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Challenging victim discourse: re-membering the stories of women who have been battered 1997

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C H A L L E N G I N G VICTIM DISCOURSE: R E M E M B E R I N G THE STORIES OF W O M E N WHO H A V E B E E N BATTERED by M A R G A R E T CARTER B.A. , Simon Fraser University, 1993 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES Department of Counselling Psychology We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A April 1997 © Margaret Carter, 1997 In presenting this thesis in partial. fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia; I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of Co^^LL.tNCj fyjCMQLoS The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) 11 Abstract This study problematizes the notion of victim in the context of women who have experienced battering in their intimate committed relationships. To this end I interviewed four women, using an in-depth semi-structured interview to obtain the women's narratives. I examined the women's narratives in order to analyze how they constructed and interpreted their experiences of victimization as well as how they perceived and defined themselves. The intent was to render visibility to the uniqueness, complexity, diversity, and commonalities of these women's stories. Women who have experienced battering are important to this study because the label "victim" is frequently applied to them regardless of whether these women define themselves or construct their experiences in terms of being victims or of being battered. Critiquing dominant perspectives, attending to broader cultural contexts, and exploring marginalized realities are indicative of a longstanding feminist agenda. Psychology and counselling psychology are constructed within dominant historical and sociocultural contexts. Mainstream and popular psychological texts, in their attempts to establish grand theories and prevailing norms, have tended to engage in oversimplified textual constructions presumed to reflect lived realities, yet ignoring both individual and broader contexts. In this thesis I attend both to contexts and to marginalized realities. The significance of this project lies in its potential to enhance current therapeutic and counselling practices. Additionally, it provides a challenge to the often presumed innocent employment of language without regard for its significant meanings and impact. It is critical that professionals working with women who are experiencing battering, understand the complexity of their experiences without imposing labels that limit these women's identities and are incongruent with their lived realities. This thesis problematizes dominant discourse regarding victims and victimization in an exploration of multiple, sometimes seemingly contradictory meanings, and diverse processes. Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Acknowledgements v Dedication vi Quotations vii Introduction 1 Defining the Terms 5 A Movement Toward Social and Political Concerns Regarding Battering 9 The Role of Media as Providing Context 13 Locating Myself 15 Chapter Two: Introducing the Women, the Experiential Experts 19 Contextual ized Self-portraits 22 Narratives of Victimization Experiences 37 Chapter Three: The Theoretical Experts 52 Theories of Victimization 52 Intrapersonal Perspectives 52 Interpersonal Perspectives 53 Sociocultural and Feminist Perspectives 56 Texts that Attempt to Hear Women's Voices 58 Therapeutic, Self-help and Popular Media Texts 60 My Subjective Concerns 65 Chapter Four: The Research Defined: Methodology and Methods 68 Methodology 68 Listening to and Hearing Women's Voices 68 Qualitative Research 70 Feminist Research 72 Social Constructionism 73 Language 73 Method 75 Co-researchers/participants 75 Interviews 76 Listening and Hearing as Method 79 Narratives 81 The Process of Analysing the Interviews 83 Chapter Five: Hearing More From the Women 86 Family of Origin Experiences 87 The Role of Friends' Perceptions and Others' Responses 94 Cultural Mandates Defining the Public and Private Nature of our Lives 99 Conclusion 102 Chapter Six: Struggles and Management Strategies 103 Adjustment and Coping 103 Analysing as a Strategy 107 Experiences of Disbelief, Minimizing, and Acts of Denial 112 Ambivalence Linked to Struggle 116 Explorations of the Oft Forgotten/negated Feelings of Attachment 119 Conclusion 122 Chapter Seven: Issues of Leaving 123 Responsibility and Blame 123 Structural Barriers 130 The Process of Leaving 140 Leaving the Relationship 150 Conclusion 155 Chapter Eight: Analyzing Victim Discourse 156 A Social Construct 156 Subjective Responses to the Victim Construct 158 Victim as a Temporary Self-Perception 165 The Problematics of Self-Identification: If Not Victim, Then What? 167 Victim as a Single Identity 172 Conclusion 174 Chapter Nine: Issues Pertaining to Counselling Practices 176 Hindering Responses from Counselling Professionals 177 Primary Focus on Relationship Issues and/or on the Individual Woman 177 Circumventing Appropriate Naming of the Violence 185 Safety and/or Escape Plans 187 Additional Concerns 188 Beneficial Counselling Practices 190 Other Issues that Warrant Consideration 194 Inner/Counter Voice 194 Cognitions Are Not Enough 198 Mind/Body and Myself/Others Dichotomies in Popular Psychology 200 Choiceless Choices 204 Shame 205 Fear and Terror 207 Conclusion 209 Chapter Ten: Some Summary Thoughts 211 Conclusion: A n Overview 211 Limitations 214 Implications 215 References 218 Appendix A: Invitation to Participate 228 Appendix B: Telephone Protocol 230 Appendix C: Consent Form 233 Appendix D: Interview Guide 235 V Acknowledgements Completing the research and writing up this thesis represents a long and intense journey for me. I am grateful to the various individuals in my life who remained supportive and constant throughout this time. I wish to thank my son Alex for his computer talents, for his willingness and his creativity in rescuing me from the perils of a technology that at times was beyond me. I am grateful to Simone for her unending hope and trust that I would someday finish this work and get a "real" job. The two of you provided delightful relief, daily grounding, and important challenges for me, and to the academics that at times seemed far too removed from our day-to-day situations. It is with pleasure that I thank my committee members for their enthusiastic support and genuine interactions. I appreciated Bonita Long for her tireless and repeated perusals of the manuscript, for her comments with respect to necessary changes, and also for our many sensitive and discerning discussions with respect to the content in this thesis, as well as other related issues. My thanks also goes to Sally Thorne for her warm and insightful responses that spurred me on. There were others who provided support, encouragement, and intellectual stimulation. I am very grateful to Waltraud and Ulrich Schaffer for their unending faith and their ongoing practical and emotional support. I would like to thank Annaliese Vanderbijl for her reading of the manuscript, her comments and clarity, as well as for our various stimulating and penetrating discussions. A deep appreciation goes to Gwen Sullivan for her supportive interactions, her trust in my ability, and her eagerness to read and discuss the material at the eleventh hour. A great appreciation also goes to Cheryl Heinzl for her continuous confidence and untiring willingness to hear about the process and the contents. I would like to thank my sister Hermina Louwersheimer for her consistent emotional support and for those years of growing up together to view others with respect and care. Finally, I wish to thank the women who participated in the research for this thesis. They took the risk of speaking with me without fully knowing how I might respond nor what my perspective might be. They taught me much about intimate suffering, about the manner in which a particular kind of suffering is handled in our society, and about the problematics of labels. I was inspired by their courage and moved by the depth and intensity of what they shared with me. Without them this thesis would not have been possible. Dedication It is with thankfulness and appreciation that I dedicate this work to my children, Alex and Simone. It is my hope that you will continue to think critically and feel compassionately in your various endeavors. Vll Quotations The Tao of Pooh (excerpt) Now one rather annoying thing about scholars is that they are always using Big Words that some of us can't understand ... and one gets the impression that those intimidating words are there to keep us from understanding. That way, the scholars can appear Superior, and will not likely be suspected of Not Knowing Something. After all, from the scholarly point of view, it's practically a crime not to know everything. But sometimes the knowledge of the scholar is a bit hard to understand because it doesn't seem to match up with our own experience of things. In other words, Knowledge and Experience do not necessarily speak the same language. But isn't the knowledge that comes from experience more valuable than the knowledge that doesn't? It seems fairly obvious to some of us that a lot of scholars need to go outside and sniff around - walk through the grass, talk to the animals. That sort of thing. "Lots of people talk to animals," said Pooh. "Maybe but..." "Not very many listen, though," he said. "That's the problem," he added. In other words, you might say that there is more to Knowing than just being correct.... To the Desiccated Scholars, putting names on things is the most vital activity in the world. Tree. Rower. Dog. But don't ask them to prune the tree, plant the flower, or take care of the dog, unless you enjoy Unpleasant Surprises. Living, growing things are beyond them, it seems. Now, scholars can be very useful and necessary, in their own dull and unamusing way. They provide a lot of information. It's just that there is Something More, and that Something More is what life is really all about. (Hoff, 1982, p.28-31). Storytelling: A constellation (excerpts) Storytelling stands at the edge of the campfire, listening in, part of, but not in control of whatever's going on. ... Storytelling is a constellation of powers, an alignment of energies, a transitory cohesiveness and integrity of focus and purpose, a force created almost entirely through the act of listening. Listening is the ground of being upon which stories grow, against which story exists, and out of which Storytelling weaves her particular magic. A l l voices have access to stories, all beings have access to voices; it is the act of listening that makes story manifest, makes it happen. Storytelling is the Keeper of tales which encompass history, meaning, truth, for whole families, whole communities, whole societies, and fragments thereof. Storyteller is a role that includes intimacy with Storytelling, but is not the same thing. The tales of Storyteller carry the bony structure for new life to gather on, to gather around, to grow over in a distinct, culturally particular, pattern. The tales of Storytelling are the ever- changing answers to the questions, what's happening, what's going on right here, right now. Storyteller teaches, trains, heals, with stories that change slowly and recreate, endure. Storytelling tumbles the heart's truths onto the dirt floor. (Arnott, 1994, p.25, 26, &28) 1 Introduction Self preservation is a full-time occupation I'm determined to survive on this shore You know I don't avert my eyes anymore in a man's world - I'm a woman by birth and after nineteen times around I have found they will stop at nothing once they know what you are worth - Talk to me - - Ani Difranco Why You forgot to recognise my value You neglected to nurture my love I can no longer struggle in this barren wasteland I turn to discover self. - Kathleen In this study I problematized the notion of victim in the context of women who have experienced battering in their intimate committed relationships. Using the women's narratives, I explored how they constructed and interpreted their experiences of victimization, as well as how they perceived themselves, and I linked these explorations to broader sociocultural discourses with respect to the word 'victim.' This thesis, therefore, manifests accounts of particular thwarted social relations, those of women who have experienced coercive control in their significant intimate relationships. Although the narratives presented here echo the women's voices and record their subjective experiences, they also make it possible to explore these women's historically located processes as linked to a wider web of sociocultural beliefs and practices that interacted with their experiences. That is, their stories are embedded in larger contexts, in socioculturohistorical contexts that had an impact on how these women entered and negotiated intimate relationships, and that also affected their understanding and interpretation of these experiences. Additionally, contemporary awareness and analyses of intimate relational violence mirror broader political and historical shifts. In this introductory chapter, subsequent to a discussion of the working definitions used in this thesis, I briefly address these shifts, followed by an outline of some of the media events surrounding the time of my research, thereby contextualizing the occasion of my work. I conclude this chapter by locating myself. In the second chapter, in keeping with my commitment to privilege the voices of the women who participated in this study, I introduce the women through their narratives. I 2 present these narratives as potentially linked or interacting with coexisting and seemingly parallel or competing voices that I saw or heard in popular media, culture, and society at large over the time of my interviews. Much change has occurred that reflects the strong political activity by organized individuals, particularly feminists, and much of this activity and change was also made possible by the contributions of the sometimes unnoticed women who were or are being victimized. In this thesis, I hope to participate in the literature that gives these women recognition for their tenacity, ingenuity, and courage. Their lives have important implications for those who work in the helping professions, notably regarding the constructions of what it means to be a victim and an agent, and how these constructions are used. In the third chapter, I present a review of the available literature, highlighting existing dominant approaches to women who have experienced battering along with a critique of each model. The existing literature focuses primarily on explanations, descriptions, and prescriptions in their analyses of women who experience violence. For example, researchers have investigated the women's personalities, their personal histories, and have questioned why they stay. These examinations have not attempted to understand the subjective meanings of the woman's experiences, her self-perceptions, her processes, the shifts that she alternatively or potentially engages in, or the language she uses to describe any of these. In addition, the literature tends to present analyses that stress oppositional, polarised, exclusionary labels such as victim versus survivor, or victim versus agent without recognition of a continuum of experience, or the possibility that each experience includes a variety of other seemingly incongruent, contradictory experiences. Being a victim, being perceived as a victim, or labelled as a victim must not be taken lightly given the trend in recent years toward impatience and dismissal regarding women's accounts of intimate abuse. Furthermore, much research and theorizing in the field of psychology lacks any analysis or recognition of power differentials, social contexts, or social structures. Recognition and understanding that victimization is part of living in our society is imperative to nonjudgmental, effective intervention strategies. Those who share in the experiences of people who are or have been victimized can hopefully make a compassionate effort to hear and make sense of those experiences. By hearing and understanding the impact that language and the meaning of the word victim has on 3 individual women, we will choose our words more carefully and caringly, in ways that connect and create meaning between us, rather than further isolating and shaming women with respect to their experiences of victimization. In the fourth chapter, I launch into the methodology and methods employed in my study. I begin this chapter by contextualizing this research with a discussion of the theoretical frameworks that informed my work including ethnography, feminist research, and social constructionism. This is followed by a clarification of my method, my use of semi-structured interviews in order to listen to and hear the narratives of these women's lives. As Polkinghorne (1988) states, narratives are schemes that enable us to give significance to our personal experiences and our behaviors. They provide a means of gaining insight into how events and processes are understood and interpreted. Hence, listening to lived experiences told in story-form is the method used in this study because it is suitable to investigating the meaning and subjective perceptions of victimization as articulated by women who have experienced battering in their intimate relationships. I conclude this chapter with a discussion of the analysis I conducted on the women's narratives. The focus in Chapter five is on the women's interpretations concerning the roles of their families of origin and the roles of others in their lives in relation to their intimate relationships. This chapter concludes with a discussion based on my thoughts and concerns resulting from a variety of interesting statements made by the women that suggest cultural imperatives that both circumscribe and prescribe particular kinds of behaviors, especially regarding marital-type relationships. In Chapter six, the focus is on those aspects of the women's narratives that indicate their struggles and strategies. The women delineated their experiences of adjusting to and coping with their relationships, as well as speaking of intense and ongoing analysis of their situations, their relationships, and their partners' behaviors as indicative of strategies that gave them a modicum of management. In their narratives they addressed powerful reactions of disbelief, whereby they consequently minimized and/or denied the seriousness of their experiences. Their behaviors of minimizing or denying took place within a larger context of others who minimized and denied their experiences. The women described their struggle as intimately defined by ambivalence and the frequently forgotten, but deeply 4 rooted attachments central to the relationships. Their experiences of victimization were multifaceted and intersected with a variety of issues in these women's lives. Their explorations complexify the meaning of the word victim. The focus in Chapter seven is on issues that relate to the women leaving those relationships in which they experienced battering. A dominant assumption about leaving is that it is a time-bound event whereas these women described shifts and transitions that took place in the relationships sometimes over long periods of time. The shifts were linked to various events, behaviors, and/or individuals that were importantly interconnected with the issue of leaving. The women spoke of feeling responsible and at fault in the context of a society that assigns women the primary responsibility for maintaining and sustaining healthy, vital relationships. In their attempts to seek outside help the women formulated experiences with professionals in which they felt shamed, invisible, invalidated, and negated. Consequently, their struggle reflected a more complicated process of leaving. In the first seven chapters, the women's narratives unfold with respect to how they spoke of'and definedtheir experiences of emotional, psychological, and/or physical violations in the context of an intimate relationship in which they also encountered diverse and deeply moving experiences of intimacy and emotional attachment. By implication their stories problematize the current dominant definition of the word victim because these narratives infer that the meaning of 'victim,' particularly with regard to intimate settings, is not a simple, easily reducible one, but instead indicates complex, multifaceted and interactive factors. Although the intent or focus of these earlier chapters was not primarily to analyse victim discourse, this is nevertheless a derivative of presenting these women's discourses as the women annotate their various and overlapping experiences of victimization in their own words. The narratives permit outsider glimpses into the insider experience of what it means for these women to encounter victimization, potentially enabling us to gain insight into their deep struggles, as well as their strengths in the face of. conflicting contradictory experiences and adversity. The women's discourse regarding victimization is reflected in their narrations wherein these women define