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Domestic Violence

Can You Tell When Someone Is Being Abused?

02/24/2004

Question:

Why are there bad relationships? What can you do about it? What are some signs of bad relationships? Are there any stages? Can you tell when your neighbors are being abused? Is there any way you can help them without getting hurt yourself?

Answer:

You have certainly asked a number of important questions, and I will try to provide a brief response to your questions. Lenora Walker, a leading expert in the field of intimate partner violence, identifies several risk factors that may indicate a high risk for potential for battering in a relationship.

The first is a difference in socioeconomic status between the batterer and the battered woman. Walker reports that perhaps there are biases in men who batter that suggest that they are less likely to tolerate a major difference between what they earn and what their partner earns. If she is making more than him, he may use violence as a way to decrease what he perceives to be a status difference.
 
Also, if a woman marries a man who has very traditional views of a woman's role in a relationship, this may also put her at risk for violence. Walker further indicates that men who struggle with feelings of insecurity and need a lot of attention may become very possessive of their partners. These men are typically more at risk for violence, especially if they report a positive history of abuse in other relationships. They usually demonstrate uncontrollable jealousy.

Another factor that may indicate risk for violence is engaging in early sexual intimacy in the relationship. Batterers are often viewed as seductive and charming and women typically fall for this behavior.
 
Finally, alcohol and drug abuse often predict violent behavior.

These are just a few potential risk factors observed and reported by women who have been in battering relationships. They are considered the most important and the most researched. However, there certainly are other factors that may play a role in violent relations.

What can be done about violence in relationships? We can begin by educating young girls and women about the signs of violent relationships and how to become less tolerant of abusive behavior. We also need to focus on the role that society plays in perpetuating and maintaining various forms of violence against women and girls.
 
Many shelters in the Columbus area have very small information fact sheets that are small enough to place in the bottom of a woman's shoe. In order to reduce risk to the woman and yourself, you may want to consult the local domestic violence hotline for additional suggestions.
 
Many medical clinics keep information cards in the women's restrooms as well. Most importantly, providing a trusting space for women to share their thoughts and feelings is always welcomed, because battered women often feel isolated from others and typically have no one with whom to share their experiences. 

For more information:

Go to the Domestic Violence health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Cathy   McDaniels-Wilson, PhD Cathy McDaniels-Wilson, PhD
Adjunct Professor
Department of Sociology
The Ohio State University