Research Paper: Coping With Domestic Abuse

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[. . .] This coping mechanism might seem like a refusal to cope with the situation, and may appear to simply encapsulate complete resignation, but in reality the woman is coping by trying not to fight her situation -- even acceptance, as dysfunctional and dangerous as it is, is still a coping mechanism. "When a victim is going through this stage, it is very difficult to convince this person to seek professional help or even to go to the hospital for treatment of injuries. She might even hide it from her family / friends, especially because they will encourage her to leave her abuser" (Davhana-Maselesele, 2011). The reason this coping mechanism is so dangerous is because the abuser often takes advantage of the victim's acceptance, leading to more violent beatings, some of which can even be fatal (Davhana-Maselesele, 2011). So much depends on the support network that the woman has in place -- all aspects of her support network are crucial; aside from friends and family, she needs community leaders behind her as well such as religious organizations in her neighborhood (Davhana-Maselesele, 2011). At this stage, women need to feel like they have a veritable army of support behind them to help them through this.

Other coping strategies involve things like keeping hope (Smith et al., 2010). Keeping hope can be such a dysfunctional coping strategy as it gives women the illusion that things can change for the better, when in reality, the abuser is not going to change. During this stage, it's not uncommon for women to look back on the days of her relationship when things were good and there was no abuse and to look towards that as an indication that things can maybe improve. This is so damaging because "keeping hope" keeps women in an illusory state and in the destructive relationship.

Other coping strategies involve ways that women can find some release from the situation. "The strategy of release involves women undertaking activities to clear their minds from their abusive situations and find release. Activities take many forms, including hobbies, as below, exercise, or journaling. Release is a strategy women could engage in with others (intrapersonal) or alone (interpersonal)" (Smith et al., 2010). One could say that this particular coping strategy acts as a form of escapism; it gives a place for women to direct their attention to outside of the violence or derision that they're experiencing in their everyday lives. It gives them a place to turn where they can forget about the abuse, at least temporarily. As one victim explains, "I did arts and crafts. I am, I am fanatical about arts and crafts and I've (pause), that was basically that and reading. Those were my outlets" (Smith et al., 2010). This is not at all uncommon. In fact, in the realm of escapism, it's not uncommon for women to seek out things like substance abuse so that they can gain some relief (Smith et al., 2010). Substances like alcohol or drugs can help the woman to "numb out" the entire experience and tune out their abuser.

Some researchers have found that when it comes to coping, women either engage in health seeking or health rejecting behaviors. For example, some women will engage in substance abuse, whereas others will seek out professional medical help. "This correlated with several health-risk behaviours (smoking, alcohol consumption, and use of non-medical sedatives, analgesics and cannabis) and health-seeking behaviours (recent visits to a medical doctor or healer)" (Gass et al., 2010).

An additional coping mechanism was fostering a sense of spirituality and faith in God (Morrow et al., 2012). This could be useful as a coping mechanism during and even after the abuse. In the research study, "In their own voices, "The majority of participants (14 out of 22) stated that spirituality or faith in God was an important influence in rising above their traumatic experiences. In this theme, the participants discussed how they relied on their faith both during and after their traumatic experience(s) had occurred. For many, it was the most important influence in their dealing with their trauma" (Morrow et al., 2012). For these women, spirituality was both an outlet and a means of escaping from the situation. It gave them a sense of believing in something greater and more powerful than themselves and can give them a sense of safety and security in the world.

Another coping strategy that occurred was simply the fierce determination of women to overcome the abuse and to leave the relationship (Morrow et al., 2012). While this didn't occur with all victims, it was indeed a touchstone for many and helped them to survive the trauma. In this theme, participants detail how their own internal resources led them to be resilient, healthy adults. For many, it was this belief that they were strong enough to deal with their situation that got them through their traumatic experience(s).

Summary

Thus, the abuse that many women have to go through in such abusive relationships can be more than what is imaginable to most. Coping strategies exist as a means of helping the woman to endure the unimaginable and the crumbling loss of her sense of self. In some cases, coping strategies can help a woman extract herself from the damaging relationship. In other cases, it can aid her in staying in the abusive home, putting herself in further and greater danger.

References

Gass, J.D. (2010). Intimate partner violence, health behaviours, and chronic physical illness among South African women. SAMJ: South African Medical

Journal, 100(9).

Davhana-Maselesele, M. (2011). Trapped in the cycle of violence: A phenomenological study describing the stages of coping with domestic violence. Retrieved from http://www.krepublishers.com/02-Journals/JSS/JSS-29-0-000-11-Web/JSS-29-1-

000-2011-Abst-PDF/JSS-29-1-001-11-1307-D-Maeleele-M/JSS-29-1-001-11-

1307-D-Maeleele-M-Tt.pdf

Ethel. (2010, March). Experiences and coping mechanisms of black middle class women.

Retrieved from http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-09292010-

152425/unrestricted/dissertation.pdf

Meyer, A. (2010). The role of attributions in the coping trajectories of African-American battered women. Retrieved from http://aladinrc.wrlc.org/bitstream/handle/1961/10166/Meyer_cua_0043A_10071di splay.pdf?sequence=1

Morrow, J.A., Clayman, S., & McDonagh, B. (2012). In their own voices. SAGE, 2(1),

Smith, P.H., Murray, C.E., & Coker, A. (2010). The Coping Window: A contextual framework for understanding the methods women use to cope with battering.

Violence and Victims, 25, 18-

28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.25.1.18

University of Houston. (2010, Spring). Perspectives on social work. Retrieved from http://www.sw.uh.edu/_docs/phdprogram/perspectives/Spring2010.pdf [END OF PREVIEW]

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