their self- perceptions and their process of meaning-making. The first seven chapters, with the exception of chapters three and four, present interview content that was co-constructed and arose spontaneously in talking with the 5 women. Chapter eight, in addition to presenting the women's perceptions, also highlights my impetus for doing this thesis, that is, my interest in problematizing the word 'victim.' Whereas in the previous chapters the focus is primarily on the women's narratives with minimal interaction from me, in Chapter eight, still grounded in the women's words, I interact with and extrapolate from the content of the interviews, making links to dominant pertinent literature and a broader context. In this chapter, I examine more closely these women's employment of the victim construct and the usefulness/uselessness of this construct as defined by the women. Additionally, I examine their self-conceptualizations in the context of speaking about their victimization versus dominant constructions. Similarly in Chapter nine, predicated on the women's articulations and explorations with respect to their encounters with helping professionals, I discuss implications for counselling practices, again turning to relevant literature where appropriate. The attendance to and treatment of experiences of intimate violence have gone through significant historical shifts in recent years. In part this is linked to changes in the language employed and in shifting definitions. Clarification of language employment and operating definitions are central to insightful understanding, especially of critical experiences. Hence, I clarify my usage of particular words and/or phrases in this thesis, to be followed by an examination of the historical context encompassing the issue of battering as experienced by women in intimate committed relationships. Defining the Terms It is essential to define the terms as they are used in this project because although definitional differences may appear subtle or superficial, different words do have different meanings and consequent implications. Terms or labels have an historical context, and increasing public awareness of widespread familial violence noted over the past few decades has resulted in clearer identification and naming of the various forms of violence. Consequently, for example, there has been a shift in terms from spousal assault or family violence (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980) to wife assault and wife battering (Walker, 1990). This implies a recognition of a gendered problem that has aided the process of assessment, and has resulted in improved identification of specific needs. The use of explicit terms, such as "battered woman," came primarily out of the feminist movement, based on their analysis that the terms "spousal assault" and "family violence" masked the 6 violence perpetrated against women and obscured the power imbalance. I concur with Levin's (1992) analysis that the term "battering" connotes violence in intimate partnerships, whereas the words abuse, violence, assault, or beating, are applied to a broader range of social contexts in which women or children in particular experience violence. Straus and Gelles (1988) echo my perspective when they state: there will never be an accepted or acceptable definition of abuse, because abuse is not a scientific or clinical term. Rather, it is a political concept. Abuse is essentially any act that is considered deviant or harmful by a group large enough (orperson)* or with sufficient political power to enforce the definition (p.57). (*my insertion) Hence, my preference for the specific words "battering" or "battered" throughout this study rather than broad spectrum terms. Political and social implications of naming the battering and recognizing it as a gendered experience have resulted in more appropriate assessment of the frequency and severity of wife assaults, and also in acknowledging the limitations of prevailing structures to adequately protect the women, or to effectively place sanctions against the offenders (Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Dutton, 1984; Walker, 1979). A less recognized implication of naming the battering, however, is the tendency to essentialize the women who have experienced violence in their intimate relationships, that is, referring to these women strictly in terms of their battering experiences when we speak of "battered women." My personal preference, therefore, is to use the phrase "women who have been battered" as I think it is critical to remember that these women are much more than their battering experiences, nor should they be categorically grouped together in a manner that implies all encompassing similarities, disregarding diversity in their subjective experiences and interpretations. I do not assume that these women, based on their experiences of battering, all had the same encounters, nor that they have the same interpretations. Moreover, any similarities that are present are not presumed to be either precipitant or resultant to their experiences of intimate violence per se. In spite of my preference for the longer and sometimes seemingly cumbersome phrase "women who have experienced battering," I do recognise and have used the term "battered women" in other contexts although I attempt to maintain consistency. For example, I acknowledge that there is research that endeavors to assess service needs as well as gaps in services, and such research requires the use of identifying or descriptive terms in 7 order to establish the figures and facts regarding incident rates. In order to assess the need for shelters, or changes in protection and justice policies, we need statistics that frequently (hopefully temporarily) reduce people to apparently impersonal labels and faceless categories. This seems necessary, however, if we are going to maintain and continue to increase public awareness, enable access to funding, and increase necessary protection. Nevertheless it is both strategic and imperative that we remember that these women do not limit their self-definitions to their battering experiences. Finally, regarding terms used in this paper, the idiom "battered woman" is used interchangeably, in the literature and amongst those working in the field, with the terms wife battering, wifebeating, wife abuse, and wife assault, constituting heterosexual experiences. It is consequential to use a term that includes women in heterosexual and in lesbian relationships in which battering occurs. Whereas the term "spousal abuse" masks the power differential between the aggressor (most often the man) and the recipient (most often the woman), the term wife assault masks the salient concern raised more recently, that battering occurs in some intimate woman-to-woman relationships. A process of clearly naming the battering that women experience requires avoiding naive assumptions that power differentials and experiences of violence do not occur in intimate female partnerships (Hart, 1986; Lobel, 1986). It is pertinent at this point that I briefly address the heterosexuality in my research regarding the women I interviewed. In the Invitation to Participate (Appendix A) in my research, I avoided exclusionary or limiting language, thereby inviting women in heterosexual and in same-sex relationships to participate in this study. In spite of my open invitation, the women who called and became involved were all heterosexual. Given my aversion to inclusion attempts that simply imply token representations, along with my time constraint, I did not pursue this issue further. Notwithstanding the interviewees being heterosexual, my commitment to inclusive language remains because I believe that this has potentially important sociopolitical consequences salient to issues of visibility. Moreover, based on my intention to be inclusive in this project, I had hoped to connect with women from diverse backgrounds in the Lower Mainland area. While I was not able to achieve ethnic or cultural diversity within this small sample of women, the participants were diverse in age and social circumstances. I concur with Opie (1994) who posits that a recognition of 8 diversity and an attendance to differences are ways of more fully representing the complexities of our society and our lived realities. For the purpose of this paper, battering is defined as the events in which a woman is the recipient of physical and/or sexual abuse, or threat thereof, in which there is coercion of involuntary behaviors (e.g., sexual acts), or the restraint by another adult (e.g. from escape) with whom she has established an intimate relationship (Browne, 1987; Lobel, 1986; Walker, 1979). Battering behaviors are often repetitive and include pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting, kicking, burning, choking, throwing, or hitting with objects, forced sex, and threats of, or attacks with dangerous weapons (Margolin, 1987). The battering is frequently accompanied by verbal and psychological abuse, including threats to harm the children, other family members, friends, pets, prized possessions, and to damage the recipient's reputation. These behaviors are with the intention or perceived intention of inducing fear, establishing control, or maintaining power (Hart, 1986; Sinclair, 1985) and causing pain or bodily harm to the other person (Gelles & Straus, 1988). Although the literature largely focuses on multiple events, it must be noted that even a single event qualitatively changes the nature of a relationship, threatening the woman's sense of physical safety, shattering her trust, and heightening the meanings of previous threats and verbal aggression. Threatened or experienced violence establishes and affirms a power differential. It must also be noted that psychological and emotional components often occur without necessarily being accompanied by physical violence. Psychological and emotional assaults are defined as any acts that intend to cause psychological or emotional harm, or communications made that are perceived as having such an intent. The communication may be carried out actively, passively, verbally, or nonverbally and includes behaviors such as name-calling, ongoing put-downs or criticisms, threats, slamming or smashing objects, and obdurate silence or sulking (DeKeseredy & Hinch, 1991). Notably, each of these behaviors has the capacity to establish a power differential. Finally, with regard to the word "victim," the same feminist sociopolitical movement that highlighted the need to define and name the battering also established clear recognition of "victims" of such unidirectional violence (Rodning, 1988), although primacy was given to women experiencing battering in heterosexual relationships. The recognition that these women were victims reflected the feminist agenda to obtain appropriate help and 9 services for the women who were, or are, being battered. The psychodynamic use of the label "victim" implies a needy, helpless, dependent woman who fears abandonment, lacks self esteem and somehow unconsciously desires exploitation (Koss, 1990; Symonds, 1978). In contrast, feminists use the term victim to connote violence in the context of a power differential. This struggle for recognition and understanding of these women as victims of violence, resulted in the victim construct acquiring new status thereby enabling access to much needed services. Recognition of or naming oneself as being a victim increased potential access to various resources. The implication, however, is again a tendency to essentialize or to identify the total woman in terms of one aspect of her life, that of experiencing victimization and therefore being a victim. This is not to say that the experience of victimization is not an all-encompassing kind of ordeal, but rather that there is a danger of denying or ignoring the woman's greater complexity, as exemplified by her active will to survive, and by her changing, growing, interactive humanity in spite of her victimizing circumstances. Of interest over recent years is that the word victim appears to have made an additional shift in meaning whereby it no longer refers primarily to a set of behaviors or circumstances external to the individual but rather it has come to refer to an implied psychological state. Statements such as "stop being a victim" or "stop acting the victim" shift the focus from the victimizing experience to the person, implying something internal to them that needs to change. This seems to be a return to the victim-blaming inherent in psychodynamic approaches that focused on individual characteristics. In this particular form of dominant discourse, the woman is viewed as being rather than doing, and being a victim is equated with being passive. In contrast to the above use of the term victim, throughout this thesis victim is intended to refer to those women who have been harmed or injured in any way, psychologically, emotionally, and/or physically, in their intimate relationships, by one or several of the violating behaviors described in the above definition of battering. I recognise that the use of any descriptive term is not a neutral event, but rather that it has significant social, political, and psychological consequences, in accentuating or ignoring certain aspects of the problem. This is also true historically and is further illuminated by briefly considering the development of analyses and terms relating to violence as experienced by women in intimate relationships. 10 A Movement Toward Social and Political Concerns Regarding Battering In the 1960s, the women's movement engendered awareness of widespread violence against women and children, of previously unrecognized proportions. By the mid 1970s research and information became available regarding the frequency and severity of wife assault, forcing the recognition that existing legal and social structures were inadequate in addressing the issue or in providing help and protection to the women and sanctions against the offenders (Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Dutton, 1984; Walker, 1979). The increase in public awareness included a shift in terms, from spousal assault or family violence (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980) to wife assault and wife battering (Walker, 1990) permitting greater clarity and specificity in assessing the problem and identifying the women's needs. Although mainstream literature has predominantly presented a hegemonic heterosexual focus, there is recent literature that addresses battering in lesbian relationships (e.g., Eaton, 1994; Lobel, 1986; Renzetti, 1992). Although mainstream statistics that spurred public awareness are limited to heterosexual relationships, they nevertheless provide important information regarding the seriousness of battering, particularly since several authors posit that the rate, frequency, and type of violence found in heterosexual and lesbian relationships are comparable (Eaton, 1994; Hart, 1986; Renzetti, 1992).1 According to two national victimization surveys, 1 in 10 women per year is physically and/or sexually assaulted by a husband, ex-husband, or common-law male partner and it is estimated that by the time of the first police report the woman has already been assaulted 35 times on average (CACSW, 1991). The British Columbia Task Force (Gran, 1992) reported that women are 13 times more likely to be abused in their homes than by a stranger and more likely to be injured by a male partner than in a car accident. In the Lower Mainland alone, it is estimated that four to five 1 1 concur with the critique coming out of the lesbian community regarding their invisibility and marginalization, and therefore include the following information. Studies revealing intralesbian battering suggests that the rates of violence are comparable to those occurring in heterosexual relationships (Eaton, 1994; Renzetti, 1992). The violent and coercive behaviors utilized in lesbian battering are similar to those recorded in male-on-female battering (Hart, 1986). They include assaults with knives, guns, and household objects, destruction of personal property, threats to injure self, the partner, and/or third parties, economic control, as well as psychological and/or emotional abuse. Unique to intralesbian battering is the threat of "homophobic control," a threat to tell family members, friends, and others that the victim is a lesbian, a powerful reminder of society's homophic responses (Eaton, 1994; Hart, 1986). Given prevailing assumptions that lesbians are nonviolent, the effectiveness of this threat is intensified by triggering shame grounded in her own intimate knowledge of society's homophobia and a fear that no one will believe her. 11 thousand women are beaten severely enough to cause serious injury each year, the injuries include broken nose, arm, ribs, black eye, strangling marks, knife wounds, burns, dislocated neck, spine, or collar-bone, internal injuries such as bleeding, damaged spleens, kidneys and punctured lungs. Regarding homicides in Canada, it was found that in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s 39% were categorized as domestic homicides, with men who killed their wives or cohabiting partners forming the largest cohort of offenders (Johnson, 1988). Most, that is 50%, of the legally married offenders used guns to kill their wives, whereas cohabiting husbands used guns 34% and beatings 30% of the time (Johnson & Chisholm, 1989). Hence, in contrast to dominant assumptions, Canadian women are more likely to be killed by their husbands than by strangers on the street (Johnson, 1988). It appears that the major motives for these killings include anger, jealousy, revenge, and quarrels (Daly & Wilson, 1988). Based on the frequency and seriousness of battering incidents in intimate relationships, it is highly likely that people working in the helping professions, such as counsellors and therapists, will be confronted with issues of intimate violence or battering in their work. It is critical that we be able to respond appropriately, caringly, with understanding, and without judgment of women who experience such violence. This requires a critical awareness of the dominant assumptions that frequently plague women who experience battering and have also informed counselling practices. These dominant presumptions frequently interfere with the women's efforts to obtain appropriate help and disrupt the efforts of professionals to interact effectively and empathically with the women. A lack of understanding and prevailing pejorative, judgmental assumptions reflect five long-standing myths regarding heterosexual women who have experienced or are experiencing battering: (a) wife assault occurs only in lower socioeconomic classes (Gelles & Cornell, 1985; Hofeller, 1983), (b) wife assault is linked to alcohol abuse (Straus & Gelles, 1990), (c) the woman must have behaved in some manner to provoke the violence (Caplan, 1987; Pagelow, 1984), (d) the violence really cannot be that bad if she stays; she must get some gratification from such behaviors (Browne, 1987; Caplan, 1987), and finally (e) the myth of mutual combat (Saunders, 1988; Steinmetz & Lucca, 1988; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). Contrary to these myths battering crosses all social and economic boundaries (Hotaling & Sugarman, 1986). Although excessive drinking has 12 been found to be associated with higher rates of battering, alcohol is not an immediate antecedent to violence, nor has it been found to be a necessary or sufficient cause (Kantor & Straus, 1987). Many women never know what provokes an attack, particularly as the supposed provoking factors constantly change (Browne, 1987). Certainly women explicitly and implicitly disapprove of the violence and there is literature supporting that the women do not find it gratifying (Caplan, 1987). Last, studies reporting mutual battering reflect faulty methodology and analysis (Saunders, 1988), as they are based on quantitative counts of individual acts of violence without recognizing preceding events, the issue of self defense, or consequent injuries (Browne, 1987; Margolin, 1987). Furthermore, the literature suggests that the experiences of these women are complex, as indicated by the fact that leaving the relationship does not guarantee their safety (Browne, 1987; Straus & Gelles, 1990). By focusing on the women or such factors as socioeconomic status and alcohol, these myths shift the responsibility away from the individual who batters and as such they imply victim-blaming. Further, these myths are not grounded in the women's voices, nor in their subjective understandings or interpretations. Instead the meaning and understanding of the violent events is made external to the women by those not directly engaged in the events.2 These problematic myths or relational assumptions regarding battering result in additional victimization experiences for women already in vulnerable situations. They represent problems of misunderstandings that result from labels and constructs that include 2 Again, I wish to state that these myths pertain primarily to heterosexual relationships and the myths surrounding intralesbian violence have their genesis in a somewhat different set of operating assumptions. One myth is linked to our reproductive capabilities, therefore assuming that women are life-giving, and generally less capable of violent or destructive behaviors. More specifically, for many lesbians, assumptions about lesbian nonviolence are grounded in the hopes and visions of aspiring to a distinct alternative community for women, permitting alternative non-violent choices and styles of living (Eaton, 1994). For many women their coming to the realization of a lesbian identity was through working within feminist politics, giving primacy to egalitarian, nonhierarchical, noncompetitive relationships, ones that were devoid of the power struggles they had identified in many heterosexual relations (Renzetti, 1992). Additional factors that result in cloaking intralesbian violence with silence include the mainstream narrow definition of family, society's difficulty in acknowledging and responding to battery, sociocultural homophobic norms, and finally the feminist and lesbian communities themselves that have failed to recognise and respond appropriately to intralesbian battering. For example, transition houses were designed to accommodate women needing safety from male-on-female violence with a policy to "believe the woman." This policy became problematic for many of those working with same-sex domestic violence cases, particularly if both women claimed to be victims of battering (Eaton, 1994). Because of such operating assumptions, some lesbians requiring shelter report having access denied (Hart, 1986). 