a woman's handbook

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  • awomans handbooka practical guide to discussing relationship abuse

  • I want to stress how terribly important the

    role was that my friends and coworkers

    played. True, I got support from the

    counselors at the abused womens shelter.

    But it had even more impact on me when

    other people in my life gave me the same

    messages: that there was no excuse for

    my ex-husbands behaviornot our

    financial situation, nor being unhappy at

    school, nothing gave him cause to hit me.

    I never thought I would enjoy life as much

    as I do now, unhindered by the constant

    threat of violence. Karen

    3 letter of introduction

    45 what is relationship abuse?

    68 a friend in need

    811 teen violence

    1213 family ties

    1417 its everyones business

    18 planning for safety

    1920 womens resource guide

    table of contents

  • Your sister looks at the clock and you see a panicked look cross herface. She says she is late to meet her husband, and she has to gethomenow!

    Your coworker usually does good work, but lately her performancehas been spotty. Her boyfriend calls her every morning just to makesure she got to work okay, and she always seems jumpy and nervous.

    Your best friend has a bruise on her wristagain. This time shesays she knocked it against a door.

    With one in four American women reporting that they have beenphysically abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in theirlives, domestic violence might be closer than you think. Nearly onethird of all Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.


    Relationship abuse is a leading cause of injury to women. It sendsthousands of women to emergency rooms every year, traumatizeschildren who witness their mothers being beaten by men who are supposed to love them, and takes a toll on every one of us.

    The good news is that relationship abuse is a problem we cansolve. This handbook was created to help you understand relationship abuse and give you some simple steps you can take tohelp stop it.

    Its not hard to help. In fact, its very easy. All it takes is overcoming your own discomfort with talking about a taboo subjectand reaching out to someone who really needs your friendship andsupport. Just by letting your friend, family member or coworker knowthat you care about what is happening to her, you can help awoman who feels isolated, abandoned and alone realize that shehas options and make her feel safe and supported. You dont need tohave all the answersweve provided a list of resources for that. Itsmore important that you let her know you care.

    Thank you for taking your first steps toward stopping relationshipviolence.

    Paul R. Charron Esta SolerChairman and Chief Executive Officer Executive DirectorLiz Claiborne Inc. Family Violence

    Prevention Fund


    dear friend,

  • 4

    Everyone has experienced tension in their relationships. Relationshipabuse is not a disagreement, an anger management problem or arelationship with ups and downs.

    Relationship abuse, or domestic violence, is a pattern of violentbehaviors that adults or adolescents use against their intimate part-

    ners. Abuse can cause injury and even death, but itdoesnt have to be physical. Domestic violence alsoincludes sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, aswell as economic control over another person.

    Relationship abuse can happen to anyone of anyrace, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. Itcan happen to couples who are married, living to-

    gether or just dating. It affects people of all educational backgroundsand income levels. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that morethan 90 percent of all victims of domestic violence are women andmost perpetrators are men.

    2Because of this, this handbook uses she

    when referring to victims and he when referring to abusers.

    What do you do if you think your friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, but youre not sure? Go with your instinctsyouprobably wouldnt be concerned without reason. Here are some signsto look for that might indicate an abusive relationship:

    1. When your friend and her husband or boyfriend are together, he acts very controlling and puts her down in front of other people. 2. He acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to her, especially men. 3. She becomes quiet when he is around and seems afraid of making him angry. 4. She stops seeing her friends and family members, becoming more and more isolated. 5. She often cancels plans at the last minute. 6. He controls her finances, her behavior and even whom she socializes with.

    7. You see him violently lose his temper,striking or breaking objects. 8. She often has unexplained injuries, orthe explanations she offers dont quiteadd up. (Sometimes you wont see anybruises, as batterers target their blows toareas that can be covered with clothing.)9. She has casually mentioned his violent behavior but laughed it off as a joke.10. Her child is frequently upset or very quiet and withdrawn and wont say why.

    I wanted someone to ask meabout the abuse. I couldnt askfor help. I was ashamed. Julie

    what is relationship abuse?

    ten warning signs of an abusive relationship Relationship abuse is a

    crime, just like robbery or rape. Ifyou see or hear an assault in progress,call 911. If you are outside when yousee a woman being assaulted on thestreet or in a car, write down the licenseplate number and/or the location of theassault in progress and find the nearestphone to call the police. These situa-tions can be dangerous, so whatever youdo, be sure to keep yourself safe. But dosomething! Dont assume that someoneelse has already taken care of it. Sur-vivors of relationship abuse say thatwhen no one acknowledged that theysaw the abuse or tried to help, it madethem feel even more isolated and alone.


  • no excuse for itnot alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, depression, jealousy nor any behavior of hers.

    Emphasize that when she wants help, it is available. Let her know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become morefrequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.

    Explain that relationship abuse is a crime and that she can seek protection from the police or courts as well as help from a local domestic violence program. Suggest that she call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE for advice and referrals.

    Work with her to identify resources to help her take care of herself, get emotional support and build her self-esteem.

    If she is your neighbor, come up with a way she can signal you if she needs you to call the police, such as turning a porch light on during the day or lowering a particular window shade.

    If she decides to leave her relationship, she may need money, assistance finding a place to live, a place to store her belongings or a ride to a battered womens shelter. Think about ways you might feel comfortable helping her.

    If you want to talk with someone yourself to get adviceabout a particular situation, contact a local domestic violence program.

    Once you have brought the subject up, bring it up again.Try not to get frustrated if you reach out to a friend and she

    stays with her batterer or goes back to him. Ending any relationshipis a process that takes time. Ending a violent relationship is evenharder. Usually, the victim fears for her life. She may also want herchildren to grow up with a father. Perhaps her self-esteem is so damaged that she thinks she cant make it on her own or she believesher abuser when he tells her the violence is her fault. Or she justwants the violence to end, not the relationship.

    If you have firsthand experience with relationship abuse, the bestthing you can do is to tell your story to others. Let other women seeyou and the life you have built as a survivor, so they realize that theytoo can escape and that there is a better life to look forward to.Being open about what you went through or witnessed also helpsremove the stigma of being abused.

    Sarah and Jessica havebeen friends since kinder-garten. Sarah was maidof honor at Jessicaswedding to David, andfor a while it seemed likeher friend was on cloudnine. But lately, Jessicaseems tired and stressed out all the time. Sarah cant remember thelast time she heard her really laugh like she used to. She always seemsdistracted and worries about making David angry if she is runninglate or doesnt call home when she is supposed to. One day, whenthe two friends are shopping for clothes, Sarah is alarmed to see bruises on Jessicas back that look like fingerprints. Jessica laughs it offand says she bumped into a door, but Sarah is starting to get worriedabout her friends safety.

    You might think that something as simple as talking to a friend aboutabuse couldnt possibly make a difference. But it really can.

    Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask about the abusecan break through the wall of isolation that canexist around victims of relationship abuse.

    If you think a friend or loved one is beingabused, talk to her about it. Listen to her. Let herknow you care. You dont have to be an expert.You just need to be a friend.

    Gently ask direct questions about her situation.Give her time to talk. Ask again a few days later.Dont rush into providing solutions. (For some sug-gested ways to bring the subject up, see page 13.)

    Listen without judging. Often a battered woman believes her abusers negative messages about herself. She may feel responsi-ble, ashamed, inadequate and afraid she will be judged by you.

    Tell her the abuse is not her fault. Explain that physical or emotional abuse in a relationship is never acceptable. The