INFORMATION FOR AN ABUSED WOMAN
Other friends, neighbors, or relatives may be able to provide shelter or transportation for you if you need to get out of the house, and if you talk with them ahead of time they can be prepared to help the most. While you may feel isolated from other people, if you can begin to develop or re-establish contacts, you will gain not only sources of emotional support, but very practical assistance as well. If you have the space in your home, select a room that can be locked from the inside in order to get away from an attack. Or, if you sense an attack coming, move closer to the door to avoid getting cornered and to help you get out of the house. Consider the things you could arrange to hide in order to help you during a crisis: extra money and/or a spare set of car keys can get you to safety. If you will need to get out of the house in a hurry, you may want to quickly get such things as food, extra clothing, diapers, extra glasses, medication, indentification cards, medical insurance or welfare cards, important legal papers, and so on. Make a list of resources you might need, such as a shelter, a lawyer or legal center, hospital, and any other agency or person you might need to contact. If you have no safe place to keep these things, you may be able to store them with a friend or neighbor.
Survival - Before an Attack:
If you are living in an abusive situation, there are some practical measures you can take to protect yourself. It may seem strange to think in terms of preparing for an attack ahead of time, but that can be the very time that you are clear headed, not upset, and capable of organizing some protective measures for yourself. First, let someone know what is going on. If a friendly neighbor is aware that your spouse is abusing you, she or he may be able to call the police for you when you are unable to do so.
Survival - During an Attack:
During an attack, there is probably nothing you can say or do to make him stop. Because he is not in a rational state of mind, it is unlikely that you can reason with him. However, there are things to keep in mind that may help you. First, try not to panic or lose your temper. While these reactions are understandable, they won't help you out of the situation. You will need to be clear headed to think about what to do. Getting angry and insulting him may make him angrier. Which will be worse for you. Save your anger for a time when you are safe from physical attack. There are varying opinions on whether to fight back. Some people feel that it is important to stand up for yourself and show that you won't be pushed around. Others claim that this may subject you to greater violence. Knowing your own strength and your husband's personality will tell you whether fighting back will benefit or harm you. The Milwaukee Task Force on Battered Women suggests the following things to do during an attack:
1. DEFEND AND PROTECT yourself, especially your head and stomach.
2. CALL FOR HELP, scream, or if you can get away, run to the nearest person or home. Say you are being hurt and that you need help.
3. CALL THE POLICE, or have someone else do it; they have a responsibility to protect you.
4. GET AWAY, if it is unsafe to stay at home, call a neighbor, friend or a cab. Find shelter and take your children with you. Survival - After an Attack:
Immediately after an attack it is important to get medical help for two reasons. First and foremost, you may have suffered physical damage you are not aware of, such as internal injuries or concussions. Second, by being seen in a hospital emergency room, you are establishing a permanent medical record of the assault, which can provide valuable evidence should you decide to take further legal action. Save any torn or bloody clothing, and if you can, get someone to take pictures (preferably in color) of your injuries. These can also serve as important evidence in convincing people that your situation is serious. A friend or relative who can go with you to the hospital can provide moral support and often help you settle yourself and get your story straight. It can also be helpful to line up any possible witnesses to the attack to confirm your story. Remember that you are in need of help and entitled to it.
Survival - Finally
Although it may seem that you face almost insurmountable hurdles, we want you to know that there are many women who care about what happens to you. We are determined that society recognize and respond to your victimization. We are demanding that the blame for someone else's inability to cope does not fall on you, that shelters and services be developed to meet your needs, that future generations of boys and girls be raised to treat each other as equals, with mutual respect and caring. And we are demanding that your right to live a life free from violence be ensured.
But, in the end, only you can make the decisions and take the steps that will set you free. The Milwaukee Task Force puts it best:. "You have both the freedom and the responsibility to take care of yourself. You have the right to think, feel and make choices and changes. Consider thinking about yourself in new ways: I am not to blame for being beaten and abused.
I am not the cause of another's violent behavior.
I do not like it or want it.
I do not have to take it.
I am an important human being.
I am a worthwhile woman.
I deserve to be treated with respect.
I do have power over my own life.
I can use my power to take good care of myself.
I can decide for myself what is best for me.
I can make changes in my life if I want to.
I am not alone. I can ask others to help me.
I am worth working for and changing for.
I deserve to make my own life safe and happy. Although you face immense difficulties, you have the unqualified support and encouragement of thousands of individuals.
Fleming, Jennifer Baker, STOPPING WIFE ABUSE; A guide to the emotional, psychological, and legal implications for the abused woman and those helping her. (Anchor Books, New York, 1979)
RANGE OF EMOTIONAL REACTIONS
OF WOMEN WHO ARE BEATEN
(Intended for Counselors)
The following is a list of feelings victims typically experience. Not all victims will have each of these feelings and there are many not listed, but these are issues to be aware of and prepared for in the counseling experience.
