Psychological Perspectives from the Abused
Targets and survivors of abuse are usually the object of jaded scrutiny. Seldom does anyone take the time to learn from them what their feelings are in regard to what was exacted upon them. Most refer to the incident(s) as "domestic violence" which can prove to be a very confusing term. Most law enforcement agencies consider it to mean physical violence perpetrated against an intimate partner. It does not take into account the same type of violence and other forms of abuse and control visited on people who are merely house- or roommates.
Except for a handful of psychological studies that brought forth the various terms relating to battered woman syndrome (BWS), Stockholm syndrome, denouncement of BWS and then reinstatement as valid, post traumatic stress disorder, there's not a lot to be found in regard to actually documenting what the target is feeling and how they are affected by the incidents leading to their finally coming forward. A Google search on the phrase "studies of domestic abuse victims" yielded about 48,400,000 results. It was helpful to modify the search to the phrase "psychological studies of domestic abuse victims" which in turn yielded 3,640,000 results. But nothing I could find set forth psychological findings about abuse victims who were not in an intimate relationship with their abuser.
Even more frustrating for them is trying to come forward to report the harm and in turn being met with no response. Worse is no response and no protection. It's essentially turning the person who's been harmed into a victim two or three times over. And each day, they exist (not live) while walking on eggshells lest they do something, anything, some minute unconscious gesture that will again offend their tormentor.
To this end, it would be helpful to have some content that could help us relate to what the target is experiencing. Suffice it to say, Rihanna's songs about how wonderful abuse and violence are, how she craves the love it expresses, are not accurate. However, I was able to obtain two emails from a survivor wherein we get a picture of her state of mind at the time. The names of the parties have been fictionalized but the content of the messages are real.
Sent: Tue 4/24/2007
To: Barbara XXX; Linda XXX
Subject: It's Time for Me to Speak; It's Time for Me to Come Out - Please Help
Hi Barbara and Linda
This month is the eighth anniversary of the day I walked away from my entire family because of an abusive environment that became physically violent. Today, just as eight years ago, I was battered (this time with a cast iron fry pan by a housemate) while others looked on and refused my requests to call the police on my behalf. However, the abuser/assailant used their own phone to call the police and report me.
I have bruises and hematomas and soreness. Some angel protected the housemate's mind to prevent her from using that fry pan on my head. But the police left the house after taking a report from the housemate, not me.
I'm tired of being used as a punching bag. I'm tired of being plied for this and that piece of information. I'm tired of being ignored. I'm weary of doing all manner of things to qualify myself to speak to HR pros, banks, utility companies, and such in order to make them aware of the safety protocols that need to be put in place, the warning signs, the effects on the person.
My Life cycle has come full turn. I'm being battered again, but this time by a stranger and not a family member. But it still leaves me with nowhere to go. It's time for it to stop -- the bulllying, the pushing, the shoving, the lying, the psychosis. It's time for me to stop being the target and put on the armor of a warrior out to defeat the behavior, to beat back the aggressor and neutralize them.
Please help me make the first steps to setting up a forum in order to speak.
The next day, April 25, 2007, Teresa contacted Shauna, a counselor at Peace of Violence. Her message read:
I spent today getting to the clinic where I'm being treated for congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. I felt it would be prudent to have the collection of things impacting my health at one facility, so I chose to go to Venice in order to have my bruises examined.
They wrote up a report of my injuries and condition when I presented to medical professionals. That, along with a police report was faxed to Southwest Division. I then traveled to Southwest in order to file a verbal report.
The desk officer handed me a pamphlet on domestic violence and some places to call for shelter. I'm ambivalent about the latter.
Tomorrow (and probably as you're reading this message), I have an appointment with Pasadena DPSS. Since I no longer have any clean clothes, laundry is at the top of my "to do" list. When I'm through with the DPSS office visit, I'll call you to learn what suggestions you may have for me. I hope it's something better than shelter life.
Unfortunately, Teresa was never able to talk with Shauna. None of her phone calls were returned. When she visited the advocate's office according to the instructions she was given (and after completing all of the intake forms), she was told that Shauna was not in the office. There was no follow-up contact to reschedule the intake visit and no explanation about why she could not be seen.
Teresa remained in the house. Although the members who populated it changed, the conditions did not; they got worse. The violence escalated. It is safe to say all of the other occupants suffered from some type of psychological (even psychotic) condition. One with a looming presence also proved to be an abuser. After each new incident and even though he was not present to witness what happened, he would call the police to make a report against Teresa (as she recounted the experiences) and would manufacture how the events arose. He would claim she created the incident and discovered she was in over her head. Law enforcement made their reports showing her as the perpetrator.
Teresa eventually moved out with an understanding between her and the landlord. Although she became severely ill and was hospitalized for nearly two years, she was finally able to escape the abuse and dangers of that house.
- Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships
- Domestic Violence - Definition from Safe Harbor
- Profile of an Abuser
- Handling the Abuser
- Double Damage: Partner Violence Impacts Mental Health of Over Half-Million Californians, ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2011)
- 'You're Not A Victim Of Domestic Violence, Are You?', ScienceDaily (Nov. 5, 2007)
- Psychology and Domestic Violence Around the World, Lenore E. Walker, American Psychologist [PsycARTICLES]; January 1999
- Domestic Violence Statistics [in Oregon] - A page updated in 2012 and containing data from 2005
- Domestic Violence Victims Have Higher Health Costs for Years After Abuse Ends, ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2010)
- Three in Four Domestic Violence Victims Go Unidentified in Emergency Rooms, New Study Shows, ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2011)
- Survey of State Domestic Violence Legislation