As a child, I spent the summers with my grandparents; their home was a safe and loving place that I dearly loved. My grandfather “took the cure”, which is a southern expression for someone who stopped drinking alcohol and replaced it with religion, so there was never any liquor in their Chattanooga, Tennessee home.
When I was about 7 years old, I remember awakening one night to a woman screaming and beating on the front door. My grandparents opened the door to a woman covered in blood begging for help. She said her husband had beaten her in a drunken rage and “this time” she knew he was going to kill her. I remember the puddling blood dripping from her face onto my grandparents doorway and the terrorized woman. It was the most horrible thing I’d ever seen. Where was all the blood coming from?
I remember my grandmother telling me to get a towel from the bathroom and her handing it to the woman. I don’t remember my grandparents calling the police, but I do remember a policeman arriving and the woman begging for help. I also remember the very drunk man stumbling and swaying in the yard.
What I remember most is the police officer doing nothing to help that woman. He told her to stop provoking her husband to anger and to apologize to him and my grandparents for disturbing them. He also told her to clean the blood off “the nice lady’s” steps and go home. I remember the woman on her knees crying trying to clean her blood off the painted doorway of my grandmother’s home and I remember my grandmother stopping her.
My most vivid memory was the horror on the woman’s face as her drunk husband pulled her back to their house by the arm, as the policeman and my grandparents watched in disgust. I never saw those people again, yet I have never forgotten that night.
Domestic Violence and Battered Wife Syndrome
The number of incidents of domestic violence is staggering. It is estimated that physical violence occurs in about four to six million relationships each year in the U. S. A full quarter of American women will experience abuse in their lifetimes. Worldwide, at least one-third of women have been beaten, raped, or abused, and the perpetrator is often a member of her own family.
Domestic violence affects families from affluent communities and those from poor ones, the educated and non-educated, varying ethnicities, and those who are heterosexual and homosexual. In short, this is a problem that affects families just like yours. The chances are great that you know someone who has been abused by a spouse, partner, boyfriend, or girlfriend, or that you have known this violence.
One of the reasons why domestic violence is so devastating is that it affects the entire family. When there are children involved, they are also victims. Even when they are not physically harmed, they are damaged by the abuse. This is referred to as “secondary domestic violence,” which is extremely detrimental to children’s development. When one parent is being abused, she/he is typically not able to give her/his children the help and support they need. The children, then, are left to handle the emotions and pain on their own. An abusive parent tends to be much less affectionate, available, and supportive than parents in non-abusive households. Also, studies suggest that parents who are abused are more punitive and aggressive towards their children. Not only do children witness abuse, but they have no one to help them.
There are four characteristics of battered women’s syndrome:
The woman believes she is at fault
She is afraid for her life or those of her children
She does not place blame on the abuser
She believes the abuser is both “omnipresent” and “omniscient”