We are continuing our discussion of the results of a recent poll about marriage and divorce. The researchers talked to 1,500 Americans and asked respondents to name the primary reason they chose to divorce. As we said in our last post, the reason cited most often was abuse.
An advocate for victims of domestic violence is not surprised that 36 percent of respondents said physical or verbal abuse was the reason for their split. But, she adds, there are many different definitions of abuse, and some don't line up with "traditional" perceptions of domestic violence.
For example, one woman describes her situation with her ex-husband. He drank, and he continued to drink. They fought. And every attempt to get sober ended with a fight. She finally had an epiphany: He was not going to stop drinking for his family. The drinking won that argument every time.
Their marriage took a tremendous toll on her and her kids, even if her husband never laid a hand on her. Looking back, she says she didn't realize how bad things had gotten. But, she adds, if she'd been on the outside looking in? "I would have said don't take that, you don't have to."
So abuse can come in many different shapes and sizes. It can take the form of a pattern of coercion, with one partner exercising control over the other.
Battering, on the other hand, involves physical harm. The batterer strikes or intimidates his victim to the point that the victim is afraid to act on her own, to do as she pleases. At times, she can be forced to act like someone else, like the person the batterer wants her to be.
Emotional abuse is considered battering, as is economic deprivation. Batterers will take control of family finances, wresting economic independence -- and the means of escape -- from their victims.
The natural follow-up question for the respondents who answered "abuse" would be, "Did you get help?" There are resources out there -- including the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE). The hotline can help or can refer callers to local agencies that can help.
Source: Kentucky.com, "What makes people decide to leave? Survey reports the reasons we divorce," Michele Kimball , Sept. 22, 2011