I guess there may exist a myth, at least in my mind, that after a couple has been together for many, many years the man is no longer abusive. Well, some aspects of this are often true. After a man has abused his wife or girlfriend for a number of years he no longer has to actually physically abuse her. She remembers the physical abuse very well as she has essentially been brain washed and conditioned. All he needs to do is use the technique known as display or show of power discussed on the psychological abuse link below, whereby he needs only remind her by a look or gesture of past physical abuse. So no, he may not be physically abusing her anymore, which in her mind seems to minimize the present abuse situation and makes it easier for her to stay in denial.
A year after we first opened our doors in 1979, we had 3 women over 70. One had been abused by her son and the other two had been in long term marriages. Taking into consideration their learned helplessness and the power & control used against them as seen in the power and control wheel link, their upbringing “this is the bed you made and now you have to lay in it,” these women showed a great deal of courage.
At that time husbands could pretty well do what they wanted to with their wives. There was no place for them to turn. It was if they were just waiting for a shelter to open. Neither of these women’s husband’s would ever let her out of his sight. So they found the exact moment provided them to finally get help they grabbed it.
One woman while shopping went down one aisle while he went down another, finding herself separated from him, she ran out the door. She just happened to be shopping in the local super market which just happened to be located directly across from our Police Station. The police brought her to our shelter where she stayed until she could get into a community care home. After he got sober he would go to visit her. The two of them could be seen walking hand-in-hand together up and down the street. She later said, “He says he wants us to get back together and for me to go back home, but I like things the way they are just fine.”
The other woman lived in a rural area as do so many battered women. It was “mud season” and her husband got stuck in one of the ruts. When another care pulled up behind them, she jumped out and quickly told her story and asked the people to take her to the police. They did and then the police brought her to us. Because of her religious background she felt extreme guilt. He seemed to know how to trigger this as he sent her a rose. He also went weeping to the neighbors’ door trying to get someone to feel sorry for him. She eventually went back home but I did see her about 5 years later; he had died and she was feeling free for the first time.
Not all women are able to outlive their abuser. In the documentary video, which I mentioned at the beginning of this page, the woman leaves but when her husband becomes ill, she goes back to care for him. Despite his bitter emotional abuse, witnessed on camera, she stays with him until she dies. All she wanted was just to have a peaceful life.
Show of Power
Power and Control Wheel
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Preview of video mentioned