuse can’t be addressed in a short piece like this, I do suggest that you prepare yourself. Some things you can do:
- Believe in your right to a violence-free life.
- Identify supportive people. (Abusers usually isolate their target from friends and family, so this may take some effort.)
- Have a safe place to escape.
- Save some emergency money.
- Admit your problem.
- Seek help, such as a counselor. Go alone if he won’t go with you.
- Look up your local women’s shelter (see Crisis Intervention Services or Social and Human Service Organizations in the phone book, or call your local United Way). Keep the number(s) handy.
Kathleen and her co-author, Betsy Smith, Ph.D., wrote the award-winning book Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life That Matters after Fifty. Both women are accomplished speakers. For more information, you can visit http://www.secondbloomingforwomen.com.