Really? There’s a profile that fits victims of domestic abuse? Yes. Absolutely. I’m going to write tonight strictly from my heart and from my personal observations during my years of working as a therapist. You can probably find similar information if you google it. Nothing that I say here is backed up by longitudinal or anecdotal studies that I have seen, but I’m pretty sure there are some studies out there.
Here’s a list of characteristics as they occur to me:
1. The victim has suffered some type of abuse at an earlier point in her life.
2. The victim has a very low opinion of her own worth and value.
3. She has a desire to please the people in her life.
4. She is comfortable with a strict regimen of rules to follow.
5. She carries a strong sense of guilt. About everything.
6. She has trouble with confrontation. She’d rather give in than fight.
7. She is not usually quick with words to defend herself.
8. In the beginning of their relationship, her abuser made her feel very special because he paid so much attention to her, demanded to know where she would be, who she would be with, and so on. All this in the name of “worrying for her safety.”
9. Early on, her abuser may have told her he would kill himself if she ever left him.
10. The victim is willing to accept blame, almost always.
11. When asked why she stays, she typically responds that she loves him, and that when things are good, it’s wonderful.
12. She often has no education beyond high school; she stays because she feels she can’t support herself and the children on her own.
13. The abuser has successfully cut her off from family, friends, neighbors. Often she has no transportation and must rely on him to drive her wherever she needs to go.
14. The abuser handles all the money, all the time. He gives her a small allowance, for which she is to express gratitude.
15. The victim has often been so browbeaten that she has lost all hope, feels she is not worth rescuing. She feels that if she just tries harder, he won’t have to abuse her any more.
16. The victim tends to be very gentle in spirit, softhearted, and a sucker for tears of apparent remorse.
17. The victim often has a strong belief in the inherent goodness of her abuser; if only he could stop drinking/doing drugs/having temper tantrums etc., then everything would be wonderful.
18. The victim worries about hurting her abuser’s feelings. “He’ll be so sad if I leave!”
19. The victim may feel her abuser did her a favor by marrying her, rescuing her from the terrible household in which she grew up.
20. The victim has given up everything that made her a unique individual. This can include dressing well, letting her hair grow very long, stopping the use of makeup and/or jewelry; it can include her giving up a loved hobby or talent because it “takes too much time away from him.” She does all this because it’s what he wants.
That’s not all, but it’s enough. Quite a list, isn’t it? The thing that amazes me is how many women fit every single one of these points, and yet do not realize, or admit, that they are living with an abuser. Often, if they get as far as seeing someone like me, they think it’s because they’re depressed, or have chronic fatigue, or need to learn how to be more submissive.
It’s very tempting for me to take these women by their cheeks and say, “What is WRONG with you!” But I don’t. That would only pile on more guilt. I’m very gentle with them, and I try to show them from God’s Word that there is a Man Who loves them, and Who will never hurt them; I try to show them that there is hope.
There is always hope.