Women in Abusive Relationships

According to a report in the Public Broadcasting Service, the home is one of the “most dangerous places for a woman” (PBS). That is because of the legacy of domestic abuse that many women have had to go through, and are going through today. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that two-thirds of violent attacks against women are perpetrated by someone that woman knows. Every year about 1,500 women are actually killed by boyfriends or husbands, the Justice Department explains. And every year nearly 2 million men “beat their partners,” according to the FBI. This paper reviews the statistics, the reasons that women decide to stay in those relationships, and what alternatives there are for her.

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The Abuse of Women — Background Information

The Public Broadcasting Service story indicates that 95% of victims of domestic violence are women, and that women are “7 to 10 times more likely to be injured men,” no matter who instigated the violence. This is a huge problem for the healthcare profession, in terms of the social and psychological issues that are part of the legacy of abuse in a household; but the abuse of women is also an issue for healthcare professionals because of the pain and physical trauma that a woman goes through when she is beaten by her partner.

Moreover, children are traumatized when they witness violence in their family. The PBS report indicates that “children in these homes are at high risk of being battered themselves” and they might be hit and injured by the batterer or the victim. Witnessing violence can lead to a “cycle of violence that spans generations,” the PBS story asserts. There is no specific profile on what kind of men batter or beat up on women, but it is known that men who abuse women “…are seeking a sense of power and control over their partners or their own lives” (PBS). It is also true that some men are “tremendously dependent on the woman” and when the woman shows signs that she is becoming independent, he is threatened by those moves towards independence (PBS). Those same men are terrified of rejection and of being abandoned, and hence all they know how to do is to lash out with violence. “Men who batter women are often psychologically incapable of leaving the relationship,” the PBS story concludes.

Recognizing Domestic Violence Against Women

There are patterns of abuse that don’t always begin with hitting or pushing, that women should watch out for, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some relationships are obviously violent from the very start, but most other domestic violence situations do not start out that way. The Mayo Clinic explains that a woman might be in a violent relationship that could become serious if the partner does any of the following things: a) calls you names and insults you by putting you down; b) prevents you from leaving the house, going to work or school for any reason; c) prevents you from seeing your friends or family; d) controls how you spend your money, what you wear, what medications you take or where you go; e) acts jealous or possessive and “constantly accuses you of being unfaithful”; f) becomes belligerent when taking drugs or drinking alcohol; g) makes threats to be violent at some time in the future, and brandishes a weapon; h) kicks you, shoves, slaps or chokes you or hurts your children; i) forces sex on you, or forces you to become involved in sex acts “against your will”; j) blames you for his violent behavior and insists “you deserve it”; and k) “portrays the violence as mutual and consensual” (Mayo Clinic, 2010).

The Case of “Three Fingers” — Violence Against a Woman in Montana

The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports the conclusion of a case against a man named Antoine Robert Three Fingers in Billings, Montana and his violent acts against his girlfriend. This is worthy of mention in this paper as a classic case of violent abuse, and the penalty paid by the perpetrator. The girlfriend in this case is referred to as “CK”; she and her boyfriend, Three Fingers, had been together three years, and CK had been abused by him “on numerous occasions” (FBI, 2011). CK is the mother of Three Fingers’ child. One night the two were drinking with a friend, and on the way back home in a snowy condition, the car got stuck and Three Fingers became agitated when he could not get the car out of the snowy ditch. The third person in the group walked back in the snow to get help. When help arrived at the scene of the stuck auto, Three Fingers was gone and CK was found on the ground in the middle of the road. “She was unconscious and appeared both extremely cold and injured” (FBI, p. 1).

She was brought to her home and when her family arrived she was unconscious on the coach, and there was bruising on her face and blood on her clothes and face. They removed her and took her to the Indian Health Services in Lame Deer; from there she was rushed to the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings. Her injuries included “…a collapsed and punctured lung, a skull fracture, subdural hematoma, broken ribs, a broken nose, and extensive bruising on numerous portions of her body, including her head, both ears, upper arms, both hips, buttocks and legs” (FBI, p. 2).

