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November 1999


From article, How Women Experience Battering: The Process of Victimization, by Kathleen Ferraro and John Johnson Arizona State University

  1. The appeal of the salvation ethic: This rationalization is grounded in a woman's desire to be of service to others. Abusing husbands are viewed as deeply troubled, dependent on their wives nurturance for survival. Battered women place their own safety and happiness below the commitment to "saving my man".
  2. The denial of victimizer: This technique is similar to the salvation ethic, except that victims do not assume responsibility for solving their abusers' problems. Women perceive battering as an event beyond the control of both spouses, and blame it on some external force. The violence is therefore seen as situational and temporary.
  3. The denial of injury: For some women, the experience of being battered by a spouse is so discordant with their expectations that they simply refuse to acknowledge it. routines quickly return to normal. Men may refuse to discuss or acknowledge the event..
  4. The denial of victimization: Victims often blame themselves for the violence, thereby neutralizing the responsibility of the spouse. Battered women don't generally believe that violence against them is justified, but some feel it could have been avoided if they had been more passive and conciliatory.
  5. The denial of options: This rationalization is composed of two elements: practical options and emotional options. Practical options, including alternative housing, sources of income, and protection from an abuser, are clearly limited by the patriarchal structure of Western society. However, there are differences in the ways battered women respond to these obstacles, ranging from determined struggle to acquiescence. For a variety of reasons, some battered women do not take full advantage of the practical opportunities which are available to escape, and some return to abusers voluntarily even after establishing an independent lifestyle.
  6. The appeal to higher loyalties: This appeal involves enduring battering for the sake of some higher commitment, either religious or traditional. The Christian belief that women would serve their husbands as men serve God is invoked as a rationalization to endure a husband's violence for later rewards in the afterlife. clergy may support this view by advising women to pray and try harder to please their husbands.
Catalysts for Change
  1. A change in the level of violence: The severity of abuse is an important factor in women's decision to leave violent situations. A sudden change in the relative level of violence is often the catalyst for change.
  2. A change in resources: Although some women rationalize cohabiting with an abuser by claiming they have no options, others begin reinterpreting violence when the resources necessary for escape become available.
  3. A change in the relationship: Violent incidents are usually followed by periods of remorse and solicitude. Such phases deepen the emotional bonds, and make rejection of an abuser more difficult. But as battering progresses, periods of remorse may shorten, or disappear, eliminating the basis for maintaining a positive outlook on the marriage.
  4. Despair: Changes in the relationship may result in loss of hope that "things will get better." When hope is destroyed and replaced by despair, rationalization of violence may give way to the recognition of victimization.
  5. A change in the visibility of violence: Creating a web of rationalizations to overlook violence is accomplished more easily if no intruders are present to question their validity. Since most violence between couples occurs in private, there are seldom conflicting interpretations of the event from outsiders. If violence does occur in the presence of others, it may trigger a reinterpretation process.
  6. External definitions of the relationship: A change in visibility is usually accomplished by the interjection of external definitions of abuse. External definitions vary depending on their source and the situation; they either reinforce or undermine rationalizations. Battered women who request help frequently find others- and especially officials- don't believe their story or are unsympathetic. When outsiders respond with unqualified support of the victim and condemnation of violent men, their definitions can be a potent catalyst. Friends and relatives who show genuine concern for a woman's well being may initiate an awareness of danger, which contradicts previous rationalizations.

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