The Battered Wife

There is a woman.

She is a young mother to three young children; a wife to a husband; a daughter to separated parents; a sister to a pair of siblings; an office mate to some many people; and a good friend to many.

I’ve known her for quite awhile, but I never knew in all the time that I knew her that at one point in her life, she was a battered wife. A victim to uncontrollable bursts of physical violence from her husband.

Her story is one that I always hoped I would never hear from the mouth of someone I personally know; and a story I wish I never had to tell. Sadly, as I get older, the things I used to watch only on TV or movies – have actually happened to people I know. This is the reality of life.

My friend’s story is quite simple, really. I don’t know how similar it is to the stories of many victims of domestic violence. It starts out as a relatively happy marriage. Then several years after they’ve been together, husband goes through some sort of personal crisis. His insecurities surface. His life falls apart. And then he starts blaming his wife for his inadequacies. He feels bouts of depression and uncontrollable anger – whether directed at her or not, the fact that she’s his constant companion – then she becomes the object of his frustration.

This is putting it very simplistically.

A lot of people have already told my friend to leave her husband for her sake, and for the sake of her kids. She’s tried leaving him, but she eventually came back. It seemed to have stop. But only time can tell, right?

While growing up I’ve been raised to believe that if a man hits a woman, the woman should leave him. Nothing justifies physical violence, especially on a woman. So this essentially should be a no-brainer.

One thing I realized though while talking to my friend is this: nothing is that simple. There are reasons why a woman chooses to stand by her husband, even if everyday she lives in terror of him and his bursts of temper. Sometimes the reasons may even be understandable. Not forgivable, but understandable.

The best thing we can do for women (or anyone) who has stories like these to tell, and especially when the story is far from over – is to just be there for them when they need us. Most women choose not to speak up for the simple reason that they’re afraid that telling someone else — means that other people will just pressure them to up and leave. Or maybe sometimes, they fear the judgment that others will bestow on the one inflicting violence.

The reality is – no one can force a woman (or anyone) to walk away from a bad relationship, a bad marriage, or even an abusive job – if he/she is not yet ready to do it. They will do it if and when they are ready to, and if they want to. But not one minute sooner.

And here’s the thing. Most abused women are not stupid, nor blind. They see what’s happening to them. The fact that they stay means they’ve thought it through, and probably have valid reasons for choosing to stick it out. Whether or not we agree with her decision is not what she needs to know. She just needs to know that when she’s at her lowest point, she has someone she trusts that she can run to.

There are people who fight for women’s and children’s rights. I am sympathetic to these causes. But personally, I think it would be more politically correct to fight for human rights as a whole. It is a myth that only women and children can be the victims of domestic abuse. It is also a myth that all people who exercise physical violence are bad people and should be condemned.

There are of course those who are simply born with the predisposition to perform violent acts and experience no remorse. The ones with no conscience. Those are the ones who are more likely to spend a life of criminality. The ones who become the Jack the Rippers and Ted Bundys of society.

But most violent behavior from normal people are usually because they themselves were victims of violence at some point in their lives. Either that or there is something genuinely wrong with them – usually, an intrinsic chemical imbalance that accounts for eratic moods and behavior.

So, with no intent for disrespect to organizations that champion women’s rights – there may be some merit as well in understanding people who commit acts of domestic violence and trying to understand the root cause of all the pent-up anger. Abused women/men need help. But the abuser needs just as much help.

So if you ever find someone in your life who may be either the abused or the abuser – do not judge. Just be there to help, and know who to call if things go out of hand.

DSWD 734-8635 or 488-3199

Womens Crisis Center 926-7744, 922-5235, 929-2590