13 some individuals while excluding others because labels are often predicated on mainstream definitions and policies. This reflects my concern with the construct 'victim,' a term initially intended to signify a serious social problem that may have lost its effectiveness, becoming instead a construct that limits our understanding of women who experience violence in their intimate relationships, and constraining these women's self-perceptions. The Role of Media as Providing Context The media, a sociocultural structure that often plays a mediating and critical role in its choices of re-presentation, has more recently made the public increasingly aware of some women's disturbing experiences of victimization in their intimate relationships. Yet the issue of naming the victimization and inciting potential understanding of the experiences of victimization in response to various frightful traumatic news or media stories of women who live under the ongoing effects of spousal assault, remains a vexed one both in the media and amongst the public. What does it mean to be a victim, to be named a victim, to be thought of as a victim, to think of oneself as a victim in this context? In addition to the attention given via media portrayals of women who experience battering, the word 'victim' has been bantered about in the lay public, and amongst professionals working out of judicial and therapeutic communities. Responses vary from sympathetic horror and supportive understanding to impatient disbelief and judgment often aimed at the woman as victim. The complexity and intensity of this issue may have been reinforced by particular media portrayals of the victim and victimizer. The trial of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, for example, raised questions of whether Karla was indeed subject to such severe intimate abuse that she became psychologically and emotionally enslaved to Bernardo, losing her sense of self and all ability to exercise her own will , or was she simply a self-serving, conniving, disturbed, and weak young woman? Moreover, the well publicized trial of O.J. Simpson divided the public along lines of those who believed that evidence was circumstantial and that Simpson was simply an unfortunate, debased, and ruined celebrity who had acted inappropriately in his marriage, but was incapable of murder, versus those who believed he was a cruel, jealous, and violent husband, someone who was very much capable of murder.3 In the spring of 1996 the -> There was evidence Nicole Simpson had suffered multiple beatings by her ex-husband O.J.Simpson and had expressed fear for her life while still married to him. They had been apart for some time at the time of her death. The jury acquitted him. 14 media followed the trial of Dorothy Joudrie, a 61-year-old woman who shot her husband six times. Her acquittal once again elicited the gender debate, arguing that had she been a male she would not have been exonerated.4 On April 12, 1996 Chahal, the estranged husband of Rajwar Gakhal killed nine members of the Gakhal family as they were preparing for a wedding in Vernon, B.C., approximately 16 months after they had separated, thereby raising questions about safety and protection in conjunction with leaving, and challenging the oft-held belief that leaving a violent relationship ends the violence.5 I mention these media stories as they preceded and evolved over the time period of my research, thereby identifying some of the social climate and public response to various stories of intimate violence at the time of my study. Contemporary focus on women who have experienced battering is also evidenced in popular movies such as Thelma and Louise (Khouri, 1992), and Fried Green Tomatoes (Flagg, 1992), both portraying more positive images of women who leave partners who batter. Movies made for television such as Life with Billy and the more hollywood-styled movie The Stranger Beside Me depicted relationships in which the men's violence was not limited to their partners, while also attempting to convey the women's struggles of not being heard or believed by others external to their relationship. Additionally, When Women K i l l , based on Ann Jones' (1980) book by the same name, was made into a 1994 National Film Board documentary by Barbara Doran, and shown on television across Canada. In this documentary Ann Jones speaks with women incarcerated for killing the partners who beat them and this film is a further example of efforts to educate the public concerning the complexity of the issues. Such media portrayals raised public awareness and provoked challenging questions and heated debates. The debates, at least in part, reflected the dominant preference for polarised re-presentations of victim and victimizer as separate and distinct, whereby one is portrayed as clearly innocent and the other clearly guilty. Yet this simple duality fails us 4 Dorothy Joudrie and her husband Earl Joudrie, a prominent businessman in Alberta, were going through a divorce after a lengthy marriage, at the time of her attempts to shoot him. As part of the court proceedings, it became known that he had a history of abusing her. In her acquittal in May 1996, she was found not criminally responsible for the shooting but was ordered to spend time in a psychiatric hospital. 5 According to the Province (April 14,1996) the R.C.M.P. had noted the family's complaints of threatening calls made by Chahal at the time that R.C.M.P. processed his permit for a pistol. 15 when we begin to hear past stories of abuse and victimization in the offender's life. For example, the victimizer is described as also being a victim, hence potentially neutralizing issues concerning responsibility and guilt. Moreover, the questions frequently focus on the woman as victim. We find ourselves looking for flaws in the woman's character or looking to her past for identification of some kind of potentially pathological relationship or repetitive familial pattern. We question why she chooses such a problematic relationship, why she stays, and why she does not press charges or demand a criminal investigation. Furthermore, the accounts of women such as Dorothy Joudrie and Lorena Bobbitt 6 tend to challenge prevailing assumptions that equate the victim with passivity and the victimizer with activity, seeming to invert the issues. Public ambivalence was evident regarding both these women. On the one hand we may understand a woman's deep anger, resentment, and wish/need to retaliate or to act in self defense, yet the nagging thought entertained by many was that, at least in these scenarios, the husbands were the final "victims." Although it is potentially interesting to examine the readiness with which public sympathy shifts to the male "victim" regarding these complex depictions, that is not the purpose of this paper. I recount these various events here because they provide a sociohistorical context to the timing of my research, locating my interviews within a particular social climate wherein issues of intimate abuse have increasingly received media attention. These public accounts allude to the role of broader contexts and demonstrate that the definition and use of the term victim may be more complicated than is often assumed. These events, as recorded here, also reveal how readily we dismiss women's experiences of intimate violence, simplifying the issues into an equation in which her leaving results in her exoneration, whereas her staying pathologizes her. Each of these stories leaves much unanswered and in keeping with the purpose of this thesis, these stories problematize the word victim, that is, they imply that the meaning of being a victim is not a simple, easily reducible one. Locating M y s e l f A somewhat related concern with respect to issues that should be problematized or made questionable is that of locating myself regarding this study. Although I agree with 6 Lorena Bobbitt was a woman who cut off her husband's penis. Her husband was known to the police because he had a history of abusing her and had been charged previously. 16 current critiques of traditional psychological (and other) research in which the researcher, the researcher's perspective(s) and bias(es), as well as the reasons for doing the research remained invisible, justified by assumptions of researcher neutrality and objectivity, I hesitate to assume that statements of location are ultimately necessarily satisfying or even accurate. I agree that this debate has raised critical questions regarding researcher attitudes and implicit power imbalances in research and has challenged the purpose, function, and appropriateness of many, if not all, research projects. The critique in part was aimed at researchers who have traditionally been protected by ivory towers that support and mystify the meaning of research and the acquisition of knowledge. I believe, however, that this issue of author or researcher location is at least twofold. First, I have an obligation to the women whom I interviewed to answer any questions they had with regard to my own personal experiences, my reasons for doing this work, my underlying assumptions, and how I might use the information. I acted upon this by addressing these issues during the initial contacts and encouraging the women before and after each interview to ask me any questions they wished to have answered. Second, although potentially interesting to have insight into my various locations with regard to the forms of privilege I do or do not experience within a larger sociocultural context, I question how completely satisfying this ultimately is. Further, my criticism is that this kind of locating implies masking the struggle of authors who are not in the same privileged positions as others who are indeed, white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied, and so forth. Congruent with my criticism and concerns regarding the simplicity and potential superficiality of locating myself, I have attempted to clearly articulate my assumptions, my perspectives, and my biases throughout the construction of this thesis. Despite my critiques, and however inadequate this may be, I also attempt to present my personal experiences in coming to this project. Throughout the construction and completion of this thesis, I have endeavored to express myself in an accessible and meaningful fashion. Nevertheless, it is my particular construction and someone else may have approached or structured this material differently. In doing this research, I have also struggled with and been committed to non-conventional (certainly within psychology), social constructivist, and feminist perspectives that have intermittently challenged me personally to the point where I questioned whether it was possible or appropriate to do research at all. I came to a place where I believe it is possible 17 to do research, research that reflects my struggle with integrity and that exposes my voice as the writer even as I attempt to make visible and stay true to other women's voices. I have made frequent efforts to openly explore and expose my framework, my thoughts, opinions, and perceptions in my writing but also in the interviews, giving the women opportunities to ask me questions and to discuss any aspect of either the interview or my research. This was a learning process for me and I appreciate the apparent willingness of the women to interact with me. I came to this project as a divorced, solo mother of two, with an understanding based on my own experiences that any given picture or story is not simply the sum of it's parts, and that in fact when we look at the parts we often miss the more complex or subtle nuances that might bring us closer to genuinely, empathically participating in another's world. So it is with words like victim, and the many varied widespread assumptions that it triggers, frequently rendering the victimized individual invisible. Although it was not a relationship in which I experienced battering, I was in an important intimate committed relationship in which I experienced behaviors that have given me some understanding of the critical dynamics that occur between two people intimately connected with each other. I grew up in a White, Western-European family in which at a young age I became proficient at discerning the atmosphere as I walked in through the door. Unpredictable, unexplainable, uncontrolled, and seemingly uncontrollable male anger outwardly directed was somehow simply accepted as a part of private family life. In terms of making sense of this family picture, it often seemed that the behaviors were predicated on beliefs that these were important lessons from God, along with notions of presumed appropriate discipline indicative of a particular kind of western European pedagogy.7 I frequently think that the religious ideology by which my family was trying to discern the daily lessons we were supposed to extrapolate from our experiences has found a new avenue in contemporary New Age ideology, whereby we are once again commended to look for the individual lessons to be learned in the face of various sufferings or hardships.8 In any case, although 7 Alice Miller (1983), for example, has attempted to address and expose what she believes to be the roots of violence in our society, that is, in the harmful and often cruel child- rearing practices dating back to the 19th century. 8 My critique of this movement is not with regard to the potential for meaning-making (i.e., making meaning out of one's lived experiences) but of the individualizing and inherent latent capacity to dismiss serious inequalities operating in the lives of struggling individuals. my experiences triggered fear and vigilance at times, they seem minor in the face of many women's experiences of violence, specifically those women with whom I talked. I wish to thank the women who participated in this study, for having the strength and willingness to talk with me. I have attempted to stay true to the content of their stories and to honour the spirit of their lives. I also want to express my support to women who are struggling with the issues addressed in this thesis. I hope that this work is a manifestation of that support. I approached this research and the women who participated, with the assumption that women experiencing victimization in their intimate relationships also experienced agency, although this agency varies and may seem contradictory or inconsistent. I think there is mystery in the ways in which people act or respond and the dilemmas or quandaries that such agency brings to the fore, particularly for academics in the face of attempts to establish coherent, consistent social and psychological theories, strikes me as inspiring and challenging, implying the hope that not everything is reducible or predictable. In recent years these issues of complexity and irreducibility have further been mirrored through the media. I now introduce the women, by way of hearing/reading their narratives. Stories are a kind of cultural envelope into which we pour our experience and signify its importance to others, and the world of the story requires protagonists inciting conditions and culminating events. A near universal form for ordering our worlds, narrative allows us to make connections and thus meaning by linking past and present, self and society. (Riessman, 1994, p. 114). 19 Chapter Two: Introducing the Women, the Experiential Experts .. cultural ideals are powerful forces, shaping not only our ways of thinking and doing, but our ways of being as well, giving form to both the conscious and unconscious content of our inner lives. - Rubin (1983, p.2-3) I consider writing as a method of inquiry, a way of finding out about yourself and your topic. Although we usually think about writing as a mode of "telling" about the social world, writing is not just a mopping-up activity at the end of a research project. Writing is also a way of "knowing" - a method of discovery and analysis. By writing in different ways, we discover new aspects of our topic and our relationship to it... Writing from our Selves should strengthen the community of qualitative researchers and the individual voices within it, because we will be more fully present in our work, more honest, more engaged. - Richardson (1993, p.516) Always and Forever Always and Forever Etched in rings of gold A statement, A promise, made when love and joy were new Faded, barely visible now the love, drowned in tears Remembered Always Lost Forever - Kathleen Throughout this project I deliberated over various ways in which to present the women's narratives such that the intent and the heart of their accounts would be captured. Riessman (1993) echoes my concerns when she posits that in qualitative research, in spite of commitment to attentive listening and verbatim transcriptions, there are several subtle ways in which the communicated experiences are altered primarily because all forms of re- presentation are ultimately limited re-constructions of the original experience. Two examples based on my own experience may suffice. First, as I was transcribing the interviews I became aware of having lost subtle but nevertheless important nuances that were integral parts of each interview such as a smile, a nod, or other nonverbal cues, and these nuances remained just that — an important and meaningful component of each interview, impossible to reconstruct. My awareness of such nuances was heightened upon sitting back, listening to the interviews, and reading the transcriptions, the most significant difference being between the felt sense in the interview and the felt sense outside the 20 interview context. Our communications were much more than an exchange of words. I further recognized that any attempts to put these nuances into words would not do justice to the actual experience simply because of the inherent nature of nuances. Second, it is difficult, in spite of my efforts, to fully preserve the emotional content in the interviews as implied by changes in voice, gesturing, or showing emotions. No transcription technique preserves all the subtleties or particulars of the participants' narratives. Knowing that these aspects would be lost, I felt even more compelled to incorporate direct quotations or what Opie (1992) calls the "writing in of the women's voices" in order to maintain the integrity of the women's explorations as much as was feasible. Consequently, I decided to present the women's voices early on in this thesis, introducing them immediately after the introductory chapter as they are, after all, who this thesis is about. In my transcriptions I retained, as much as possible, the women's own articulation, indicating their pauses, their hesitant or broken speech (as indicated by and "-"), and various utterances in order to maintain the authenticity of their process as they spoke with me.9 Seldom do most of us speak in a manner that sounds completely polished and unfaltering, and this was also true for the women I interviewed. One more issue needs clarification before launching into the women's narratives. Although the interviews represent a co-construction of the women's narratives, with the women deciding and defining how they wished to proceed in answer to my facilitative interactions, I found from time to time that there were ideas that concerned me, particularly for women living in victimizing circumstances, and one such umbrella concern regards the role of sociocultural and historical contexts. Over the 2 years that I have been engaged in this research project, examining the construction and use of victim discourse or of words such as victim with regard to significant intimate partnerships, I have become cognizant of news stories and issues in popular media that seemed reflective of, or linked to, women's experiences of violence. As might also be expected, the women, in turn, used descriptive words reflective of the culture in which we live. Given these linkages or interactions between our private and public spheres, I present the women's narratives in an interactive fashion, using a combination of insertions that include my reflections, as well as pertinent 9 I make this clarification because my approach represents a shift from traditional research in which authors tend to present a summary of key themes, using "cleaned-up" quotes from the participants, and presenting these quotes or excerpts later on in the body of a thesis rather than this early on. 21 news and/or popular media items along side the women's words, as it seemed appropriate to me. These notations regarding culture and media serve to contextualize and ostensibly, to validate the women's experiences of victimization. My aim here is congruent with my concern, as indicated in my introduction, that much psychological research and theorizing lacks recognition or analysis of any social context or the sociocultural structures that have an impact on the very lives being investigated. Frequently, even where there is an analysis of power, there is an omission of the practical politics of such issues as ambivalence, choice, strategizing, error, transformation, or other subjectively experienced shifts. It is hoped that in this thesis these complex aspects of what it means to be socially contextualized human beings will regain visibility and understanding as this is critical for those persons turning to the helping professions for insight and compassion, as well as for the professionals to be truly competent in their work. This thesis has been prepared with a steadfast discernment to attitudes and perspectives in the field of counselling because I think an ongoing sensitivity to both individual contexts as well as broad spectrum contexts is critical to compassionate effective work. In order to achieve the above, I required a presentation that permits and encourages some grasp of the interweaving of personal lives with social structures without collapsing or dichotomizing towards biological determinism and categories on the one side, or to relativism and pluralism on the other. The narratives, as presented in this thesis, are examples of a dialectic in which the women describe experiences of the constraining powers of thwarted gendered intimate relations, not abstractly, but rather as personifying all the qualities of very real people's lives including the complexities, ambiguities, and contradictions, as well as the sense of ongoing transformation and change, both satisfying and dissatisfying. Foucault (1982) posits that power "is always a way of acting upon an acting subject or acting subjects" (p.789). In other words power is relational and always in the context of resistance, whether this resistance is visible or invisible. 