1. Loss of Control, Helplessness
Feeling at the mercy of someone's mood fluctuations and outbreaks of temper is a very frightening and frustrating way to live one's life, and can easily lead to a feeling of having no control over one's life. In the study by Eisenberg and Micklow**, it was found that abused women said that most of the attacks were unwarranted and totally unexpected. Some were even attacked and beaten while sleeping. Efforts at seeking help have often proved to be dead-ends for many of these women - again leading to feelings of helplessness.
Tremendous fear may result and/or an emotional paralysis, so that the victim feels passive and experiences all that happens around her as being done to her. It is important to help the victim get back in control of the situation and this can be done in many ways. Helping her to identify her feelings is one way to calm down her chaotic state of mind. Getting her to seek the medical, legal, and social service attention she needs, helps her to take action on her own behalf.
Again, it is of crucial importance that the counselor help her to make the decisions - if she is told what to do, it will only increase her sense of helplessness and lack of control. Further, she may lean too heavily on the counselor for decisions in the future, if decisions are made for her at this time.
It is important to reassure the woman of the confidentiality of her help-seeking contacts (except for filing a criminal complaint against the assailant). She should be helped to make a realistic assessment of her imminent danger. If she is not living with the assailant, suggestions can be made about changing locks on the doors, locking windows, etc. If she is living with the assailant and is in imminent danger, suggestions should be made as to at least temporary alternative housing; legal measures such as divorce, prosecution, restraining orders may be the route to take, but the client should never feel pressured into this route. Legal processes should be thoroughly explained.
All victims will be experiencing anger at some level about their situation. Some victims will be able to express their anger directly on or at the assailant but others will not. It is very important to help the victim express the anger and to get it focused in the proper direction; that is, at the assailant. If this is not done, the victim may well internalize the anger, getting angry at herself instead of the assailant, thus leading to feelings of guilt and self-blame. At other times the victim may ventilate the anger towards police, medical and social service personnel or at the counselor.
As mentioned above, guilt often has its roots in misdirected anger, anger turned inward. Guilt also arises from some all too commonly held beliefs that if a woman gets beaten she deserves it, therefore it goes that she must be a bad woman, wife, or mother. Another belief is that women are by nature masochistic and thus expect and enjoy physical abuse. It is important to explore these beliefs and misconceptions with the victim; to let her know that her counselor doesn't believe these things are true.
A woman may feel embarrassed to admit that she is a battered woman. She may well be ashamed of her scars. She may feel foolish to have made a domestic commitment to a physically abusive man as well as ashamed of herself to have put up with repeated beatings. Considering the embarrassment that a victim of domestic violence might well feel, she may never have discussed her problems or feelings with anyone. In such cases she will really welcome the opportunity to ventilate in a supportive atmosphere.
As counselors we must remember that each person has complex needs that motivate them to make decisions. Most of us have, at some point in our lives misjudged another person's character, or believed in the sincerity of someone's assurances that they would change for the better. The victim must be reminded that there is no reason to be ashamed of making mistakes as long as we learn by them.
6. Doubts About Sanity
Some women have fears of insanity, particularly if they have strong feelings of lack of control. Living in constant fear of physical assault can have many emotional ramifications which may lead a victim to isolate herself socially. Once socially isolated, she has no one to confirm her sanity. Her only input is from her assailant and from herself.
COUNSELING SKILLS AHD TECHNIQUES
1. Listening and Summarizing
The most fundamental aspect of good counselling is the ability to listen. Good listening demands intense concentration. Effective listening also demands not only that the interviewer hear and understand what is being said, but that she/he also hear and understand what is being communicated through silence. Frequently the impact behind what was not said suggests clues about sources of difficulty. Again, a client should never feel pressured into discussing anything that she doesn't want to talk about. The counselor should be aware of topics that are emotionally stressful for the woman. After trust and rapport have had time to build up, the counselor may want to gently pursue these areas. Body language (the way a person sits, whether she looks the counselor straight in the eyes, whether she rocks, wrings her hands, etc.) should be carefully observed, as it offers important data to the counselor. Discrepancies between verbal and non-verbal communication should be noted by the counselor and if the atmosphere is appropriate, the discrepancies should be pointed out to the woman.
For example, woman is discussing how terribly angry she is at her husband, but is smiling as she speaks. This could be purely a nervous reaction or it could be an indication that she has difficulty in expressing her anger or dissatisfaction. This is all too common a problem and we must remember that if anger is not focused at its source, it is often turned inward, which leads to feelings of depression and guilt.
It is important to remember that there is a great difference between hearing and listening. It is often a very helpful technique to summarize the salient aspects of what you have understood from a client's verbal and non-verbal communication. Such a summary should never be put forth as a statement of fact. In other words, it is not appropriate to say, "I can see that you are very angry," but rather to say something like, "It sounds to me like you are feeling very angry." We must never assume that we understood or that a message came through clearly, without first verifying it.
Summarizing can be very important for three reasons: 1) It gives the woman a chance to point out things that she feels were misunderstood or that she needs to clarify.
2) It gives the woman assurance that the counselor really is listening and trying to understand her.
3) By the summary, the woman may well be helped to better clarity and conceptualize what she had previously thought a complex maze of data.