Do you work with women who are physically abused and wonder how best to help them?
Contrary to public opinion and the views of many domestic violence agencies, leaving the batterer is not necessarily the only or best solution available to intimate violence survivors.
Sherry Hamby proposes in her book: Battered Women’s Protective Strategies, an innovative and strengths-based approach to this dilemma. Hamby recommends broadening the way one looks at dangerous assessment and safety planning so as to not only fully capture the complexities of the lives that women are facing, but to also recognize the many coping strategies they are already employing.
Why is it important to take a more holistic approach to the risks that domestic violence survivors face?
The traditional framework tends to stigmatize battered women who do not leave their abusers as being passive and in denial.
It is only by acknowledging and understanding all the potential risks and losses that battered women are facing, that we can comprehend and appreciate the protective strategies that they are utilizing and suggest additional helpful measures that fit their particular situations.
2 Common Myths:
- Leaving the abuser always stops the violence.
- The only way to stop the cycle of battering is to end the relationship.
Myth 1: Leaving the Abuser Always Stops the Violence
Leaving may not stop the violence. It might even place the woman’s life in greater danger.
Women are at increased risk for death or serious injury once they leave or share their plans to leave.
Myth 2: The Only Way to Stop the Cycle of Battering Is to End the Relationship
This is not true. Some women strive to achieve a state of “non-violence” and manage to address the issue of violence from within their relationship.
Hamby cites a number of different research studies in support of this approach such as community samples (Jasinski, 2001), military samples (Rabenhorst et al., 2012) and couples who have participated in therapy (O’Leary et al., 1999; Stith & McCollum, 2011).
Financial Constraints that Intimate Violence Survivors Often Face When Leaving:
• Lack of money for security deposit and other moving costs
• Lack of money to file for divorce or pay for a lawyer
• A much lower standard of living or fall into poverty
As a result of finances being such a critical component to one’s survival, financial dependence is one of the most common reasons that victimized women do not leave.
Many abused women need assistance in finding [and keeping] jobs and obtaining financial assistance.
Good stable employment is often difficult for victims to achieve because on-the-job harassment and/or violence often interfere with their ability to achieve and/or retain work.
According to Postmus (2010):
- 35 to 56% of battered women report being harassed at work
- 24 to 52% report losing their jobs due to violence
I highly recommend Battered Women’s Protective Strategies for any social worker, mental health professional or intimate violence advocate. It provides a comprehensive review of the wide variety of issues that domestic violence survivors face, the broad range of protective coping skills they employ, as well as an innovative risk assessment and management tool [VIGOR] that would apply for women with both considerable and few resources.
The book includes the following sections:
- Re-framing of Stereotypes of Battered Women
- A Holistic Approach to the Complex Problem of Battering
- Protective Strategies/The Multitude of Risks Batterers Can Create
- Financial and Institutional Issues that Constrain Coping
- Additional Influences on Coping Strategies [Social, Practical and Personal]
- Immediate Situational Strategies
- Protecting Children, Family, Friends, Co-Workers and Pets
- Reaching Out for Social Support and Navigating the Challenges of Information Management
- Spiritual and Religious Resources
- Formal Resources
- Invisible Strategies
- A More Holistic Approach to Services and Tools for Intervention
- Conclusion: Recognizing Protective Strategies Can Create Progress
Domestic violence survivors are also likely to find Hamby’s book an invaluable resource, as well as a source of much needed recognition and validation for all the difficulties they face and their creative [but previously overlooked] coping strategies.
This validation is especially priceless in a world that negatively stereotypes women who have not left their abusers and is legally biased in favor of the abuser.
For ex., regardless of the violence, abusers are likely to receive equal or full custody of children they have with their battered wives and child protection agencies often threaten to remove children from the homes of domestic violence survivors when women do not leave their batterers.
In sum, as a result of the differences in the many risks and concerns that different women face, there is no one size fits all intervention strategy.
An effective safety planning and risk assessment is one that is personalized and adapted to reflect a victim’s specific strengths, needs and risks and the way she prioritizes her risks.
What are your thoughts about this book and/or domestic violence? Please share your thoughts below.