1 0 Certainly the women I spoke with articulated the complexity of their lives and their experiences, with their struggles sometimes clearly visible and at other times less readily discernible. 10 This is not to minimize or obscure the profound experiences of powerlessness realized by those who experience victimization, nor is it my intention to glorify resistance. Instead an understanding of power as relational nnholds and honors neonle as more comnlex. as able to resist, persist, and move, and appears to be more congruent with the accounts of the women with whom I spoke. 22 In my initial contact with the women over the telephone, after introducing myself and my project, I used a demographic questionnaire (Appendix B). The women appeared to speak easily about themselves and the following introductions include parts of these earliest telephone communications as well as excerpts from the in-person interviews that followed. The women were asked if they had a preferred alias and hence the names used here reflect these women's choices. It is hoped that these introductions permit an entry into these women's experiences, thereby forming a contextualized understanding of their struggles and triumphs. Although there may be some similarities, each woman's self- portrait is unique, reflecting what she volunteered in telling me her story. The general themes in these initial excerpts include the women's self-perceptions, perceptions of marriage, and their perceived roles within their marriages. Finally, this chapter concludes with their narratives of victimization. My interjections and my use of cultural images or popular media vary in response to the women's texts. The media messages are intended to explore, establish, and render visible the sociocultural climate that potentially interacts with women's self-perceptions and with gendered relations. They are not intended to imply a direct, immediate, or one-to-one relationship with the women's words although they may appear as such at times. Instead, they establish an awareness of particular kinds of perceptions and messages. I am grateful to MS Magazine and to Mediawatch for their attention to popular media and to advertisements. Many of the advertisements that I refer to in the rest of this chapter were drawn from their publications as indicated. Most often I have left the popular media or advertisement insertions to stand on their own without my reflection because I do not think they require further explanation. The reflections and insertions reflect my subjective choices and someone else might have arranged the material differently. Contextualized Self-portraits Elsie is a Caucasian heterosexual woman in her mid-fifties, living in the Lower Mainland. She heard about my project through a Women's Centre and she expressed eagerness to participate because " i f it helps even one other woman I would be pleased." Ejsie grew up in Western Europe immigrating to Canada with her family as a teenager and moving in with a supportive aunt while completing high school. She married her first husband as a young adult and after approximately 11 years of marriage, he left her to solo 23 parent their four children. Elsie described herself as an energetic, creative, venturesome, and tireless mother. In her forties and before marrying her second husband, Elsie pursued post-secondary university training in the health profession, and is somewhat able to rely on this as a limited source of income. In her second marriage, she was able to travel and enjoy some of the comforts lacking in her earlier years. At the time of our first interview she had been separated from her second husband for approximately 7 months. Elsie's story begins with her struggle as an immigrant young woman: I came to Canada .. I was just a teenager, and my parents - first of all they couldn't afford to keep me which was a blessing 'cuz I lived for a little while with an aunt and she was kind. That was the first person in my life that had really showed me some - some love and kindness - so that was really good, (pause) - I was just sort of married because he happened to come along at the right time - but I was very naive and I didn't understand .. thinking .. Cinderella .. and the prince comes along (laughs).. I remember feeling lost and I thought - oh now, I'm going to be married, now I'm never going to feel lost again. I'm going to feel good, there's somebody there to take care of me, but this is silly 1 1 you know. (My husband) rescued me, he definitely rescued me, 'cuz I remember the night before I got married, I thought - oh, (in a whisper) I'll never have to sleep alone again, there's always going to be somebody there and I thought that was just such a relief. Elsie's description and her reference to Cinderella and the prince echo our many culturally entrenched images in childhood stories, in folklore, in popular songs, and in the media, that, starting from a time we are very young, shape our understanding of what it means to come into a relationship, and how such a relationship will meet our needs and end the search. She laughingly refers to a "prince," a cultural symbol of someone who enabled her to escape an undesirable situation, someone who symbolized a change in her life's circumstances, and with whom she envisioned spending the rest of her life. In sharp contrast to her expectations, he left and for many years she alone parented four children, managed on her own, working long and hard: .. so I worked day and night -1 had four to five jobs. On the weekends I delivered papers .. the kids would sit on the bumper of the old car - we'd deliver newspapers and then we'd clean offices and I worked downtown and then during the week I worked at another office near my home. In the summer I volunteered - so the children could go to camp -1 said I will be the cook. I can't pay - but let me cook. So somehow I adapted to that -1 survived because I was able to do a lot of different things .. so I'm a survivor I guess. I didn't go on Welfare or anything - I'd just work, work, work, work. But then the children suffered because they didn't see 11 Elsie's phrase "this is silly" reflects her judgment that she should have known better. Anderson and Jack (1991) address this issue referring to it as "moral language." There are numerous examples of such self-judgments throughout the interviews and these will be given special attention later on. Suffice it to note that they imply a gap between two subjective voices; one that was in the experience and a more distanced one that stands outside the experience. 24 their dad and their mom had to work all the time, so that was really - that wasn't so great either .. but there wasn't a thing I couldn't do. I had to - with four kids. I could fix the toilet, painted the house, painted the outside, whatever I had to do, I did. I looked after myself and my kids -1 had to. I had no parents, I had nobody, nobody, not one single soul in Canada. So it was just me and the kids (sigh). Then along came this other knight (smiles). I felt better - when I got into that relationship - because I had felt kind of lost when my first husband left. I was really lost because I'd only been in this country for a few years .. I was so naive. I thought (very quietly, sucking in her breath) - oh god - now I've finally found somebody that - that was interested just in me, even to talk to, that cared .. I thought he cared. Like (at first) we spent a lot of time going for walks. Elsie became a 'Jane' of all trades, stressing the element of necessity as a driving force in her recurring statements of "I had to." Yet her abilities did not compensate for the lonely solitariness, and hence Elsie's second husband appears to present a hopeful (knightly) possibility of an end to her struggle as a single mother, of coping alone financially, of feeling terribly alone and completely responsible. Again, like the prince image, she uses the knight to depict potential change in her circumstances congruent with symbolic cultural expectations regarding relationships. She mentions her children in the context of a pained awareness that they too suffered as a result of her circumstances in spite of her varied and dedicated efforts. Her many competencies, however, did not erase her yearnings for someone to communicate with and feel cared by, someone to share her responsibilities with. Elsie's yearnings are congruent with normative expectations regarding marriage as representing a relationship that is unequalled in the rest of society, and regarding the nuclear family as a unit presumed to meet the needs of children and provide various comforts. For Elsie, marriage was to be a resting place, where she would experience solidarity with someone, a connection in which she would be valued. In her words marriage meant: .. security and - belonging - and it mattered to matter.. 'cuz I've never felt that I'd mattered (tears up). Someone to talk with .. and - I'll never have to sleep alone again, there's always going to be somebody there and I thought that was just such a relief. Elsie indicated that her role in the marriage was "to fix it" particularly as her later career training was linked to the helping professions. She described that prior to and throughout their marriage she was: .. the giver and always accountable to him. I had to keep a 24 hour journal, otherwise he had a fit. He had to know what I did every minute while he was away .. I thought that was love - he was being attentive .. I never saw it as a controlling thing. He paid me money, then I had to contribute so I contributed by giving up all my friends and staying by the phone and even in those days - only living for him. 25 Elsie's words imply a subscript wherein the relationship was defined by a contract, a contract that maintained peace and order. Her narrative additionally suggests an equation frequently made in the broader sociocultural and media portrayals that link love to control, portrayals in which women take on a subservient role, one intended to satisfy a male need. The popular Calvin Klein clothing producers provide a poignant illustration, one that I noticed in a Lower Mainland department store: Calvin Klein Advertisement: 'Obsession for men 'presents a two-thirds body-length picture of a slim, innocent-looking, young nude female stretched out on the sofa lying chest down looking into the camera. She could be child or woman. By implication the Calvin Klein ad normalizes a particular kind of male-female relations, that of men's female-focussed obsessions, linking his obsession to her desirability portrayed as acquiescent compliance. By implication, the women's role is one of satisfying his fixation. Elsie's words, as does the ad, attest to female self-perceptions wherein a sense of identity is tacitly linked to issues of control, approval, self-worth, and availability as perceived through the gaze of another.12 We now meet Kathleen who had experiences that both overlapped with and were unique to Elsie's. Kathleen, a heterosexual Caucasian woman also in her mid fifties and living in the Lower Mainland at the time of the interviews, became aware of my project through a counselling service that specializes in working with women who have experienced violence. She generously gave me a few of her poems that she said were an expression of her healing process and, where it seemed fitting, I have included these in this thesis with her permission. I think they reflect an important example of the varied ways sought by the women in this study to come to terms with their pain and healing. Kathleen was married to her husband for over 30 years, leaving him once just prior to 25 years of marriage. She now sees that action as "a plea for change" and she ultimately left her husband just over a year before our first meeting. Kathleen worked part time for much of their marriage, being successful at a number of different jobs. In her marriage they were able to travel and in spite of some intermittent financial struggle, Kathleen was used to a certain amount of self- described comfort. She is the mother of two, now adult, married women. While still 1 2 This is not to suggest that male identity is not similarly formed or shaped in our culture. I believe it is, and consequently it is also both similarly and differently problematic. I am, however, focussing strictly on the link between media messages and women's identity because the purpose of this thesis was to hear the women's voices, and these voices did not occur in a vacuum. 26 married, she pursued specialized training in the field of health and fitness, and is currently happily employed using these skills. She described herself as someone who generally has lots of energy, is outgoings takes initiative, and has perseverance. These qualities date back to earlier years and Kathleen describes herself as a teenager: I think 1 felt pretty good about myself in .. from Junior High going into High School.. socially I felt very happy. I had girlfriends that I liked .. Not happy with my home life though and my family though - (I was) middle daughter, younger sibling was pampered, older sibling had health problems and has always been babied too .. and then there's me whose kind of feisty, looks like I can stand on my own two feet and feeling very needy for affection -1 never seemed to get it. I remember being accused of being all sorts of things - cheeky and-um (pause) - and actually it was - standing up for myself. I can remember chewing celery (laughingly) - just chewing it -1 have teeth right? - my parents don't - they have false teeth and I'm chewing it and my father said 'stop that racket'.. this was an act of defiance -1 was 13 years old. I picked up the celery, leaned over and went chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp and then promptly got batted over the head. I'm also kind pf stubborn .. I had a temper - when I was little I used to pass out. One time my mother threw cold water in my face, and my feeling is that I wasn't allowed to kind of grow out of that expression of anger. I was the one who - even in grade 11 -1 couldn't go to school if I forgot to kiss my mother I'd come all the way back from the bus stop and give her a kiss. It was important to have their love and to show them that I loved them. They kind of labelled me the bad girl - (almost a whisper) I was not a bad girl - my younger sister did things that uh -1 wouldn't even have dreamed of doing. But I was feisty - I didn't give up. Like Elsie, Kathleen described some troubled relations with her family, feeling misperceived, apparently in response to her spirited character. She recognized that her appearance of "being tough and hard .. was just a front," stating she was also affectionate. She entered marriage believing: .. that my husband was going to be with me for all of my life - so my children - I love them dearly but he came first - and now I'm sorry I ever thought that way (tears up). ..forsaking all others .. till death parts us. Kathleen goes on to define her hopes and expectations regarding a husband and father of their children, one that stands in sharp contrast to her lived experiences: I wanted a husband who was proud of me, who would help me, who would be supportive of me, who would share my experiences with me ..just be supportive and kind and you know - looking after me - and-um-um (pause) being really supportive of me .. when it came to our children - (pause) - to be a team - and we talked about that but whenever it happened he took over.. there shouldn't be a division here, there should be some unity. Kathleen's words are congruent with frequently held aspirations regarding intimate and parenting relationships. She mentioned the confusing discrepancy between their 27 discussions and the lived experiences regarding the children. She clarified in the second interview that being married is no simple task, but contrasts her marriage with her present experience: Nobody says that marriage is going to be completely smooth - it isn't going to be - you've got two different people here - with different moods and temperaments and - dislikes and likes and - um (pause) - so it's not going to be smooth but it shouldn't be like a roller coaster all the time - the relationship I'm in now - nothing doesn't get discussed between the two of us -1 mean, we can sense when something's not quite right and then we check it out and we talk about it, we really do. She went on to define her role: role was to be his wife and that - not you know do anything to cause a problem for him (at work) meaning I've seen women who drink too much and make a fool of themselves and that's not appropriate .. what happened at work was none of my affair. Of course I was supportive of him -1 always was. In her words Kathleen indicated that her husband's work world was separate from her, and her only connection to that world was one of providing support to him. She was expected to be a "good girl" and not to interfere with his world of work. Bumper sticker: Anything with tits or wheels is going to give you trouble. She went on to describe her understanding of their roles in marriage and to locate these within a larger sociocultural perspective, linking her experiences to gender socialization, and suggesting that these are historically significant, hoping that the experiences of contemporary younger women might be different: In the marriage I think you carry the responsibility -1 think that women -1 think it's a part of who you're supposed to be as a woman - coming from my era .. and it's the mother and the - and the - keeping home fires burning, keeping things pleasant, and - so you take responsibility for his behavior too. I envy young women today because they know that that's not the case - at least, I think most of them do. I came from an era where you don't even talk about it so of course you put up with it .. and you come from an era where marriages are supposed to last forever. You make a commitment.. ..for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health .. til death parts us. I mean - how stupid - at 19 you're making a commitment that's supposed to last a life-time. It might have worked in 1859 but-uh - even then I wonder.. My parents were born around the turn of the century and they brought a lot of that mentality into their marriage. I happen to be a child of older parents and that was passed on too .. and in my ex's family - um - (pause) -1 would say it was very much the same way. Women are second class citizens... Nickels' Colder one Baby doll shoe: A schoolgirl shoe so naughty, they gave it a strap, (as quoted in Mediawatch Newsletter, 1996) 28 .. and at 19 you were still not an adult - you had to be 21 .. and-and even going for my driver's license -1 had to have my parents or my husband sign for me for heaven's sake - so you're a child. That's how I entered the marriage .. the week before I got married I had to be home at 11 o'clock to go on a trip with my parents - 11 p.m. Well, I was old enough to know that if I didn't get home until 2 in the morning that I would suffer for the drive to (--) the next day, but I was treated like a child, and then I got married. Advertisement for Suzuki motorcycles: A brand new black sleek non-conservative looking motorcycle standing in the middle of a contemporary, dimly lit, spotlessly clean kitchen with the caption: She's beautiful. And she cooks, (as quoted in MS. Magazine, Vol. IV(6), 1994) .. I think in my era or women my age, that everything that happened in the home - and most of us were at home - that it was your responsibility to make sure that things ran smoothly. You kept the children off when dad was angry .. Um - we allow men - in general to dictate to us because that's what we learned. We learned that - in my family - that was the modelling - the father, my father did the same thing - that's his chair. And my husband - it was the same thing, and his chair was so much his chair that no one even dared sit in the damn thing. Um - and - when my 2-3 year old when we had boarders from the university staying with us - and she said you're going to be in big trouble when my daddy gets up because that's his chair. Daddy's the boss .. Kathleen's narrative indicates the impact of historically located gendered messages on shaping her marriage and her interaction with her husband. Alongside her very deep commitment to her marriage Kathleen also had other desires, in particular an ongoing yearning for further education. She clarifies: To me education is really important for a woman, I don't care where she's coming from - um - and maybe it's not just education - it's - you have to develop this - in a woman - a sense of that she doesn't have to be - I-I was raised with - well, you're going to get married anyway - I wanted to go to university terribly - my parents said no, for one thing we can't afford it, for another you're just going to get married and what is it going to do for you. Bride & Your New Home Magazine Ad: (A picture of a young long-haired attractive young woman beside a smaller picture of cookware with the bold caption on top): Today's Farberware Bride (and in small print on the side): Today's bride - committed to quality, and full of expectations. She looks forward to a long-lasting relationship. And that's what the bride who chooses Farberware's Millenium "Never-stick" Cookware will enjoy. Millenium is the only stainless steel cookware with the incredible Excaliber "Never-stick " surface, guaranteed not to rub, scrape or scrub off for a full 20 years, even if you use metal utensils. No ordinary non-stick can make the same vow." (as quoted in MS. Magazine, Vol. IV(3), 1993) Kathleen's story conveys the prevalent gendered beliefs of the mid 1900s, whereby it was assumed that a married woman would not need or use post-secondary education. This issue had an impact on Kathleen and remained unfinished for her, resurfacing again later: .. the children were in school all day -1 had a choice to do something all day - (pause) - and for me really that would have been going to school but - for him - and 29 for the sake of keeping the peace, and pleasing - and - making the right choice would be - (pause) taking a job. I've always considered - I think - everyone, everything (sigh). The payback to me and what is it going to cost.. You know, I even think at times that I put him first -1 remember saying it to him - to people, that my husband was going to be with me for all of my life.. When I went and actually had myself (career) tested -1 told my husband about it. He said what would you want to do that for - what do you need a career for? You've got me... (Later in their marriage).. I decided to go to school - it was only a 3 month program to be certified - and - and again this is where he said why do you want to waste 75 bucks for? So -1 did it anyway - defied him and went and - he said to me you're so stupid, they're just waiting to take your money .. you're going to just throw it away .. but I wanted to - badly enough. So I did it anyway .. In keeping with sociocultural injunctions particularly in the 50s and 60s, it was assumed that her happiness and sense of fulfilment would be met in a marriage in which her needs to achieve were presumed secondary. She was expected to experience vicarious fulfilment through the accomplishments of her husband and those of her children. Advertisement in Time for Macy's: THE BEST 100% COTTON, EASY-CARE, NO WRINKLE MEN'S SLACKS AVAILABLE. THE PERFECT GIFT FOR YOUR WIFE. (a picture of the wrinkle-free slacks nicely folded with the following caption in small print below it) Now available in finer department stores everywliere. You know, those places where your wife shops. (as quoted in MS. Magazine Vol. V(3), 1994) Kathleen's statements implied her conflict between the sociocultural expectations of what it meant to put her husband first (i.e., negate her own goals), and wanting to realize her own achievements — to focus on her husband versus a focus on herself. Her determination and desire, with due consideration, enabled her to follow through with her wishes to obtain further training in spite of his opposition. I now turn to Care's self portrait. Care is a Caucasian heterosexual woman in her 30s, living in the Lower Mainland at the time of the interviews. She heard about my study through a support group for women who had experienced battering, that met at a Women's Centre. Her family was originally from Great Britain, immigrating to Canada when she was elementary school-age. She told me she moved out of her parent's home at age 18 to attend university where she completed 2 years of science courses wanting "to be a veterinarian .. then I wanted to do something in environment or biology and I just took a whole lot of science - science was always my thing." She left university in order to work, to have a good time, and because "I think I was feeling my freedom." Care has always worked successfully, stating that 30 being financially independent was important to her. At the time of the interviews she occupied a managerial position in a predominantly male business. She lived in a common- law relationship for approximately 10 years, leaving her partner the first time after he had beaten her, nearly 3 years prior to our first interview. She has one child from that relationship and she returned to the relationship primarily because she lost custody of their child to him when she left the relationship the first time. At the time of the first interview 8 months had passed since her final leaving-taking. She described herself and her circumstances at the time she first met her long-term partner as: I was young and inexperienced -1 think I did have confidence because I had^um -1 moved to B.C. for a job and I lived on my own. My employer had seen that I was ambitious and- and you know, I could do the job and I was advancing but I think I was very young still in here (points to her head and her heart) - in my head. I think I was feeling my freedom - I didn't feel that when I lived with my parents. It was very controlling .. I mean all of us kids were great! We were very good at school and we did have outside interests .. but.. then I was away from my parents and-um - um I guess I discovered I was a woman and that I was attractive and that men wanted to be with me and it was party .. but I was young .. I was the oldest but most people think I'm the youngest - because I'm quiet. In my early 20s I think I was having a good time .. now that I'm older and I think back on some of the things that I did - my god .. I'm probably lucky to be sitting here - that kind of wild and dangerous .. I met (—) when I was 23 through a co-worker.. kind of a matchmaking. I was needy for a relationship and so was he and it was - it was fun - for a while (pause) - (defines needy as) - I guess I wanted a man in my life .. I think that's the whole purpose of being - of going with this girlfriend to the bar - to meet somebody. I wanted to meet somebody. I met him and we got - we got along and - and I was attracted to - he was streetwise - he was very -1 guess macho - he was a hunter and had a truck and a very big man, tall - um - had a beard when I met him - um - almost like a cowboy I guess. I guess I was attracted to the ruggedness or the outdoorsy - I am attracted to that.. the risk-taking .. Ad in Rolling Stone advertising "SYNjeans for men " depicting a young female pressed with her back up against a mirror looking down into the camera. She has on a short revealing t-shirt, her breath appears sucked in, showing her ribs, and her hair falls across one side of her face. She is standing beside a machine that has many buttons,with the following caption: "PUSH MY BUTTONS I'm looking for a man who can totally floor me, who won't stop till the top. You: MUST LIVE in SYN. (as quoted in MS. Magazine Vol . V( l ) , 1994). Care's story as a young adult is congruent with normative and various popular media messages that set the scene for socioculturally designated meeting places (e.g., the pub or bar), that define what it means to be attractive and attracted, and that clarify the age- related mandate to be coupled. Media portrayals in which daring, risk-taking, and availability are linked to females who are depicted as slim, young, passive, and vulnerable, are frequently dismissed by both the producers and the general public as simply innocent 31 ads or a play on words, and not to be taken seriously. Again, my intention is not to suggest that there is a one-to-one direct correlation between the ads and the women's words or experiences, rather, my contention is that these images circumscribe a particular climate, and that relationships in which women experience intimate violence do not occur in a vacuum. The ads do not account for, nor does the public often acknowledge, the potential of real lived danger in the very real lives of females as also implied in the ads. Care goes on to describe herself as having agency, being independent, and able to care for herself, plus simultaneously enjoying herself: ..because at the time 1 thought I had some control over what danger I could be put in. . . I mean I had my job and 1 made good money and my employer was pleased with the work I did - and I was having fun. I was very responsible and I kept advancing. Um -1 was able to travel -1 mean I took the train across Canada alone and had a great time! Then I took some courses at B.C.I.T. - um - to get some business education because I didn't have that. I think (my husband) knew I was independent - he clutched onto me - saw my qualities -1 was independent, I had money, I lived in my own apartment.. and at the time -1 was fun to be around .. (and) he was something new, the hunting trips and the rough and tough .. Ad for Request Jeans shows a man pinning a woman to the wall of a shower. He looks muscular and his skin looks shiny. He is two-thirds naked with his pants appearing to fall off and the woman, who has her face turned away from him, is dressed in what appears to be a swimsuit. The caption REQUEST is printed across the bottom. In response to Mediawatch Request Jeans defended their ad as reflecting a "passionate encounter". (As quoted in Mediawatch Newsletter, 1996). .. I guess I'd been watching too many movies and just thought that - you know that - that that was attractive. The danger was attractive., the woman who falls in love with the (pause) - the bad guy and helps him - but then they always show another side of the bad guy in the movies. She rescues him - changes him. I thought that maybe that was my role as a woman, you know - 'cuz as a mother it's to teach my child to - to be a-a good person, and to be well-rounded - but when I was younger it was - my role as a woman is to make these men decent men and-um -1 think I tried to do that.. I mean all the work I had to do for him to go out and work or find a job. I mean I found many a job for him. Popular film Dead Man Walking with Susan Sarandon as a nun and Jean Penn as a rapist and murderer, advertised on the radio as "the man on death row and the woman who stands by him." Care made the link between the imperatives operating outside immediate male-female relations and her internalized expectations regarding her role inside the relationship. A beneficial role is one that contributes to society as a whole, one that should have a positive impact on her male partner, assist him to also be a contributing member and achieve his full potential. In their roles she became the "responsible one .. holding the house together and paying the bills .. making sure the house was spotless and .. that there was always a 32 meal." 13 For a while at least, she felt that this arrangement worked: I didn't see anything wrong with that -1 was quite happy with it. I thought that - that this was great. I was good at it, I was, I was but then .. things started to get bad when I didn't pay so much attention to the housework. Their roles were clearly divided, and although she worked full-time she was also expected to meet all the house-keeping and relational responsibilities. It has been known for sometime that although women are increasingly sharing the financial burden in the home, they are also still predominantly responsible for all the diverse tasks and obligations that ensure smooth running of a household as well as interpersonal interactions. "boys will be boys" Care appears to have all that she needed to take care of herself; her work, her financial independence, her own apartment, and her outgoing, apparently confident personality. Cultural dictates plus her own wish for an intimate relationship propel her into a relationship that is intended to meet this desire. There are influential social forces at work, forces that not only reinforce certain kinds of decisions, but in critical ways also propel and incite us to make those decisions. Cultural ideology draws out behaviors that in turn reinforce the cultural ideology such that it seems natural, authentic, and appropriate. Sometimes this is done under the guise of humor and dismissed as not intended to be taken seriously, thereby making it more difficult to challenge or critique the underlying ideology or the consequent behaviors. Kali spoke to her struggle with this obscurity and the difficulty of naming an experience in her narrative, and I turn to her now. Kali is a Caucasian heterosexual woman in her late 30s, born in Canada to northern European parents, and living in the greater Vancouver area. She heard about my study through a women's centre and offered to participate. Kali described having been in two very differently abusive marriages; "one was much more physically violent, whereas the other centered more on emotional, psychological, and spiritual - which is not recognized by many and is harder to name." Her first marriage lasted approximately 8 years and her second approximately 5 years. She has two, now young adult, children from the first 13 Interestingly her statements echo Kathleen's words even though Care is much younger than Kathleen. There is also a striking resemblance between these women's words and the research that explores the division of labour in the home over recent years when more women work outside the home, and also examines current role expectations among young people. These studies indicate that young people's role expectations are still predominantly traditional and that women working outside the home still additionally carry much of the motherwork and housework responsibilities (Hochschild, 1989, Shainess, 1980). 33 marriage and one young child living with her from the second marriage. She terminated the second marriage close to 4 years ago and is currently in a 2 year, mutually considerate relationship in which "we have an incredible respect for each other and an incredible desire to try and communicate what our issues are to each other." After the birth of her two oldest children, Kali returned to college and continued to study at university, even after leaving her first husband, in the area of social and community psychology. For a number of years she has been actively involved in politics, more recently including advocacy work for women in violent relationships. In addition, for several years Kali has made music, and she shared with me three songs that reflect her journey. As with Kathleen, I have inserted her songs or excerpts from them, where I thought they were best highlighted in this thesis. She began by talking about her teenage years around the time of meeting her first husband: I was very young when I-um got married the first time - I was-um 17 years old - and I think .. I had a fairly reasonable childhood, early childhood - and I'm kind-of thankful for that. My leaving home and marrying someone that young had to do with just wanting to get away from that situation (home) which was not positive and was verbally abusive at times, especially because - um - like I said, I couldn't have asked for a better mother when I was a little kid. (When I left home) I probably had the self esteem of a gnat. I had been a fairly confident kid - uh - so puberty had not done good things for me I think. I don't think I felt particularly lovable per se. .. The man I married - he had a really close relationship with his mother - the violence in his family was more between his father and like - he had several brothers.. I had this silly notion that (pause) he didn't like the way his father treated his mother and he wouldn't necessarily treat me that way, - um - but-uh of course eventually he did exactly - exactly all the same things .. I was also coming at it from - uh - a 17-18 year old's perspective .. and for the first year that we were married I kind of just kept up to whatever he was doing so it was - it was okay. If he was out drinking, I'd go out with him .. it was at the point where I was concerned about him having that kind of relationship with his sons that his father had with him that I actually left that relationship. His behavior was like night and day - like when he was sober he was kind of quiet and a soft-spoken person - um (pause) - when he was drinking he was just way off the map .. Advertisement for skateboards in a California-based skateboard magazine intended for young people ages 8 to 18 is formatted like a road sign with bitch in bold above a male figure (wearing pants) holding a gun to the head of a female figure (wearing a dress) and bitch skateboards, again in bold, below the figures. In fine print readers are urged to send in a dollar for analogous stickers and information, (as quoted in Mediawatch Newsletter, 1996). Kali suggests, like Kathleen, that her age along with his father's modelling probably played a role in their relationship. Like Care, Kali attended to the culturally approved, socially acceptable meeting and drinking places. Her experience that his drinking brought out his violence, thereby linking his violence to his drinking pattern, makes it clear why she saw 34 the violence: in the framework of alcohol,.. not recognizing that this was the way this person controlled my movements .. which worked for a very long time. She responded by leaving, making it clear to her husband that the continuation of their relationship was contingent upon him addressing his problem with alcohol. Kali indicates her own unequivocal and assertive clarity: .. he actually quit drinking - that was my condition - that unless he did that I would not - um - you know, I would not return to the relationship, and he did and things were fairly uneventful.. a relative period of calm .. (after which) he started drinking again... Later in the same interview Kali elaborated on what she defined as others' perceptions of diametrically opposed sides to her personality, because she described those aspects of herself wherein she both challenged or resisted her husband's behaviors in her marriage, as well as remained committed in the relationship: I've always been you know outgoing.. and able to speak my mind .. it's a bit of a dichotomy for people that - well how could you be outgoing and all of that - and then be subjected to all of this. Well - it's-it's not - I don't see it as so unreasonable. Kali hints at the complexity of herself and people in general, indicating that we all have seemingly contradictory or incongruent sides, which speaks to peoples' inner diversity. Notably, she indicates that she, as the one who contains these diverse aspects of herself, does not see these as contradictory but rather as reflecting her (and potentially others') myriad ways of being. As she states above, it was when she recognized that her husband was repeating his familial pattern of abusive interactions with their sons that she left this