WORKING WITH BATTERED WOMEN: A Handbook for Health Care Professionals


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What Is Abuse?


The societal issue of battered women has been labeled as wife abuse, spousal abuse, and conjugal, domestic or family violence. For the purposes of this manual we will use the term battered or abused women, which refers specifically to assaultive or abusive behavior committed by a man against a woman with whom he has an intimate, sexual, usually co-habitating relationship. (The definition is sex specific because while men may also be victims of battering, the numbers are very small, the abuse usually isn't accompanied by the threat of physical abuse, and the power balance is distinctly different. Abuse of men in our society is also not reinforced by the social, religious and economic factors that are operative in women's experience.) Battering can take many forms including, but not limited to:

Physical Abuse: may include but is not limited to: pushing, slapping, punching, choking, kicking, breaking bones, throwing objects; abandoning her in an unsafe place; deprivation of food, water, clothing; confining her in a closet, room or building; locking her out of her home; using weapons against her; murder.

Sexual Abuse: may include but not limited to: forced, coerced or unwanted touching or sex with partner; withholding of sex or affection; demanding that she wear more/less provocative clothing; forced sex with objects, friends, animals, or other sexual practices that make her feel humiliated, or degraded; insisting that she act out pornographic fantasies; denial of her sexuality, sexual feelings or desirability as a sexual partner; rape.

Emotional Abuse: may include but is not limited to: withdrawal of affection; jealousy; denial of her right to feelings or emotions; putdowns, constant criticism; name calling; isolating her from friends and family; controlling her activities; denying her any personal pleasures or outside interests; destruction of property, pets or treasured objects; threats to harm friends or family; forcing her to watch her children being abused without being allowed to intervene; making her account for every minute, every action; controlling her with fear, threats of suicide, threats on her life.

Economic Abuse: may include but is not limited to: allowing a woman to have no money of her own, no money for emergencies, not even her own earnings; forcing her to account for and justify all money spent; not allowing her to earn money or improve her earning capacity.

Spiritual Abuse: may include but is not limited to: breaking down one's belief system (cultural or religious); being punished or ridiculed for one's beliefs; preventing the practice of beliefs.


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