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of Abuse & Inclusive Language
Another example of how Defining Abuse can be done is by drawing
a large house on the chalkboard (see drawing below) which is divided into nine
rooms. The facilitator would write in four of the rooms: physical, emotional,
verbal, and sexual abuse, and follow the example of first defining physical abuse.
The facilitator would then go on to the next rooms (verbal, emotional, and sexual
abuse) and complete them one at a time, with the input from the group members.
Beyond the Basic Four
After filling in the four rooms, the facilitator
can suggest that there are other types of abuse they may have experienced. These
types may include: social isolation, intimidation, alcohol and drugs, child abuse,
male privilege, and others. The facilitator can list these types of abuse in the
other rooms of the house as the group participants identify them. Some of these
types may have already been identified in the four primary categories (physical,
emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse). You can point out to the group that the
walls in the house are very thin, and often several types of abuse occur at the
same time or in a sequence or series.
Memories and Emotions
The image of the house can be very powerful, since this is where a majority of
the abuse may have occurred. Other thoughts and feelings may surface. The house
could bring back memories of the abuse a woman witnessed as a child in her own
home. A common thought for many women is that if any place should be safe, it
is her home. This may trigger an emotional response in terms of lost hopes and
dreams of what she had wanted for herself, her children, her partner, and her
Analogies and Metaphors
There are other analogies,
metaphors, and ideas that can be presented to the group. For example, the facilitator
could draw a basement on the house and ask the group what they believe might support
this kind of house. It may be things like mens attitudes towards women;
womens role as defined by a male-dominated society; systems that fail to
protect victims; family secrets; or other examples of what is underneath
The facilitator could also ask what supports or keeps the
abuse in the house where outsiders may not notice it. Examples may include fear,
power, control, and embarrassments. The facilitator could explore with the group
the times that the abuse has occurred outside the house and what has happened.
There are a number of questions that the facilitator could ask the group
members after the rooms in the house are filled in. One very powerful question
is, How does it feel being on the receiving end of this abuse? Responses
to this question include such things as: afraid, angry, hurt, depressed, vengeful,
trapped, imprisoned, helpless, isolated, and many more.
that could be asked is, If the perpetrator cleaned out one room
in the house, such as stopping his physical abuse, but didnt clean out the
other rooms, is he still abusive?
The facilitator may ask, How
would it feel to be a five-year-old living in this house? What would
be your concerns? What would be the childs concerns? How
would an adolescent feel?
- Journey Beyond Abuse. Fischer, Kay-Laurel
& Michael F. McGrane. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation: Saint Paul. 1997.
Using Inclusive Language
At first glance, the concept of using
inclusive language may seem unimportant. But using inclusive language means that
as women, we are all in this journey together. (When there is a male co-facilitator,
the inclusive language is modified as appropriate.) None of us has escaped being
abused in one way or another. At a minimum, we have all been abused as females
by the media, billboards, religion, magazines, the judicial system, the educational
system, and more. To understand and develop problem-solving strategies related
to abuse means we have specific and inclusive language to use and not to use.
Using the words we, us, and our when
talking about women as a group is crucial. For example, suppose you want to make
a point about what it is like for women to be raped. Well assume this has
not been a part of your experience. If you refer to you women who
have been raped or the women who have been raped, or those women
who have been raped, you have just set yourself apart as different, privileged,
special, and a nonmember of this group.
The lesson here is never to talk
about you women, the women, and these/ those women.
The pronouns and descriptors are not inclusive and can be offensive and demeaning
to group members, making them feel ashamed about their abuse. It is very acceptable
to talk in terms of we as women when addressing any issues related
to concerns of females.
Women, as a whole group, are in this fight for
change together. Some may not yet recognize this. Some women see abuse and its
consequences as something that happens only to other women. They separate themselves
from the reality of abuse and want to define it as you who are and
we who are not abused. As facilitators of womens groups, we
must learn the difference between inclusive and non-inclusive language and understand
the meaning and difference in our hearts.
- Fischer, K., MA & McGrane, M. F. (1997). Journey Beyond Abuse. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation: Saint Paul.
What can result from using exclusive rather than inclusive language
with battered women? To select and enter your answer go to .