You might think I made a mistake with the title of this article, as it contradicts itself, but read on, and I will explain. Many people have a preconceived notion of what a “battered woman” looks like—poor, several children, high school education or GED, submissive, scared. While Quaker House has certainly had clients that fit the above description, most often our clients would be hard to recognize. They work in the same office you do, live in your neighborhood, and they might be at the same PTA meetings you attend. Many have advanced degrees, good jobs, and are quite successful at what they do. Some are not even women. That’s right, we have seen battered men, and they are very hard to spot, as most men find it embarrassing to admit to being abused by their partner. So why do they stay? Fear. Low self-esteem. A manipulative but charming partner.
One client came to us and reported that everyone “just loved” her husband the whole time they were married. He beat her mercilessly, and the only people that knew about it were the client, her husband and, later, their child. She stayed with him for over 18 years to ensure financial stability and health insurance for their child. Once their child was grown and out of the house, she risked her own life to leave him. One would hope for a happy ending for this woman, but her husband had been so charming that her own family members questioned her reasons for leaving him, and she found herself without a place to live and with no support.
Remember the second part of the title, “easy to spot”? Abusers can always spot victims, and even survivors, in the case of our client. And, our client was smart. She was determined not to let another man (after leaving her abusive partner who had been in the military) control or abuse her again. So she turned to the one place where she felt safe—church. She soon found herself enslaved in a work-camp-like environment. In exchange for her meager room and board, she often worked up to 18 hours per day. No cell phones were allowed, no outside visitors, and workers always had to be accompanied by a member of “management” when they left the premises. Luckily, our client was able to escape from abuse a second time in her life and found her way to North Carolina and to Quaker House. I share this story with you to, hopefully, explain why sometimes people seem trapped in a cycle of abuse, even when they leave their abuser. They are “easy to spot” by other abusers and can fall victim again very quickly.
~Joanna, Quaker House Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Moral Injury LCSW Counselor
This post originally appeared as an article in our Autumn 2018 newsletter. Contact us or fill out the form on this web site (home page, at the bottom) if you would like to be added to our mailing list.