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Section 8
Domestic Violence Myths

Question 8 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last sections, we discussed ways to help a battered woman re-evaluate the amount of time she spends worrying about the abuse.

In this section, we will look at five Illusions battered women hold about themselves, as well as sex, and how these illusions contribute to their feelings of failure and avoidance of daily life. Have you found, like I, that Illusions or client myths have particularly harmful effects on battered women?

A common Illusion often held by battered women is revealed by the Women's Rural Advocacy Program. This advocacy program states that more than 50% of battered women stay with their batterer because they do not feel that they can support themselves and their children alone. Even though income does decrease and finances are a legitimate concern, women can and do leave abusive relationships with children and do not end up on the street.

Andrea, a 29-year-old librarian, who had been with her husband Elijah for seven years, reflects this common illusion. During our first session, Andrea was very upset and told me, "Whenever I think the relationship isn't going to make it, I get stopped cold when I try to imagine what I am going to do next. I see a big courtroom and my husband and his attorneys, pointing their fingers at me accusing me of neglecting my children. Or I would hear my Aunt Bessie telling me I was giving up the best thing I would ever get. Sometimes I would see my minister's disapproving eyes or I'd hear Elijah's voice on the phone threatening to slit his wrists. Or I would imagine the inside of the welfare office with my kid's crying, 'Mommy, take us home.'"

Like with many battered women, Andrea saw very few options for herself because of the Illusions of the Self she maintained.

♦ Five Main Types of Illusions and Sex Well-Being
I have found that there are five main types of illusions that many battered women possess regarding themselves. As you listen to these five, reflect on your own Andrea and see if any of these Illusions apply:
-- #1. Detachment.
I have found that many battered women such as Andrea believe that they are very detached from feelings and emotions. They present themselves in an almost Christ-like manner and pretend that they do not need anyone to care for them. In reality, they desire more people to care for and about their situation.
-- #2. Dependency.
On the other hand, as you know, many battered women believe that they are entirely dependent on the help of others in order to make it through life. Just like Andrea, they become completely without esteem once they leave, even though they have the ability to lead successful lives without their battering partner. Clearly, Andrea was college educated, and had the ability to support herself and her child.
-- #3. Perfect Sex.
As you know, culture provides us with images every day of people living the perfect marital life with perfect love and sex lives. I find that often battered women expect to find the same perfection with their own partners. The disappointment from the shattering of this illusion often destroys the joy of sex and love because of the gap between the illusion and reality.
-- #4. Inadequacy.
As you are aware, many battered women feel that what they do is never good enough, as discussed in the previous section regarding perfection and competition.
-- #5. Perfect Independence.
Battered women often come to resent their abuser and create the Illusion that they are perfectly independent of this abuser and not affected by the abuser, but in fact they are not independent of the affects of his abuse at all.

Now that we've discussed the five illusions of detachment, dependency, perfect sex, inadequacy, and perfect independence that battered women hold about themselves, let's explore in more detail how these illusions can become contradictory and be especially dangerous for battered women.

♦ Contradictory Illusions
I have found that many battered women will combine a number of illusions regarding themselves. Battered women may also struggle when their illusions and unconscious needs do not correspond. Both can cause conflict, anxiety, and confusion for the battered woman. The illusions may also weaken reality, or even increase the tendency toward self-hate for the battered woman. She may block inner growth and deflect energy from other activities.

Some of these illusions contradict each other, such as the Illusion of Perfect Independence and the Illusion of Dependency. Here is an example.

Case Study: Cathy
Cathy, age 52, has several contradictory illusions about herself. Cathy's husband, Dan, has sent her to the hospital twice. The most recent visit was caused by a broken rib.

Cathy stated, "I did everything a good wife was supposed to do. I refused Dan nothing. But I finally saw that it didn't matter what I did. I was just an object there for Dan to beat up on. Whatever went wrong for him during the day, he came home and dumped it on me. I was kind of like the garbage can. One day Dan came home and kicked my son's dog just because he was there and I thought, 'that is the way he treats me.' But I won't let him get to me anymore. He can do whatever he wants, it won't bother me, at least not emotionally.'"

Cathy held the Illusion of Detachment, believing she was emotionally separate from Dan and that his beatings could only harm her physically. However, this is a conscious illusion that Cathy holds. Unconsciously, as you know, Cathy needs to be validated by everyone, and most importantly by Dan. As you are aware, completely inconsistent views may be held by the conscious and unconscious mind.

Thus, Cathy's Illusions of Detachment and her unconscious needs do not correspond. I told Cathy, "The unconscious level does not require consistency, logic, and rationality. Consistency, logic, and rationality exist on the conscious level because of your conscious mind's need for logic. Do you see how the contradictory nature of these illusions creates a great deal of confusion and frustration for you?"

Now that I've outlined the main Illusions battered women maintain about themselves, let's look at ways to help your battered client uncover the illusions she holds.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
DePrince, A. P., Priebe, S. J., & Newton, A. T. (2011). Learning about violence against women in research methods: A comparison to traditional pedagogy. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3(3), 215–222.

Gortner, E., Berns, S. B., Jacobson, N. S., & Gottman, J. M. (1997). When women leave violent relationships: Dispelling clinical myths.Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 34(4), 343–352.

Jankowski, P. J., Sandage, S. J., Cornell, M. W., Bissonette, C., Johnson, A. J., Crabtree, S. A., & Jensen, M. L. (2018). Religious beliefs and domestic violence myths. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 10(4), 386–397.

QUESTION 8
What are five Illusions or Myths many battered women need to hold on to in order to avoid facing deeper issues, such as getting a job outside of the home? To select and enter your answer go to Test.


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