Why Women Stay In Abusive Relationships

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Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships

Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships

Thesis statement

Abuse is never the victim's fault, and there are often many psychological issues affecting abused women and their ability to leave an abusive relationship.


The authors briefly survey the literature about women in abusive relationships and discuss key issues about the change process that arise from that work and are consistent with the grieving process. The constructs of depression, guilt, and decision-making difficulty among women abused by an intimate partner are examined and compared with the perspective of the normal grieving of a major loss. Implications for counseling practice are considered.

Description And Significance Of The Problem Area

Indicators of the incidence of spouse abuse in Canada and the United States estimate that at least 1 in 10 women has been assaulted by her intimate male partner (Dutton, 1988; Health and Welfare Canada, 1989). Whether or not they identify the abuse as a presenting concern, many women who seek counseling have been battered by a spouse. Counselors' understanding of a woman's trauma resulting from spousal assault has become more sophisticated with the attention given to it in the professional literature in recent years. The literature, however, has only recently begun to address the issues of therapeutic process for women who have been abused by their spouse. In this article we briefly survey the historical background of the literature about battered women and then discuss key issues of therapeutic change for women in abusive relationships as they relate to the natural grieving process.

Description And Significance Of The Problem Area

Review Of Relevant And Supporting Literature

The literature from the shelter movement of the early 1970s tended to focus on explanations for why a woman might be vulnerable to such victimization and why she might choose to stay in a relationship characterized by abuse. Much of the initial research and discussion attempted to answer questions about which personality needs might predispose a woman to become the victim of her mate's violence.

Caplan (1984) found that masochism was commonly attributed to battered women. The belief that a woman could not possibly tolerate the abuse unless she had a pathological trait of masochism is often still conveyed to a woman by those in whom she confides about the violence directed toward her (MacLeod, 1987), even though several studies have directly refuted this thesis. Kuhl (1984) examined the relationship between abuse and the need profiles of abused women and found no positive associations for scales consistent with masochistic attitudes (e.g., Abatement and Nurturance).

In a comprehensive study of women battered by their spouse, Walker (1984) found no evidence for the once commonly held belief that women who leave one abusive relationship typically enter another one. On the contrary, her results showed that when a woman who had been battered by a spouse entered another relationship, it was rarely with someone who was violent.

The notion that the victim is somehow to blame for her plight nevertheless persists in many of society's attitudes. Dutton (1988) has attempted to explain this in ...
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