relationship. She described herself after leaving as: I was starting to feel a whole lot better about myself and I certainly didn't feel like I would, you know, end up on the rubbish heap and - in that I was .. I had left saying to my friend - no one will ever love me again and - yet here were men being attracted to me. That did a lot for my self esteem and granted, a lot of it was probably just male gratuitous kind of, you know, schmooshing .. I had no intention of having any kind of serious thing happening with anybody. I found men to be very funny in their - you know - they're immediately in-in-in love with you and I could tell - well, I know when I'm in love and when I'm in lust and I wish you guys would get with the program .. I just found that really odd .. I wasn't prepared to be tied into anything and I was so much enjoying such simple simple things that people would take for granted - like just going to the Island .. or going out for dinner.. Kali infers the pain of lost love at the end of her marriage and, hence, her surprise at still being viewed as attractive. She distinguished, however, between feeling deeply connected 35 versus feeling desire, whereas the men she met did not appear to make this same distinction. In leaving her marriage she was aware of appreciating anew some simple joys and freedoms, and was unwilling to forfeit these too quickly. Thinking back over her relationships she goes on to briefly reflect on their roles in each relationship: .. in my first - he was an alcoholic and I was his conscience - all of that stuff.. the total enabler and-uh, you know, fixed it 'till it's - you can only forgive somebody so much and-and that's all you're doing is just that.. (I thought) I should be able to - to help this person work his things out.. I felt obligated to stay and sort all of these things out., and with (2nd husband) -1 took the responsibility for everything and he took the responsibility for nothing - it worked really well -1 mean I was the caregiver. I think that he saw himself as the provider and he was wrapped up in material things and his stuff. He found it hard to reconcile kids around the house - kids and stuff - stuff was much more important and if his stuff got broken or misplaced .. (pause) I'm not a stuff person .. and I'm not a rules person. I'm a guidelines person .. Advertisement for Eastpak backpacks reads: Who says guys are afraid of commitment? He's had the same backpack for years. The ad shows four square pictures with the same fellow in the same food booth eating pizza with four different young women. The caption below states: When it comes to choosing a lifelong companion, lots of guys pick one of our backpacks. Each one comes with a lifetime guarantee not to rip, tear, break, or ask for a ring, (as quoted in MS. Magazine, Vol.IV(3), 1993). Kali 's words mirror the experiences of Elsie and Care regarding their presumed roles to "fix" or to help "make these men decent men," and, like Kathleen, she expresses feeling the responsibility to sort through their marital issues. In addition to articulating their differing roles, Kali attested to her own changed self images as linked to differently informed choices regarding first and second husbands: With my first husband - he was just there. I responded to him because my home life was not happy and because he showed me - he-he-he said he loved me and I didn't feel lovable at that point - not from my family, not certainly from other teenage boys or whatever. I mean, you know, I was not a 110 lb whatever and-uh and when I met my 2nd husband it was a whole different ball of wax in terms of where I was and who I was and yes, I was enjoying myself and I was, you know, feeling fairly confident, independent and not - um - he seemed at the time to be kind of like your tall, dark and handsome - and with a brain -1 think that one (the brain) would probably catch most women, you know (laughs).. he was articulate, we talked, (had) all the right jargon,.. loved kids and animals .. but even though it was like wow - (it was also) I'm doing this in my life and I'm not really wanting to get into anything serious ;. I was cautious .. and yet I also still went ahead - even though there were also issues - there were always issues between us .. he was just so different from the first.. Kali clarifies that at age 17 her choice or decision for a partner was a very differently shaped and informed one from the one she made in her late 20s. In her 20s she was more self-assured and able to articulate specifically the qualities she valued in him such as his 36 attitude towards children, and she was aware of the qualitative differences between the two men. Kali's words convey the complexity of many major decisions where there may be strong ambivalence and hesitation, and yet continuation of the relationship. She also implies dominant sociocultural expectations whereby it is assumed that conflicts form an integral part of any relationship. We generally believe that relationships do not just happen, rather that they require commitment and hard work. We live with the idiom "no pain, no gain" in many arenas of our lives. Over recent years some of the most valued aspects of our lives have been conceptualized in the media, in New Age discourse, and in marriage workshops in terms of lessons, and of struggles that require blood, sweat, and tears. These lessons are viewed as providing insight into ourselves as well as furnishing potentially deeper encounters.14 Kali 's next words resonate with sociocultural assumptions regarding the power and possibility of love: I guess I felt that we could overcome our differences., you know - love will find a way.. Song by popular singer Amanda Marshall: Trust me (This is love) (1995): I look at this 'mountain. So many heartaches wide And I can't help but wonder Where's the other side I've got to be honest I've got my doubts These tears are asking me What's this got to do with love? Baby, I'll tell you something To help us through this long dark night. (Chorus) When this trouble passes over You and I will walk away Knowing that our love survived Another test of faith. You and I can walk on water The river rises, we rise above It may not look that way right now But trust me, baby .. this is love Love isn't easy I'm torn, I confess When a heart is uncertain It's bound to second guess. This love won't forsake us So dry up your tears I promise you. (Chorus) I'm here for you baby There's nothing I want more Our day is coming And we '11 reach the peaceful shore When this trouble passes over You and I will walk away Knowing that our love survived Another test of faith Cause you and I can walk on water The river rises, we rise above It may not look that way right now but trust me baby .. this is love One more mountain Hey .. so what Trust me baby .. this is love The draft or map of our desires to be in an intimate relationship and the roles within that relationship are drawn by the society and culture wherein we live. Moreover, the cultural mandates and ordinances in any society are reinforced by the institutional structures (e.g., marriage) and mediated by personal experiences of the people who negotiate these arrangements. In other words, although the person lives within historically located 14 I recognise that this issue is a somewhat vexed one. In the past few decades we have also seen a movement toward looking after ourselves, making sure that I count, that I am happy, and there is a more general feeling of entitlement to leave if the relationship does not meet our expectations. The paradoxical shift is one in which the prescription to fall in love and the belief that love requires hard work are simultaneous messages, and underpinning both of these are additionally strong and specifically gendered messages regarding the meanings of attraction and attractiveness, of success and failure in intimate relations. 37 sociocultural contexts, s/he is actively engaged in negotiating her/his worlds as well as mirroring these worlds. Hence, it is by observing both the subjective experiences and the institutions, along with the interaction between these, that we gain insight into the depth and breadth of our experiences. This is particularly true with respect to committed intimate relationships. There are no other institutions in which relationships are presumed to be as long-term, as intense in contact and expectations, as predicated on interactions linking emotions, personalities, economics, subjective goals, and conflicting issues of power and resistance, as those found in our dominant cultural structures of marriage and family. Yet, in recent years these structures have been subjected to increasing investigation and critique predicated on the exposure of turmoil, suffering, and harm hitherto hidden and protected by prevailing beliefs that marital and family relationships are sacred and private. In spite of the historical shift toward uncovering and paying attention to issues of intimate violence, for those who are in the grips of it, it remains a difficult and painful issue to reveal to others. The women I spoke with were willing to share their stories of pain in the hopes that these might potentially help others, and in the self-knowledge that this was not all that there was to their lives nor to them as people. I now present the women's explorations of their victimization experiences. .. an ethical response to another's suffering begins when we enter their world in order to experience that pain .. Bakhtin (1981) Narratives of Victimization Experiences I think when you love someone - (pause) - um - (pause) - you-uh really believe what they're telling you. You really, you know, trust them. (Pause) And you may - learn ways to avoid um-um the physical abuse but I don't think you ever get right - how to stop this on-onslaught of-um put-downs that you get. It becomes so routine you don't even know it's happening to you - you don't even know it. - Kathleen The Desert (excerpt) You made my name a word -1 was ashamed to say You took my spirit and you gave it all away To any stranger passing by You wanted me to fill up each and every need It didn't matter in the filling that I'd bleed Like a river, but the river's run dry My expectations were that Our love would be strong Wouldn't believe that you Could do me or mine wrong 38 Ever faithful, true and right The more you pushed me down The harder that I tried I couldn't see it even when my children cried Oh my babies, I let too much go by .. -Ka l i In speaking about their experiences of victimization the women described a variety of key factors that provided insight into their subjective experiences and into their definitions of what it meant for them to be in a relationship in which they experienced battering. As Kathleen voiced above, feelings of love penetrated deeply, yet often these feelings are forgotten or negated by the outsider listening to the painful intimate experiences. It requires entering their worlds and suspending judgments to hear and grasp more fully the complexity of these women's experiences. The manner in which the women narrated these factors included both similar and dissimilar experiences, each woman going about it in her own unique way. The key factors articulated by the women include: (a) a shift in the relationship after a deepening of the commitment either by moving in together or by marrying, (b) the complexity of the relationship as defined by both "good and bad" experiences, (c) the role of alcohol, (d) the psychological and emotional aspects, and (e) issues of control. 1 5 In keeping with my recognition that these women's lived experiences are grounded in a sociocultural context, I have continued to insert items from the popular media and the news, sustaining my operating belief that their experiences do not occur in a void. In their portrayals of intense and complex relationships, the women verbalised a change or shift in their partners' dispositions and conduct once a deeper commitment had been made. Elsie found this shift confusing particularly in the context of both good and bad, gratifying and ungratifying, painful and joyful experiences in her relationship. In Elsie's words: After we married - after a year and he had upscaled the abuse and the raging and I was feeling frightened and confused .. then after an awful year, he said let's go on a trip. While away we bought a (retreat home) - we had so much fun, painting, and '5 l am aware that there is available literature that explores these factors. I present them along side of introducing the women because these women's voices both substantiate and are substantiated by the work already done by such feminist writers as A . Brown (1987), R. E. Dobash and R. P. Dobash (1979; 1992), M . A . Dutton (1992), A . Jones (1980), although not necessarily presented in the context of women's narratives. Although these factors were not central to my reasons for doing this research, they were important pieces in the women's narratives, establishing a context for the remainder of this work. Furthermore, they inadvertently participate in problematizing the term victim. 39 fixing it up, and it was lovely and I had so many good memories - and then we came home... So we got home and he starts with how can I afford to pay the taxes, I can't afford that place. And I said we'll sell it, then just sell it. . he's screaming and yelling and then two days later he comes up and puts his arms around me and he says I'm going to take you on a trip. I said I thought you said we couldn't afford it. Oh yeh (he said) - it's okay, we're getting along now. The shift, as Elsie described it, involved inexplicable and unpredictable mood changes. She found his outbursts difficult to reconcile with the "good times." Sometimes she responded by removing herself: .. The situation was very tiring - he would withdraw his affection, pretend I wasn't there and I'd think I can't stand this, I ' l l go to bed and he'd come in 'why are you going to bed, what kind of a bore are you?' - so like I can't win. So I was scared to go to bed, I was scared not to go to bed and then I'd read for a while - 'are you not going to be any kind of company - you're just reading.' Then in between there were lots of good times - and - so many good times, I guess that's what also made it hard - because he - he's he's not sort of like this and this (showing one hand only) - he's like this and that (alternating with her hands) - totally extreme. Elsie's words suggest that he could withdraw, whereas it was not permissible for her to withdraw in response. She indicated that his extremes, the incongruency between the "many good times and the bad times" were "crazymaking." Throughout the interview she expressed that it was the "many good times" that "made it hard." Kathleen spoke somewhat differently about the change in her relationship. Before she married: .. he was using sex as a way of hanging on to me - because um - if he wanted it and I said no he'd threaten to leave, get another girlfriend .. Bumper sticker: To all you virgins out there, thanks for nothing. .. he wanted to have (sex) and I was raised in the 40s and 50s - good girls don't.. he would protest to love me, he wanted me .. Her words indicate that her response to him was embedded in a larger context of gendered expectations, that is, what was considered proper female behavior in contrast to what was expected or ignored with regard to male behavior. Advertisement in Guitar, Guns & Ammo: A male skeleton holding an electric guitar lying in bed beside a woman whose face is in the dark, wearing a t-shirt with 'guitars' on it, under dark satin covers with the caption across the top: You haven't tried anything till You've Plucked a VIRGIN. At the bottom the caption reads: THE ALL NEW B.C. RICH VIRGIN GUITAR ... Unused, Untried, Untouched, Untamed .. UNTIL NOW! (as quoted in MS. Magazine , Vol.IV(6), 1994). She went on: .. but-but I guess to keep me (sigh, pause) - what he did then was was-um criticize 40 my body and it made me feel like no one else would want me. Another guy, when I was 15 or 16 tried to have sex with me - I just - threw him on the floor, stood up and said don't you ever try that again - don't you dare! So - at first using sex and then when we got married it was using my mental ca-ca-capabilities - it was other things .. Kathleen's description conveyed a change in his focus of criticism. She hinted at the particular historically prevalent double standards'6 regarding sexual activity for males and females when she was a young adult and the impact this had on her. Once again she indicated her initiative and spirit when she was able to throw off one young man. In her story, she also implied her own complexity as well as the intricacies of what it means to be deeply involved with someone, because although she was able to challenge this young man, the same issue with her future husband appears to have been a more delicate one. She continued regarding the change: I was married for about 2 months and he gave me shit because he'd thrown a sweater purposely behind the chesterfield to see how long it'd take me to find it there. I remember - coming home from work one day and seeing "this is dirty" written on the mirror of our bedroom suite. (So) now it was other things.. As did Elsie, Kathleen went on to emphasize that in her marriage the situation was not a simple one because (a) if she attempted to communicate with him or defend herself "I got hit," (b) there were children such that when he became threateningly angry, or, for example: he would say these goddamn porkchops taste like shit - threw it at the door. I'd clean up and the kids were saying is daddy mad, why is daddy mad? It's alright, he's had a bad day today - and carry on just breaking my heart (pause) - In the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, a woman who experienced battering says "the heart may break but it keeps right on beating." and (c) there were other aspects to their relationship: .. what made it difficult was I had all this commitment to this person and this family and there were good times and you know - it wasn't all bad. These women conveyed portrayals of their relationship as multifaceted, with these many diverse aspects all impacting the overall significance of the relationship. In contrast to the other women, Care spoke less of the positive aspects of the relationship but did indicate a change in her partner's attitude and conduct approximately 2 1 6 Although Kathleen is speaking to a time more than 40 years ago, I noted the above bumper sticker on at least three to four occasions over the past 5 years. The double standard may have changed but I think there is an interesting similarity in the attitude and lack of respect for individual (possibly gendered) choices or preferences. 41 years after they began living together. She sets the scene of living together by establishing a picture in which she saw herself as being in control of her life. She goes on to relate her partner's change to his interactions with his friends and to his drinking pattern: I was 23 .. I was independent, had a job, I was making money, and I was having fun. We moved in (together) and it was fun - for a while .. I was working and making sure the house was absolutely spotless, and that the meals - there was always a meal ... I was good at it, I was - but then ..