Middle-class abuse comes with stigma

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It appears that some professional women, or those married to white-collar males, may be less likely to leave to leave a violent relationship than their more impoverished counterparts.

Studies of battered women have found that a poor woman is more likely to have contact with community social service agencies and to be more aware of the help that is available. She may also have prior experience using such services, and finds a much lower stigma attached to seeking help in her community than a middle- or upper-class woman.

In contrast, women who are themselves professionals or are married to men who are successful, respected and visible in the community are less likely to seek outside help for several reasons. Many fear that no one will believe them, or that a powerful husband will be defended by those with ties to him. This image of the husband as all-powerful also feeds the perception that the wife cannot leave, and if she does, he will track her down or use his connections to bring her back. Also, affluent women are more ashamed to admit problems in the family, fearing they will be condemned or ostracized by the social community.

Email newsletter signup

Scientists have learned that women who stay in abusive relationships for long periods tend to share certain personality traits and risk factors.

These may include low self-esteem, a background of an abusive family life, alcohol or drug abuse problems, passivity in relationships, dependency and a high need for approval, attention and affection.

Many abused women have a poor self-image and low self-esteem. They also tend to have traditional ideas about what constitutes a woman’s achievement and base their feelings of self-worth on how they view their capacity to be a good wife and homemaker, even if they have an outside career as well.

Many abused women were battered or neglected as children, many were victims of incest. These women had little or no concept of normal family intimacy developed in childhood that they could bring to adult relationships.

Being hurt by those who were supposed to love and protect is nothing new.

At Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex’s Alcohol and Drug office we have solutions for problems with substance abuse and anger.

Feel free to contact me at 601-446-6634.

Carolene Britt is a counselor at Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex’s Alcohol and Drug office.