There is an on-going controversy about Janay Rice who despite being assaulted by her then fiancé, Baltimore Ravens star player Ray Rice went ahead to marry him a month after.
Was Janay Rice a dunce? The response is, No. But to many readers and critics, they could not pinpoint a clear reason why a battered woman stays in that abusive relationship.
If Janay were not in a bodily sort of prison, perhaps one would rush to the conclusion that she was a recipient of Stockholm Syndrome. Since Stockholm syndrome is not simply manifested in the victim’s attachment to their captors, but also in the hostility they develop towards police, authorities, the government and sometimes even their own families.[i]
That she came out to the public to defend her husband in spite of how he’d drag her half-conscious body out of the lift after he knocked her out during their heated argument. Anyone reading the tabloids would emerge with a ready conclusion that she was a fool except, of course, those who knew her; those that are very close to her and those within her caucus.
Why would Janay proceed to exchange vows with Ray after the assault?
Just like the reasons for entering a relationship different from one to the other, precaution must be taken into understanding that violence between intimates is always more complex than we are prepared to admit, and many violent relationships do not fit standard definitions.[ii] According to LaViolette and Barnett (2014) “Society urges couples to stay together through thick and thin, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”[iii]
Anyone is at liberty to blame a battered woman for staying. Asking a woman to leave, LaViolette (2003) refers to it as the snow white-wicked witch conversion. She elaborates that when we ask a woman to leave her spouse or partner, for whatever reason, we are asking her to turn over her lifetime of socialisation — to do it rapidly; we are asking her to become less forgiving, less empathetic and compassionate and more assertive, forceful, and maybe even angry; we are asking her to become a person she never liked or respected (the wicked witch). On the other, Burman[iv] recognises that “Bonding and attachment issues can stifle the most motivated and goal-oriented individuals, as shown too often by women who depart shelters abruptly and return to their mates.”
Understanding why a battered woman stays may not be, as much as related to the conditions she needs in order to move forward into freedom. There are factors that possibly act as the blockages. Some of these are,
- Constant threats (to kill or disfigure the woman), financial (dependency on him), economical (job geographical location, joint-venture business, house mortgage, cars), social values, and in the case where children get born into the relationship.
- Above all these factors are one major constraint — FEAR. Gender dissimilarities in the motivations for aggression as well as the experience of fear establish a framework for understanding why she stays. Apart from fear of her abusive partner threatening harms, the fear of starting all over from zero is such as to lead to the battered woman to stay. Where do I begin? How do I start? Who will help me? Will it be easy?
- Hopelessness. LaViolette and Barnett (2014) assert that the “battered woman may come to believe that she has no option as the society has not protected women from intimate partner violence.[v]
- Shame. What will people say? Won’t I lose my reputation? The beaten, humiliated individual, whether defeated as a child by a brutalizing parent or defeated as an adult by a dead end career or marriage, has been defeated by shame, has endured it until it has broken the self.[vi] Shock is the ultimate response to the first time a woman experienced battery in the hands of a man she loves. The assault came unexpectedly. It will take a lifetime to digest the reality of the effect. Meanwhile, she really starts to cross check her self to see whether she was indeed worthless to deserve being knocked out like a child. Her inner self is disaggregated. She was crushed. She has been betrayed. She was shamed.
While Kaufman (1989) affirms that ‘in the midst of shame, the attention turns inward, thereby generating the torment of self-consciousness, he also establishes that “In the midst of shame, there is an ambivalent longing for reunion with whomever shamed us. We feel divided and secretly yearn to feel one, whole.”[vii]
To compel a battered woman to leave her abusive home is achievable. However, she will go back to that home. The more she is forced by outsiders and her friends and family to leave, the closer she will get to re-entering that home.
Unless she willingly disengages out of her own freewill from that relationship, there lies the certainty of her abiding to the advice of those around her to find a way out of that relationship. It takes her profound willingness to never look back and that comes after she’d disengage voluntarily without being told to.
The process of leaving requires erudite planning and strong determination. Two of these are highlighted below,
- Embracing mental departure
The preparedness of the mind is therefore of the utmost importance. There is a shift between how the mind functions in contrast to the acceptance of what filters inward. Mental visualization contributes to condition the mind towards development. We become what we give some thought to. In order words, we are the products of our subjective imagination. A battered woman deeply needs to begin by projecting herself into her desire environment and peaceful life through the imagination. In the current abusive relationship, she must fight off inhaling negative air, pushes out bad thoughts so that positive energies can transform her life. If she wishes to move out for a month or more or less, she should start with optimistic imagination; where she wants to be, how she wishes to see herself and the life she truly wants to live. She cannot wait that long until she is out of that abusive relationship before doing this because she would have been drained out completely of constructive energies without any space to receive anew.
- My purse, my wholeness
“A woman should always have a hidden, third bank account. ” states a very good friend of mine, Dr Doris Yates of California State University. I bet other women are in accord with me as much as I do regard my friend’s comment. The fact that a couple has only one joint account and then each owning an individual bank account may seem enough. Nonetheless, who can foresee the future? No relationship started out abusive. To be thrown the unexpected can be a drastic blow especially to the battered woman.
Anyone blaming a battered woman for staying that abusive relationship ought to consider the above factors and pause to reconsider his or her steps. Often when we propose to help a battered woman, we end up getting her further into the complicated situation.
Instead of emphasising that she should leave, why don’t we think out better alternatives? Perhaps, we should ask ourselves this question, what would I do if I were in her position?
[i] Excerpt From: iMinds Pty Ltd. “Stockholm Syndrome.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/fr/book/stockholm-syndrome/id370331213?l=en&mt=11
[ii] Linda G. Mills, Violent Partners: A breaktrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse (New York: Basic Books, [n.d.]), p. 17.
[iii] Alyce D. LaViolette and Ola W. Barnett, ‘Weaving the Fabric of Abuse: Learned Helplessness and Learned Hopelessness: Relationship Commitment’, in It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay, 3rd edn (Los Angeles, California: Sage Publications, Inc, 2014), p. 42.
[iv] Sondra Burman, ‘Cognitive Problem-Solving Theraphy And Stages of Change That Facilitate And Sustain Battered Women’s Leaving’, in Battered Women and Their Families: Intervention Strategies and Treatment Programs, 3rd edn (New York: Springer Publishing Company, LLC, 2007), p. 88.
[v] Alyce D. LaViolette and Ola W Barnett, ‘Meltdown: The Impact of Stress and Learned Helplessness’, in It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay, 3rd edn (Los Angeles, California: Sage Publications, Inc, 2014), p. 163.
[vi] Gershen Kaufman, ‘A Developmental Theory of Shame, Identity and The Self: Phenomenology and Facial Signs of Shame’, in The Psychology of Shame: Theory and Treatment of Shame-based Syndromes, 1st edn (New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc, 1989), p. 46.
[vii] Gershen Kaufman, ‘A Developmental Theory of Shame, Identity and The Self: Phenomenology and Facial Signs of Shame’, in The Psychology of Shame: Theory and Treatment of Shame-based Syndromes, 1st edn (New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc, 1989), p. 46.