Suggested Reading

Leaflets about a range of programmes, services, and legal issues are available from the Taupo Womens Refuge, Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Services and the Family Court.

Books, Websites and other resources

Taupo Women’s Refuge has accumulated a library of books which are available. The following is a small list of recommended reading which is a mere starting point of the amount of literature available today.

  • Simpson, J. (2007). Lost & Found: A Women’s Living Proof. New Zealand: Kale Print, Tauranga.
  • Douglas, K. (1994). Invisible Wounds: A Self –Help Guide for New Zealand Women in Destructive Relationships. New Zealand: Penguin books Ltd.
  • Horley, S. (2000). Power and Control: why Charming Men can make Dangerous Lovers.London: Vermillion/Random House.
  • Renzetti, C. (1992). Violent Betrayal: Partner Abuse in Lesbian Relationship. California: Sage.
  • Becker, Gavin de (1997). The Gift Of Fear

Excerpt from THE GIFT OF FEAR, by Gavin de Becker, 1997

In this excerpt of The Gift of Fear, Gavin talks about why he feels women stay in abusive relationships.

“Before any discussion on how a woman can get out of an unwanted relationship, we must first recognize that many women choose not to get out. Right now, as you are reading these words, at least one woman in America is being beaten by her husband -- and now another, for it happens once every few seconds. So while it’s old news that many men are violent, we must also accept that a nearly equal number of women choose to stay with them. This means that many accurate predictions of danger are being ignored. Why?

I can share part of the answer from my personal experience as a boy. I vividly recall the night when my sister and I ran out the door at two A.M. after hours of violence. Afraid to go back home, we called the police from a pay-phone and reported two kids loitering so that we’d get picked up and taken to jail, where we’d be safe. That experience and the years that led up to it helped me to understand that many women stay for the same reason I stayed: Until that night, no other possibility ever occurred to me. Before that night, you could no more have gotten me to voluntarily leave my family than I could get you to leave yours right now.

Like the battered child, the battered woman gets a powerful feeling of overwhelming relief when an incident ends. She becomes addicted to that feeling. The abuser is the only person who can deliver moments of peace, by being his better self for a while. Thus, the abuser holds the key to the abused person’s feeling of well-being. The abuser delivers the high highs that bookend the low lows, and the worse the bad times get, the better the good times are in contrast. All of this is in addition to the fact that a battered woman is shell-shocked enough to believe that each horrible incident may be the last.

Understanding how people evaluate personal risk has helped me better understand why so many women in danger stay there. As I learned from my experiences with violence as a child, many of these women have been beaten so much that their fear mechanism is dulled to the point that they take in stride risks that others would consider extraordinary. The relationship between violence and death is no longer apparent to them. One woman who’d been at a shelter and then returned to her abuser gives us a good example: She called the shelter late one night to ask if she could come back. As always, the first question the counselor asked was “Are you in danger now?” The woman said no. Later in the call the woman added, almost as an aside, that her husband was outside the room with a gun. Hadn’t she just a moment earlier said she wasn’t in danger? To her, if he was in the same room with the gun or the gun was being held to her head, then she would be in danger.

How could someone feel that being beaten does not justify leaving? Being struck and forced not to resist is a particularly damaging form of abuse because it trains out of the victim the instinctive reaction to protect the self. To override that most natural and central instinct, a person must come to believe that he or she is not worth protecting. Being beaten by a “loved one” sets up a conflict between two instincts that should never compete: the instinct to stay in a secure environment (the family) and the instinct to flee a dangerous environment. As if on a see-saw, the instinct to stay prevails in the absence of concrete options on the other side. Getting that lop-sided see-saw off the ground takes more energy than many victims have.

No amount of logic can usually move a battered woman, so persuasion requires emotional leverage, not statistics or moral arguments. In my many efforts to convince women to leave violent relationships, I have seen their fear and resistance first-hand. I recall a long talk with Janine, a thirty-three-year-old mother of two who showed me photos the police had taken of her injuries after one of the frequent beatings she received. She was eager to tell me about her husband’s abuse but just as eager to make excuses for him. Though the most recent beating had left her with three broken ribs, she was going back to him again. I asked her what she would do if her teenage daughter was beaten up by a boyfriend. “Well, I’d probably kill the guy, but one thing’s for sure: I’d tell her she could never see him again.” “What is the difference between you and your daughter?” I asked. Janine, who had a fast explanation for every aspect of her husband’s behavior, had no answer for her own, so I offered her one: “The difference is that your daughter has you -- and you don’t have you. If you don’t get out soon, your daughter won’t have you either.” This was resonant to Janine because of its truth: she really didn’t have a part of herself, the self-protective part. She had come out of her own childhood with it already shaken, and her husband had beaten it out completely. She did, however, retain the instinct to protect her children, and it was for them that she was finally able to leave.

Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer. Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the “syndrome.” In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome, but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice. Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a woman to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option.

Also, if we dismiss the woman’s participation as being beyond choice, then what about the man? Couldn’t we point to his childhood, his insecurities, his shaky identity, his addiction to control, and say that his behavior too is determined by a syndrome and is thus beyond his choice? Every human behavior can be explained by what precedes it, but that does not excuse it, and we must hold abusive men accountable.

Whoever we may blame, there is some responsibility on both sides of the gender line, particularly if there are children involved. Both parents who participate are hurting their children terribly (the man more than the woman, but both parents). Children learn most from modeling, and as a mother accepts the blows, so likely will her daughter. As a father delivers the blows, so likely will his son.

Though I know that dedicated, constructive people want to educate the public as to why so many women stay, I want to focus on how so many women leave. Helen Keller, a woman in another type of trap said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

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