(after about 2 years) things started to get bad when I didn't pay so much attention to the housework, and the friends were starting to come into the house and stay overnight and - his friends -1 was not liking it . . that's when things started to change. I mean I was letting go of keeping on top of the housework and I was trying to scoot the friends out the door .. that was one of the first violent incidents (after 2 years) - once I interfered with a friend of his - then I got it... On the radio news: Two men in North Vancouver started up a company they call Wifebeaters Inc. The label or logo on the inside tag of the undershirt apparently bears this name and it appears on the front of the undershirt as well. Immediately upon setting themselves up, the two men had 12 requests for the Wifebeaters tanks. .. or (he would go out and) I would get these phone calls - 'well, I'm going out with so-and-so for a couple of beers and in my head I'm going you mean a multiple of couples - it was never - a couple. .. I mean like he'd be coming home late at midnight and I would get all these phone calls in between - well, I'm on my way and I'm like - well, you said that an hour ago. What do you mean? I would say what about me? It would be the same answer, you know - I-I'm the reason he's not with me .. Care spoke of alcohol as being problematic as it took him away from her and away from their relationship. Instead of looking at his drinking pattern, her partner framed her as the source of the problem. Kali's narration of the change in her first partner's behavior after they married implied it was related to his alcohol consumption and to her being pregnant. Again, she stressed that the relationship was not totally defined by his abusive behaviors and that there were other aspects to their interactions: .. for the first year that we were married I kind of just kept up to whatever he was doing so it was - it was okay .. He was very keen on having children (but) it was just after I, you know, got pregnant, that it was like - oh, you know, um - he didn't know if he was prepared for this and it was at that point like where he's - you know, stopped coming home at night - uh - on time from work... it was always the same thing - he was, you know, he was out getting drunk and then when he came home he was not very nice.... I saw it through the framework of alcohol.. plus it - I loved this person - it wasn't like - uh - it wasn't all like that - it's not ever black and white .. A dominant myth, discussed in Chapter three, regarding the lives of women who experience battering in their intimate relationships is that the battering is associated with 42 alcohol misuse. Clarified in that chapter is that this myth is unfounded. Congruent with this later discussion, although alcohol played a critical role in Care's relationship and in Kali's first marriage, it was not mentioned in relation to battering experiences by Elsie, Kathleen, or in regard to Kali 's second marriage. In addition, the alcohol functioned differently in Kali's and Care's relationships. It appears that in the former the alcohol brought on the violent behaviors, whereas in the latter it appears to have functioned more as a problem of keeping him out late, interfering with their ability to spend a different kind of quality time together, as well as consuming large amounts of their money, and preventing him from seeking work. This is not to minimize either of their experiences of course, but simply to point out that their experiences, as they described them, were different, although alcohol played a role in each. Kali also conveyed a change in her second relationship after being married, a relationship that was not influenced by alcohol: .. (going out is) not the same as living together, it's not the same as being married to each other and so for the next year we saw each other but it was only after we finally, like after I finally moved in with him that all kinds of other things started to come up. Once we started living together he would do things like go into a rage - like a total rage - and then for 3 months everything might be quiet.. Kali stated that living together resulted in a change in his behavior. Importantly, she clarified that the violence she experienced was not a daily occurrence. It must be remembered, however, that once violence has occurred, it changes the flavor of any relationship, yet at the same time the infrequency (or even absence of physical violence) complicates the overall experience and the women's assessments of the relationship. In the schoolyard of an elementary school, around the time ofOJ. Simpson's trial, I hear one boy to another: "I'll OJ. you if you don't watch out" seemingly intended to indicate that he was getting mad, would use aggression, or maybe even become violent. This presents as an example of how a serious crime of violent behavior becomes normalized. The women additionally described experiencing less tangible psychological and emotional aspects to the changes in their relationships. Elsie's experience included a great deal of fear and anxiety. For example, after they were married, her husband began to disapprove of her going to work: I'm on call - like they'd call at 6:00 and I'd have to look over at him and I was so scared - and I-I was thinking - now what do I do - do I go to work to make this little bit of money 'cuz my daughter really needs a little bit of help and I need this or do I please him ..he'd scream .. you care more about your work than me .. Kali reflected on such fear in her relationship when she stated: 43 .. we were all walking on eggshells all the time and waiting to see. Elsie further exemplified the psychological and emotional elements when she spoke of her attempts to intuit how her husband might respond in order to avoid future conflicts. .. when we were first married I could never understand - one day he's um - can't believe how wonderful I am and the next day he's just ripping me apart and I remember when we were first married that was totally confusing to me - just no warning. Anxiety was constantly there because I always had to outguess him - to stop the anger, to stop the - because there were all these mixed messages .. Such interactions shifted the focus of responsibility and placed a critical and negative focus on her, implying that if she was different than everything would be fine. Kathleen expressed experiencing a similarly critical gaze, one which first focussed on her body and later established a gendered hierarchy predicated on his ability to earn more money: At first.. what he did was-um criticize my body - um and it made me feel like no one else would want me. (Later) I was indoctrinated about how stupid I was. (He would say) 'we know who makes the money in this family, I do. You're just a secretary .. he had a very good job and to him that was proof that he was a better person than me .. I'm not agreeing with that but that's how he saw himself.. I think when you love someone - (pause) - um - (pause) - you-uh really believe what they're telling you. You really, you know, trust them, (pause) - And you may - learn ways to avoid um-um the physical abuse but I don't think you ever get right - how to stop this on-onslaught of-um put-downs that you get. It becomes so routine you don't even know it's happening to you - you don't even know it. In her words, Kathleen linked various factors including uncertainty about herself, proclamations of love, the role of a prolonged period of time, and her attempts to deal with their relationship, as masking the underlying problem and the overall impact, thereby implying the complexity of the situation. Looking back she stated that: He was verbally abusive - that was probably the worst - the put-downs - um - how stupid I was - how-how I have altzheimers, how I'm following in my family's footsteps, you know. I'm stupid and - worthless, useless - um - you name it. She went on to describe how she and her attitude became the focus of the problem for him. Her experience echoes what we so often hear in response to a supposed joke that is in poor taste: "It was only a joke" - "I'm just drinking with the guys." In addition to her exclusion from his time "with the guys" her concerns are minimized in the face of being accused of overreacting, of not understanding, of making a mountain out of a mole hill: - so when sex no longer became the problem - now it was other things - and-and he was staying out - and needing a reason why it was okay and so throwing it back on me how - how awful of me to get angry with him when he stayed out all night - drinking with the guys - "I'm just drinking with the guys" .. 44 Ad in a computer magazine: Picture of tree house in a tree in the fall time. A young blond- haired boy making a face holds a sign saying NO GIRLS ALLOWED! Along side of the picture is the caption: A piece of cardboard. Paint and brush. Hammer and nails. When access control was this easy, nobody needed reliable, sophisticated systems, Responsible dealers, Fast, off-the-shelf delivery, Toll-free lines for easy ordering, Comprehensive system training, Or expert advice from a dedicated team. Fact is, life is no longer this easy. Nor is access control. Unless you choose the company committed to making it easy for you. Northern Computers. Because access control should be as simple as it used to be. (As quoted in MS. Magazine Vol.IV(6), 1994). Care similarly experienced a critical gaze, but one expressed in the context of her partner's justification for the time he spent out drinking with his friends: .. I'm the reason he's not with me - because I'm acting the way I'm acting - I'm jealous - well - or I don't look good anymore because I'm -1 don't look after myself - I'm not wearing make-up anymore, - the house isn't clean .. Advertisement in Macweek: A very thin old woman wearing a tiny black bikini, swim goggles, swimcap, and black shoes, is sitting on a bench. (It is questionable whether she is actually a female or a male in disguise). She has her hands on her hips. Across the top in bold print: You never thought you'd lose your looks, either. Then in much smaller print down the side: BUT YOU WILL, AND THE ODDS ARE YOU'LL LOSE YOUR DATA, TOO .. (and so forth) Kali addressed the issues of psychological and emotional abuse by comparing her experiences with her two husbands in the following manner: .. with my first husband - it was more like - he was a drunk. With (second husband) - it was so incongruous that he could be one way and then another way that when he was abusive, you know, or physically threatening, or whatever, it was almost like - no people don't talk to each other like that.. I couldn't see that as - because it was didn't look like what it looked like in the first relationship - it was emotional and psychological and I think that's far worse - in terms of - just far worse - I really -1 had no self worth by the end of that relationship, none at all. (My second husband) would tell you these things stone cold sober. Kali further assessed the difference between her two husbands by clarifying that she thinks there was intent in her second husband's behavior, followed by her description of the "crazymaking" element central to the abuse: (My second husband) is a much more abusive person .. malevolent abuse .. it's intentional - what comes from (him) - he wants to hurt you, he wants to undermine you, he wants you to feel like dirt. He used anything - all of my vulnerabilities to be controlling and then to say well I-I-I - you know - it's like I want to intimidate you but I don't want you to be afraid of me when that's sort of what it's about.. I want to intimidate you with my size but then why would you be afraid of me - of course I'm not - I'll—1*11 never hit you - I ' l l never - (pause) - well, but if uh - will you or won't you, it doesn't matter and he had - also - in the past. It's not like it was an everyday occurrence but it doesn't have to be. Kali describes her first husband as exercising control through his alcohol misuse and her second husband as using intimidation. The women's narratives also identified other 45 experiences of control defined as, or by, their partners' possessiveness, jealousy, frequent senseless criticism, as well as unpredictability and inconsistency as common features of their partners' angry eruptions. Elsie formulated her husband's jealousy and possessiveness in terms of his requirement to know about all aspects of her life, his distrust of her regarding other men, and his isolation of her: He was very jealous and possessive. I had to explain all my activities in detail. .. He didn't allow - no-no close friends. In the beginning of the marriage, if I looked at another man -1 never even did look at other men -1 would never even talk to another man 'cuz I know that would start something - 'you're just a big flirt' - Advertisement for Wonderbra: picturing a fully bosomed woman clad in lacy black bra and panty beside the large bold caption: HELLO BOYS with a tag and small print declaring: the one and only wonderbra. (as quoted in MS. Magazine, Vol.V(4), 1995). Women perceived as untrustworthy and disloyal has deep cultural roots, dating back to various folklore but also present in such popular films as Fatal Attraction (Lyne, 1988) with Glenn Close and Michael Douglas, in which the "vengeful other woman" is portrayed as deceitful and treacherous. Elsie felt deeply misunderstood by his assumptions: - that wasn't me. I had had one husband and I was with one man. I never chased any man. We never went to any parties, the kind of party where you danced with anybody - he kept me away from that, he kept me away - totally to himself.. he had to know what I did every minute .. (and we) thought that was love. Advertisement in New Yorker for Jaipur, a perfume made by Boucheron, Paris. Depicts the mid-back to thighs portion of a nude woman with her hands held in place over the center of her buttocks by a watch that appears to have a solid non-adjustable band. In addition, Elsie makes the critical point that "it went so slowly that I just totally - I just adapted all the way along." She further described her husband's inconsistent and unpredictable behaviors, with her attempts to understand or anticipate them in order to prevent his outbursts: Nothing was ever consistent and what made him mad was never consistent. He would take things - move things. It was okay on Monday to ask when on Wednesday you couldn't ask because he became angry. I would think, okay, I must never ask again where things are, I must start looking for them myself because that's another point that makes him mad like. So I was constantly trying to guess .. I always had to out-guess him - to stop the anger - and because there were all these mixed messages .. then he'd come and hug me - 'oh, I ' l l take you out to dinner.' He screamed - never about anything in particular - it would be about leaving a nail there or why did I say this or - or it was that kind of thing that I couldn't put my hand on - it was nothing, nothing logical. Elsie's statement that it was "never about anything in particular.. nothing logical" links 46 back to Kali's earlier indication that her partner's behaviors were crazymaking. Elsie further alluded to the effects of the isolation imposed in many relationships in which women experience battering, when, after leaving: .. you have nobody and of course you've been abused so he wouldn't allow you to have friends so there really is nobody and even if you have a couple of friends, I think they get tired and they don't want to hear about it. Like nobody wants to listen to somebody's sad tales - they want to feel good - so eventually there's nobody that wants to listen. Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. Elsie's reflection attends to the difficulty many people have in listening to another person's struggle, not an uncommon experience, particularly for people who have suffered. She also mentioned the need to be heard, possibly to be heard often, even repeatedly, in order to get through this aspect of the struggle. Kathleen describes somewhat different circumstances, yet similar experiences regarding her ex-husband's attempts to isolate her, his unpredictable and illogical angry eruptions, and her experience of living a "guessing game": .. he used to go on fishing trips every year, and that was fine, and I started going on a - on-a-uh what started as a 2-3 day vacation with colleagues from work. He was livid I would do this - but it was okay for him to go fishing with the boys.... I went out with him and had friends with him but going for lunch, going for dinner with my girlfriends was - / went - it just meant that um -1 paid for it. And .. we had 10 (including guests) for dinner and (10 minutes before) the first people arrived. We'd had a good day putting the dinner together -1 did all of it - again, I wanted to prove that I am a good cook, and-um - and I came into the kitchen, everything was ready, perfectly on time, no hassle - we were going to have a drink and-and I said where's the top to the lid (of ajar) and-um .. he said I threw it out, and I said Oh (-). you don't - he said goddamn it you fuckin' bitch - (pause) - he came and he grabbed me over to it, went into the garbage and said the goddamn thing's here .. and he cut my knuckle with it and then threw it back in. But - you know - that was just - that was - we were having people for dinner in 10 minutes. He knew I couldn't do anything ... you know, problems kept popping up (laughs somewhat cynically, raising her hands questioningly) - there's no end to it - no end to it. What might be right one day isn't right the next. You can't - you - it's a guessing game - you're a yo-yo. Linked to the "guessing game" was the element of surprise indicated by Kathleen's words of "it was always - it would always be a surprise." She went on to verbalize a related experience one evening when they had been invited out for dinner and therefore she had no dinner ready for him when he came home: .. he didn't show up 'til 9:00 at night.. the kids and I had to eat - they were just little and-um I was all dressed up in case he still wanted to go - and-uh I tried to offer him coffee. He dumps it down me and then he goes to the fridge 'cuz there was no dinner for him and he took everything he could find - glass - and he (points across a fairly large room) - smashed it on the fireplace. 47 In her description Kathleen used words to defend the (normal and expected) necessity of feeding their children as implied by her tone of voice, thereby alluding to the tone of a relationship in which she had to defend her actions. Like Kathleen, Kali spoke of similar encounters in which she had to defend her behaviors, with both her husbands. Both her husbands complicated and interfered with her relationships with others. She provided the following violent example with respect to her first husband: He was also very jealous, you know - didn't like me going out to school and it would be like - you're putting make-up on, are you going out to meet your .. Or one evening after we'd had some friends over he to me, well, well, you know you better tie me to the bed because I don't know what I'm going to do, and that's - that was just terrifying, and - and -he-he passed out and I called the police and they were like - well, is he doing anything now? .. 17 Song by popular songwriter and singer Tracy Chapman (1988) called Behind the Wall: 1 .Last night I heard the screaming 2.And when they arrive Loud voices behind the wall They say they can't interfere Another sleepless night for me With domestic affairs It won't do no good to call the Between a man and his wife The police - Always come late And so they walk out the door If they come at all. The tears well up in her eyes. 3.Last night I heard the screaming 4. And the policeman said Then a silence that chilled my soul "I 'm here to keep the peace I prayed that I was dreaming Will the crowd disperse When I saw the ambulance in the road I think we all could use some sleep " Kali went on to speak about a similar theme with her second husband: Then my second husband always scrutinized and called into question the way I interact with other people. So there was this stuff about me and my friends all the time as a thread running through things. Kali further provided an example of the unpredictable and unexpected nature of her second husband's response to a situation in which she felt rather vulnerable: .. when the baby was 6 weeks old - um -1 was utterly exhausted because he was nursing like every hour on the hour and we'd just gone to bed and I was just exhausted and he started to cry and I was just like no - I, you know, - I'm not getting up with him. You can go walk him around, you can do whatever but I'm - and his response to that was to slap me in the face (pause) - well, yeh, it was just totally devastating and it - but it - but it was when I was at my most vulnerable always in that relationship was when he was most abusive .. On the news: A 79 year old woman is robbed, assaulted and raped in her apartment by a man wearing a T-shirt that declares: the only reason you 're alive is because there isn 't a law yet that allows us to kill you. (October, 1996) 17 I return to this issue of violence or the threat of violence and (inappropriate) police response in Chapter seven. 