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Convince a Battered Woman to Seek Help

by Theodora Aggeles, RN and Beth Hering
The Challenge

Domestic violence is an issue for anyone who has four female friends, four female relatives, or four female co-workers. That is because nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.

In the three minutes it takes for you to read this article, another 20 women will experience physical abuse from their husband. In the course of a year, nearly 1.3 million women are assaulted by their partner. 

Abused women come from all economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds. In addition to physical injuries that leave battered women in pain and often in need of medical attention, domestic violence scars are often emotional. Battered women live in a constant state of stress to say or do whatever will keep them safe. These abused women commonly feel ashamed at the situation, powerless to do something about it, and depressed by their circumstances.

For people wishing to help, recognizing the signs of domestic abuse is key. Knowing the dynamics of battered woman’s syndrome may help you understand why a battered woman delays seeking help. She may fear being killed, being left homeless, or becoming destitute. Her abuser may threaten harm to her children, other family members, or pets. A battered woman is often isolated from family, friends and support and sustains a constant barrage of insults which convince her she is unworthy of a better life. Abusers often control a battered woman’s money and transportation. Even if a battered wife is affluent and able to leave, she may fear her husband will use his money and connections to track her down.

Domestic abuse is rarely a single episode and escalates over time, but a battered woman alone must decide to seek help. A battered woman is more at risk of being murdered when leaving an abuser.

Yet, refuge does exist for the battered woman and her children at domestic violence shelters

Simply telling a battered woman she doesn't deserve abuse can plant the seeds for a new life. Hearing you confirm she has the right to live violence-free and express her thoughts, feelings, and emotions might be the first time a battered woman has heard the truth. Your kindness and encouragement to seek help can be the catalyst a battered woman needs to seek out her options and eventually escape domestic violence.

How to Make a Difference I Did This!
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  • Learn the different types of abuse that a battered woman might experience in a relationship.
  • Recognize that a friend, co-worker, classmate, or acquaintance of any age can be a battered woman.
  • Understand that your words can make a difference. Some battered women have never had anyone express empathy for their situation. You can support a battered woman by saying: "I'm sorry that happened to you. No one deserves to be hit; no one has a right to treat another person that way. The abuse is not your fault."
  • Encourage any woman you think might be a domestic violence victim to seek help, while always keeping her safety the first priority. Pass along the number for the national domestic violence helpline, 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).
  • If you have a few hours, please consider assisting domestic violence shelters by making care priority.

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