Term Paper: Abuse of Women Has Grown

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[. . .] There seems to be a common feeling of shame among abuse victims.

Paula Spencer also dismisses the abuse when she says, "I envied them. And sometimes I hated them. They didn't know how lucky they were with their real accidents" (Doyle, p. 38). She sees other women at the hospital and wishes she had "real accidents" as they had. It seems that abused women do not feel that they have the right to call it abuse unless someone else validates it as such.

When one does leave, what compels her finally to get out of the abusive situation?

When one does finally leave an abusive situation, it is often out of care for another, often a child. One may see the impact that the abuse is having on the life of one's child, and then she will find the resolve to leave. It is sad to note that many women do not seem to have enough love for themselves to get out of the situation. In Black and Blue, Frannie says of her young son, Robert,

And I was keeping my son safe, too, not because his father had ever hit him -- he never ever had -- but because the secret inside our house, the secret about what happened at night, when Daddy was drunk and disgusted with himself and everything around him, was eating the life out of Robert. When he was little he would touch a bruise softly, say, "You boo-boo, Mama?"... now he only looked, as though he knew to be quiet, as though he thought this was the way life was. My little boy, who had always had something of the little old man about him, was becoming a dead man, too, with a dead man's eyes...I wasn't going to let it happen to my son. (Quindlen, p. 23).

Combined with the love for her child, and whatever love for herself she has left, the abused will sometimes resolve to leave. It is after she makes that decision and leaves, that the realization seems to come regarding how much of herself she has lost and how beaten down she has been. Sometimes then she will dare to dream and to begin picking up the pieces of herself, and then to begin nurturing her own self. Frannie comes to this place after she leaves her husband Bobby. She says, "Beth. I liked Beth. I was leaving, I was starting over again, I was saving my life, I was sick of the fear and the fists. Frannie Flynn was gone. I'd killed her myself. I was Beth Crenshaw now" (Quindlen, p. 27).

Paula Spencer speaks of a similar overwhelming love for her child when she states, "Jack, my baby. He is five. He's as bright as a button, and quick. He's a gentle little lad. He still has his baby's face and tummy. Whenever I feel really poor I always search for Jack and look at him; he looks well fed and prosperous.... He is my mascot; my statement. He's my baby" (Doyle, p. 79).

Paula Spencer did finally stand up to her husband, in the form of lashing back at him. She had had enough, and she beats her husband with a huge frying pan that her mother-in-law gave her. Frannie Benedetto, however, did not dare to stand up to her husband in a physical way. Instead, after years of abuse, she finally was able to run away from him with the help of a network of support people.

There are other differences and similarities between Frannie Benedetto and Paula Spencer. Paula Spencer has four children to support, whereas Frannie Benedetto has only one. Some of Paula's children are older - one in fact, is already hooked on heroin and out of the house. Perhaps this contributes to her continued poverty after the death of Charlo. Spencer is so impoverished that she can't believe her luck when she finds a Danielle Steele novel in the trash she's emptying. Spencer is trying to support her children, trying to fight off her alcoholism, and trying to keep her children from experiencing the its effects. Although Frannie's husband is still alive, she is able to make a clean break and able to begin to put the pieces of her life back together. Paula is not able to do that, even though her husband is gone for good.

Both women's resolve to escape the abuse and their past is very strong. But for Paula Spencer, there is a sense that part of her is still in love with Charlo. It is definitely a love-hate relationship. Whereas with Frannie Benedetto, one only senses that she used to be madly in love with him, that she loved him for a long time, but that now she is tired and angry. She evens talks about hatred toward her husband. Frannie seems to see her situation clearer than Paula. She is able to see her husband for what he is - a selfish abuser, who cares more about himself than about anybody or anything else. Frannie says,

The accident was that I met Bobby Benedetto in a bar, and I fell crazy in love with him. And after that I fell further and further every year. Not so you'd notice, if you knew me, although no one really did. On the outside I looked fine: the job, the house, the kid, the husband, the smile. Nobody got to see the hitting, which was really the humiliation, which turned into the hatred. Not just hating Bobby, but hating myself, too, the cringing self that was afraid to pick up the remote control from the coffee table in case it was just that thing that set him off" (Quindlen, p. 91).

There is a common theme between the two books that is abuse of illegal substances - alcohol and drugs. Frannie's husband, Bobby, drinks often. When he does, he drinks until he gets drunk. That sets of the scenario for abuse to follow. The worst abuse always came when Bobby was drunk. Frannie says, " the secret about what happened at night, when Daddy was drunk and disgusted with himself and everything around him, was eating the life out of Robert. When he was little he would touch a bruise softly, say, "You boo-boo, Mama?" When he got a little older he sometimes said, narrowing his big black eyes, "Mommy, how did you hurt yourself?" (Quindlen, p. 61).

The physical abuse occurred more often to Paula, and perhaps more severe; not that one could rightfully quantify abuse as being less devastating. One type of abuse can be as damaging to one's psyche as another. Paula begins to abuse alcohol to cope with the abuse. It is a downward spiral for her. It helps her to escape and to cope with the abuse, but it doesn't help her sever the relationship. It has been readily documented that alcohol and drug abuse is a contributing factor to many types of abuse.

Both novels shed light on the struggles and the determination of most single, working-class mothers. The main characters are similar in age, Frannie Benedetto being slightly younger than Paula Spencer. Both main characters are uniquely successful. Paula Spencer is a loving wife and mother, and dedicated to her position as Chairwoman. Frannie Flynn Benedetto is a successful mother, nurse, and loving wife. They both strive so hard to please and win favor from those whom they love. But their love, at least for their husbands, goes unrequited.

Through their struggles, both during their relationships with their abusers, and after - Frannie and Paula's determination and inner strength shine through. Frannie, Elizabeth Crenshaw, begins to transform from a meek, insecure woman, to one who is becoming surer of herself with each passing day. Paula Spencer, despite the fact that she has three children to raise on her own, despite her alcoholism, despite her abject poverty, she is a survivor. Both women fight through terrible abuse and are true victors. That is the message that may be gained from both books. Despite one's circumstances, if the will to survive and thrive is strong enough, one's determination and resolve can carry one through.

Works Cited

Doyle, Roddy. The Women Who Walked into Doors. London:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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