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Section 10
Battered Women as Crisis Managers

Question 10 | Test | Table of Contents

Sophia's crisis leads to consideration of the concept of 'natural and formal crisis management.' Sophia's behavior during this battering episode can be seen as 'natural crisis management', a process that is an organic part of the human response to traumatic life events. Sophia was not a helpless victim; she actively resisted her husband's violent treatment. Recognizing her limits in dealing with the event, she sought outside help. She considered the advice received, decided to follow it, tried some further tactics of talking and 'being nice' to resolve the conflict, was met with resistance, interpreted what was happening as being 'treated like a dog', and finally decided on suicide as the only means left for ending her pain. In Antonovsky's perspective, her 'sense of coherence' was shaken; the social support she sought was ineffective. She was no longer in control except for her power to kill herself. Therefore, she resolved her crisis self-destructively.

Another woman said that her usual way of coping with the trauma of battering was by overeating, a device she also used before she was ever battered. The terms 'illness', 'unhealthy', or 'destructive' can certainly be used to denote addictions and assaults on oneself and others in response to the stress of being battered. Regardless of how such negative coping devices are labeled, however, the women's accounts in this chapter support the earlier suggestion that stress, crisis, and illness (physical, emotional, mental) are interactionally, not causally related (see Figure 4.1, p. 70). Figure 4.1 suggests that stress not only precedes but also follows a battering episode, and that emotional crisis may or may not be part of the total episode. These findings also support the work of Hilberman (1980) in which mental and emotional disturbances of battered women were found to follow rather than precede battering.

Analysis thus far reveals not so much a failure of coping by individuals as it does the limitations and misdirection of personal coping responses (natural crisis management) to certain traumatic life events. That is, suicide, assault, addictions, and emotional disturbance are forms of coping, though most people would regard them as unhealthy or ineffective (Caplan and Grunebaum 1967; Hoff 1989: 60-2). Put another way, 'natural crisis management' needs to be supplemented by 'formal crisis management', assistance from sources beyond the individual and immediate family.

The need for both personal coping strategies and social support has profound implications for the successful resolution of crises around battering. In Sophia's case the initial support she received from her family was misdirected, e.g. 'You go back ... he won't do it anymore ... Welfare won't support you….Here's $10, go buy a pizza and forget everything.' Only after a near-fatal suicide attempt were institutional networks mobilized, and these only for emergency rescue purposes. Prior to this destructive crisis outcome, however, crisis management did not go beyond the 'natural' level. The suicidal outcome of the crisis suggests that 'formal crisis management' was needed as well. The distinctions and relationship between natural and formal crisis management as applied to battering are illustrated in the Figure below.

- Hoff, L. A., MA. (2000). Battered Women as Survivors. London, England: Routledge.

Children and Domestic Violence: The Prosecutor's Response

- Whitcomb, D. (2004). Children and Domestic Violence: The Prosecutor's Response. American Prosecutors Research Institute.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Metz, C., Calmet, J., & Thevenot, A. (2019). Women subjected to domestic violence: The impossibility of separation. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(1), 36–43. 

Moskowitz, K., Richmond, K., & Michniewicz, K. (2020). Caught in a bad romance: Endorsement of traditional romantic ideology, internalized heterosexism, and intimate partner violence experiences among sexual minority individuals. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. Advance online publication. 

Sijtsema, J. J., Stolz, E. A., & Bogaerts, S. (2020). Unique risk factors of the co-occurrence between child maltreatment and intimate partner violence perpetration. European Psychologist, 25(2), 122–133.

In the book, Battered Women as Survivors, the author divides crisis management into what categories? To select and enter your answer go to Test

Section 11
Table of Contents