The injuries were caused by being kicked and punched “numerous times,” the FBI continued. She could have died had she not been found and brought for medical care. Three Fingers “evaded law enforcement for several days” but eventually turned himself in. He claimed “CK had sustained the injuries by falling in the snow” but he had scratches on his knuckles and CK’s blood was found on the boots he wore that day. Moreover, police found a “large amount of blood on the fresh snow” where the car had been stuck, “along with a string from CK’s jacket hood” and the “tab” from her jacket zipper which had apparently been “forcibly ripped from the jacket” (FBI, p. 2). In addition, a forensic pathologist testified that the injuries could not have been caused by a fall in the snow; they were the result of her “being repeatedly kicked and struck,” the FBI report continued. What did Three Fingers get for punishment? He was sentenced to 33 months in prison, and he may be eligible for a 15% reduction in that sentence for “good behavior,” a behavior he should have practiced when he was living with CK. One wonders what will happen to CK when he is released from prison in about three years.

What Help is Available for Women in Abusive Relationships?

In some areas of healthcare and law enforcement, domestic violence is referred to as “intimate partner violence” (IPV). An article in the journal The Career Development Quarterly points out that IPV affects women at a rate “7 times the rate it affects men,” and the story indicates that there were reports of IPV in approximately 746,580 households a year between the years 1993 to 2004 (Morris, et al., 2009, p. 44). If those statistics seem pretty high, the authors’ research shows that up to 77% “of physical and sexual assaults go unreported in the general population and that approximately one in five women report their IPV victimization” (Morris, 44). The authors make clear that women who are victims of IPV also endure “psychological abuse” and in many cases they experience “economic violence” as well. The highest incidence rates are reported by women between the ages of 20 and 24 years, Morris continues (p. 45), and the psychological harm inflicted on those younger women in particular is “devastating.”

Women who have been repeatedly battered experience feelings of “depression, low self-esteem, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behaviors occur at a rate higher in battered women than in the general population,” Morris asserts (p. 45). Meanwhile, using the “social cognitive career theory” (SCCT), the authors believe that counselors can help battered women find careers that will help them escape the bad relationships they find themselves in. For example, a counselor can help build up the sense of self-efficacy (“a person’s belief in his or her ability to accomplish a specific task… or reach a specific goal”) in a battered woman (Morris, p. 46). In order for the abused woman to be able to seek a job or a career she first must remove herself from the violent place she is in. But that is not easy, as many abused women have “negative outcome expectations” when considering leaving their partners. Those expectations include fears of “losing shelter and financial support, familiar disapproval, or failing in her relationships” (Morris, p. 47).

The counselor’s job is to create “positive outcome expectations,” such as having an income again (her own money), and being free of fear that everything she does might anger that violent partner (Morris, p. 47). For the person going into counseling, there is a whole field of service that needs to be filled, and that is working with abused women, Morris explains. The abused women needs direct guidance in order to locate a job that suits her skills and experience. For example, the counselor must be able to direct the abused woman to apply for positions she is competent to do, and to “reframe” the woman’s skills she may have forgotten about during the nightmare of her abusive environment. But the counselor should not leave the abused woman with an “open-ended research” for career options because that may be “overwhelming”; there should be a “targeted” approach to specific job skills and employment opportunities (p. 48).


The abuse that hundreds of thousands of American women are subjected to annually is not only unconscionably unfair and unlawful, it creates a terrible psychological barrier for those women to overcome. What needs to happen, as this paper points out, is a woman needs to be able to identify those actions and attitudes on the part of her husband or boyfriend before they become a daily routine of violent abuse against her. If she can identify those clues (insults, putting her down, trying to control her activities and her friendships) prior to becoming a partner, she is helping herself avoid years of hardship and pain. If she can’t identify those behaviors in time, she still can remove herself from that terrible situation by seeking counseling or the help of law enforcement, depending on the severity of her abuse.

Works Cited

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (2011). Antoine Robert Three Fingers Sentenced in U.S. District Court. Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://saltlakecity.fbi.gov.

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Domestic Violence Against Women: Recognize Patterns, Seek Help.

Retrieved June 12, 2011, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/domestic-violence/WO00044/method=print.

Morris, Carrie A. Wachter, Shoffner, Marie F., and Newsome, Deborah W. (2009). Career

Counseling for Women Preparing to Leave Abusive Relationships: A Social Cognitive

Career Theory Approach. The Career Development Quarterly, Vol. 58, 44-52.

Public Broadcasting Service. (2010). Domestic Violence. Retrieved June 14, 2011, from http://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/studyg/domestic.html.