48 Care's narrative described her partner's controlling behaviors somewhat differently. One aspect of the control she experienced in her relationship was: .. I think that the things became tighter around me -1 mean I didn't - (long pause) - because he didn't have (sigh) his work or - and I was the income earner he had time to be at home, to be on the phone, phoning me at work - when are you coming home. When you - on your way home do this or that -1 was starting to get agendas and my time was starting to be controlled by him .. and he managed to run up big bills .. and I just became overwhelmed because - (pause) - I'm working to pay the bills - in some cases I had taken on double shifts, I had taken on second jobs .. in order to make ends meet.. Later in their relationship, however, his controlling behaviors became more threatening and violent: The other episodes of violence were to control me because they were always - revolved around -1 was standing up for myself and it was like you cannot treat me this way, with the verbal and the emotional. I've had enough, I'm going to phone the police and have them remove you. That's when the physical game would start .. he would just physically abuse me to immobilize me from seeking help. November 1995, on radio news: A jealous husband strangles his wife in Whitehorse saying he snapped and lost control. A year later he is sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for manslaughter. His defense was that he had lost control after his wife "nagged him " and "attackedhis manliness." Care's words reveal her partner's use of violence to silence her. Her words are reflected further in Kathleen's formulation of how her husband silenced her: .. we had met someone (from his work) and-um - (pause) he thought I'd say something out of place and I-I was never like that. I recognized that his job was important, and I couldn't speak about what he did, so - but he was frightened and what he did was he stood on my foot, he stood on my foot - and- and of course I didn't do anything. I was in - I'm sure I gasped -1 looked at him, I had tears in my eyes but I had no idea what was going on here, and then it became a thing where if we were - like he finally moved on, got into management.. and if we were with people at a cocktail party he'd grab my hand and he'd squeeze my knuckles together. After - of course I asked him 'why did you do that?' Well, I was afraid you're going to say something you shouldn't.. (emphatically) I would NOT do that because ultimately, if I said anything wrong, it would jeopardize my life too, not just his career.. Anyway, it got to be - um - that he would under the table kick me in my shins if he thought I might say something, um - or again, squeeze my hand, but finally, and this was I guess towards the end of my rope, when it got to be s (clears her throat to demonstrate) - he'd clear his throat and I knew, that was the signal not to say any more. In keeping with the atmosphere in the relationship, Kathleen's description included a self- defense in which she portrayed herself as someone who was thoughtful and considerate in her interactions, in contrast to her husband's erroneous assumptions. She challenged him, but to no avail. Additionally, Kathleen remarked that control came in the form of: He never wanted me to have any kind of cash on hand .. (he) made sure that my 49 inheritance was used up - um - in purchasing a home .. so financially he controlled me .. And similarly Elsie stipulated: I worked hard (but) he would not give me any money. He took every pay cheque and when I worked he would give me $4.00 - $2 for parking and $2 for lunch - that was all the money I had. I had a chequebook and I could write the grocery cheque .. everything was monitored. He knew where everything was .. all the drawers were set at a certain angle. Two of the women spoke of their partners' attempts at maintaining or regaining control by using sex, linking violence and sex. April, 1996, on the radio, they spoke of a new movie called Crash in which a man has a heightened sexual experience at the moment of a life-threatening car crash. The movie continues with his attempts to reconstruct other such life-threatening crashes in order to reexperience the profound sexual encounter. Elsie describes her experience toward the end of her relationship: .. he was getting high from abusing me - definitely - he would yell and scream and rage and I would shiver and try to defend myself for all this and then he would finally flop down and I would see the relief kind of come over him and then every time he would want - sex after. (At the time) I felt relief - he stopped raging... (Another time when I said) I don't want any part of this anymore, this has got to stop, he went berserk - 'you know how much I need this?' He says 'I need to feel wanted, you're not making me feel wanted' and he went to the bathroom and he slammed the door until the wall just about fell apart. Advertisement for the popular Pepe Jeans portrays two side-by-side pictures of a muscular bare chested male with a female wearing a sheer see-through top. In the first image he appears to be putting his hand up the front of her see-through top and in the second image he has succeeded. Only their torsos are visible, no jeans to be seen. Across the first image is the caption: wear it out and make it scream. (As quoted in MS. Magazine V( l ) , 1994). Kathleen describes her experiences in this regard as: I'd be angry that he'd been out all night and (ask) where have you been and I'd get pushed around - called all kinds of names or he'd force himself on me. So you start avoiding to do-doing some things .. and later in their relationship: he withheld sex from me .. he-we would go for 5-6 weeks - and he was just never interested - and that is very - that's cruel - it's really cruel. No talking about it - no nothing. Both Elsie's and Kathleen's words imply experiences of being objectified, of not being fully visible or treated with respect in a particular kind of intimate interaction, as well as inferring the power imbalance within these experiences. Their words appear congruent with cultural portrayals of women as weaker and available, and cultural representations that 50 link sex and violence in an attempt to make each more exciting. Three of the women further described fear of violence in the context of their attempts to leave the relationship, implying that leaving the relationship did not automatically equate with safety for them. This issue of safety and leaving is dealt with in greater depth in Chapter seven, and is addressed only briefly here as integral to their narratives of victimization, and as an introduction to the women and their array of experiences. Kali , for example, described her husband moving in next door when she left him after he threatened her, and Elsie spoke of notifying the police the second time she left in order to ensure her safety. Sunday April 14,1996, Province Newspaper reports: "Stalked, shot by ex-boyfriend. She lived; many don't. Despite her calls to police, jilted beau shoots her in her driveway." The Province report continues: "did everything she could think of to stop her ex-boyfriendfrom stalking her. She complained to the RCMP, changed her routines, even cut the shrubs outside her house so he'd have nowhere to skulk. It wasn't enough. Her ex-boyfriend greeted her in her driveway one night with a sawed-off shotgun ... Then he walked up to her, put the gun to her back and fired. ".. I realized I had to play dead, make him think I was dead or he 'd go on shooting until I was." She lay as still as she could with her eyes shut and heard one more blast when he fell dead on top of her. Kathleen spoke of her ex-husband's ongoing harassment and stalking after she left him. When she returned to the house to gather up some of her belongings: He'd let me take some things out of the house but in letting me take things out of the house he did rape me, he forced me to have sex with him .. I had my restraining order - like never mind (pause) - he did still try - he's broken the restraining order many times. On the news, July 1994: Dave McCarthy is charged with killing his (ex)wife, Peggy, in her Port Coquitlam home, with their 3 children asleep at the time. It was the day before their divorce was to be granted. She was stabbed 11 times, her throat slit, and her right arm nearly severed. November, 1995, in the Coquitlam Now Newspaper: Dave McCarthy, not yet convicted of killing his ex-wife, is attempting to gain custody of his 3 children who have been living with their mother's sister and husband since the slaying. January 1997, Province Newspaper reports that Dave McCarthy has killed himself on the second day of his trial for the murder of Peggy McCarthy. This latest article reports that "there was a witness to the murder and McCarthy, covered in blood, was arrested 20 minutes after the slaying." It was the first time that any news release indicated there was "no question he had done the murder." These depictions suggest that leaving is not a simple or definitive act, it does not ensure the end to violence or necessarily secure the women's safety. Additionally, of interest is that the courts maintain(ed) a separation between his arrest in relation to the murder and his attempt to obtain custody. This event in the news was echoed in Care's experience to be 51 explored further in chapter seven. 1 8 The above excerpts from the women's narratives convey some of the intensity and depth of their experiences as embedded in wider social structures that construe women's identity within a particular gaze. Probably for the average reader the popular media insertions are easily critiqued and dismissed on the grounds that they were not intended to harm, that they were simply playing with words and images, and we (or ought to) know not to take them seriously. My contention, however, is that these women's experiences of violence did not occur in a vacuum. Presenting the various media and popular cultural insertions in a concrete and clustered fashion as done here, is intended to establish an awareness of the cultural messages that otherwise frequently and regularly slip by us. This illustrates that we are inundated with particular images and messages about women in the popular media and in the news to which we pay little serious or critical attention. I do not propose that there is a direct relationship but I do suggest that a relationship exists between the attitudes towards women in the public sphere and those played out in some private spheres. Some of the issues that have been addressed in this chapter resurface in later chapters in greater depth when they are revealed in the women's experiences. As will become clear in these further explorations of the women's narratives, the women themselves echo this subjectively experienced relationship in their explorations when they articulate the link between their pasts and the broader sociocultural contexts to their lived experiences of being battered in an intimate relationship. Having heard from these experiential experts, I now turn to the theoretical experts to see how the available literature formulates and addresses the issues of women's experiences of battering in their intimate relationships, that is, I examine dominant theories with respect to women's encounters of victimization. 18 Recently a woman told me of her encounter one Saturday afternoon while driving down a main street in Vancouver. She saw a man beating a woman and trying to push her into a van at the side of the road. She stopped her car and honked her horn, hoping to draw attention to this event. People continued driving by, however, without stopping. Not knowing the context of the relationship between the woman and the man, she nevertheless told the woman she did not have to go with this man, nor put up with this his behavior. Another woman finally stopped to help. They managed to get the woman safely to a police station where it became clear that this man was the woman's ex-partner. They had been apart for over 3 months but he had been stalking and harassing her. In relaying her story to me I commented that one reason this man could physically assault her in public was that he knew no one would stop to help. She answered "that's what the police said as well." 52 Chapter Three: The Theoretical Experts In order to address women's experiences, their subjective understandings, and their self-perceptions during a period in their lives when they were being victimized in their intimate relationships, I examine the relevant literature. There is no research that focuses directly on the ways in which women who have been battered make meaning of these events, on their self-conceptualizations, nor on whether these women identify themselves as victims or as battered women. To date the literature does not clarify the pertinence or utility of these labels for women who experience intimate violence. There is, however, a vast amount of literature and research that attends to women who have lived in or are living under such circumstances, as well as literature that uses the term 'victim' as descriptive language. I have divided the literature into three main categories: (a) texts that present the dominant theories of victimization, (b) texts that attempt to hear the voices of women who have been battered in their intimate relationships, and (c) current self-help, counselling, and popular media texts. It must be stated that subscribing to any particular paradigm or perspective is not a neutral act, but rather signifies social, political, and psychological implications in either discounting, or highlighting certain aspects. This is also true for existing theories of victimization and hence I include a critique of each perspective. Theories of Victimization Dominant theories of victimization regarding women in heterosexual relationships in which battering occurs present three levels of analyses: (a) the intrapersonal perspectives that focus on the individual, (b) the interpersonal perspectives that focus on the interactions between the individuals, and (c) the sociocultural or feminist perspectives that focus on the larger impact of historical, sociocultural, and specific contextual factors, all of which are competing and interactive factors intersecting with experiences of violence in intimate relationships. Perceptions, interpretations, and conclusions about a woman who experiences battering in her intimate relationship shift depending upon the theoretical approach, the methodology, and the analysis. These perspectives reflect mainstream's preoccupation with heterosexual relationships and, in addition to briefly discussing each of these perspectives, I review the recent available literature on intralesbian battering. Intrapersonal Perspectives The psychiatric and psychodynamic paradigms are examples of intrapersonal 53 theories of victimization that focus on personality traits of the victim and individual pathology (Gayford, 1983). These accounts, which rely primarily on case studies (e.g., Shainess, 1984), assume pre-existing character structures, whereby the woman's personality is believed to be predisposed toward masochistic tendencies that originated in early childhood painful experiences (Snell, Rosenwald, & Robey, 1964; Symonds, 1978). The literature, as well as the research, focus on individual pathology in heterosexual relationships with descriptions of the sadistic, aggressive male, and the masochistic, passive female (Shainess, 1979). In 1985 the American Psychiatric Association (1985) proposed to establish a psychiatric diagnostic category for the DSM-IIIR (1987) called the "masochistic personality disorder." A "masochistic" woman would be defined as selfless, dependent, passive, other-focussed, and unable to stop being victimized or taken advantage of. After much debate and critique of this label as victim-blaming (Caplan, 1985,1995; Walker, 1987), this category was replaced with "self-defeating personality disorder" in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IIIR (1987), which Caplan (1995) contends is similarly victim-blaming because self-defeating implies "she brought it on herself (p 91). The intrapersonal perspective has triggered much debate regarding assignment of responsibility. Recent literature has challenged notions of predisposition, positing instead that individual traits and personality profiles of women who have been battered reflect sequelae rather than precursors to abuse (Walker, 1985), that women who have been in relationships in which battering occurs are no different than women in the general population who have not been in battering relationships (Pagelow, 1981), and that the only constant among these women is that of being female (Hotaling & Sugarman, 1986). Nevertheless, in spite of various critiques (e.g., Caplan, 1995; Walker, 1987) individuals using the psychodynamic approach continue to focus on women's personality traits and other characteristics as explanation for the women's experiences of victimization. Furthermore, from this perspective women in relationships in which they experience battering continue to be viewed as passive, dependent, masochistic, potentially responsible for and desiring of the battering, and it is presumed that therefore they will go on to enter future victimizing relationships should they succeed in terminating the one they are in. I n t e r p e r s o n a l P e r s p e c t i v e s Interpersonal theories of battering rely on social learning (Ganley, 1989) and 54 systems (Giles-Sims, 1983) theories. Social learning theory focuses on observational learning, modelling, and reinforcement that takes place primarily in families of origin, and these concepts are employed to explain both the woman experiencing the battering and her partner's battering behaviors. Both are perceived to be repeating their family patterns or fulfilling a psychological need not met in their families of origin. The individual learns when, where, and against whom a behavior is functional and effective (Gelles, 1983). Transgenerational violence is believed to result from witnessing or experiencing violence in childhood (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). Critiques of social learning and transgenerational explanations stems from the literature that examines the diversity in degrees, frequencies, and types of familial violence. Although many adults grew up in homes where diverse forms and degrees of violence were experienced, not all of these adults demonstrate the transgenerational continuity of violence either as recipients or perpetrators implied in the theory (Dobash & Dobash, 1979), nor has it been found that family patterns of violence necessarily determine marital choices (Gelles & Cornell, 1985). Social learning theory may describe how the learning takes place but lacks an inclusive analysis of the many males and females who have been abused or who have witnessed violence yet do not grow up to be violent or victimized (Browne, 1987). Another interpersonal perspective, that of systems theory, is grounded in assumptions of equitable male/female relations, and posits that the (heterosexual) family functions as a relatively stable system (Giles-Sims, 1983). One violent incident can change future dynamics within this microsystem. To maintain or return to a stable system, the event may be minimized and hence the battering partner has achieved a desired outcome without sanctions against his behavior, thereby increasing the likelihood of a recurrence. Systems approach to battering relationships implies that there is a chain of events such that the actions and reactions represent links in a chain, with each reaction also representing a potential precipitant for future behaviors. There is no simple cause and effect equation because the response to any particular behavior may also reflect the ongoing pattern of inter-relationships. An underlying assumption in the systems approach is that the battering occurs in an interactional context, that it is characterized by specific structural relations, and that the battering functions to maintain the system or to reestablish equilibrium (Bograd, 1982). Giles-Sims (1983) reports findings that the interaction or victimizing relationship is 55 often broken when a new person who represents an alternative, or competing feedback to the woman, is introduced to the family system. The woman may leave, although usually only after a gradual process, and the permanency of leaving is often contingent upon the quality of this alternative feedback. Therapists working from a systems approach attempt to maintain a position of neutrality regarding both partners, presuming that this permits the therapist an unbiased perception, that the therapist will appear less threatening, and will therefore be able to work more effectively with the couple (Selvini-Palazzoli, Boscolo, Cecchin, & Prata, 1980). Systems theory has been critiqued for it's narrow focus on the family microsystem, thereby neglecting to account for the role and impact of larger social systems, as well as obscuring the personal responsibility of the males who batter in heterosexual relationships (Giles-Sims, 1983) and females who batter in lesbian relationships. Further, it implies that the battered woman is a naive collaborator, rendering her very real victimization invisible, and the fact that her only 'collaboration' is her circumstantial presence at the time of the batterer's violent behavior (Bograd, 1984, 1988). Inferring her complicity in his battering behaviors echoes the prevailing provocation myth. In the systems theory framework, the dispersion of responsibility between the partners of an intimate dyad obscures the oft felt andexperienced power inequities that exist between the aggressor and the victim (Margolin & Burman, 1993). 19 Regarding neutrality, Walker (1989) posits that many women who have experienced the terrors of being victimized have such an intensified sense of danger, that any therapist or other interaction that is not clearly one of advocacy and anti-violence, is perceived as lacking in appropriate support and validation. Moreover, Bograd (1984) critiques joint family therapy suggesting that such work implies colluding with the batterer because the woman is prohibited from speaking freely with her partner present, knowing the potential subsequent consequences, thereby further silencing the woman. Joint therapy further conveys the notion that the violence is a joint problem, reinforcing the myth that the woman is at least partially/equally responsible. Last, Martin (1983) critiques family systems therapy for their focus on solving relational dysfunction that ignores critical safety 19 A myth of mutual combat presented by investigators who argue that "women do it too" (e.g., Steinmetz & Lucca, 1988), is grounded in notions of equitable heterosexual relationships and also represents an interpersonal perspective. This myth has been disputed by authors who critiqued these studies with respect to their methodologies and analyses (e.g., Margolin, 1987; Saunders, 1988) 56 issues, and disregards the woman's need for protection. With respect to labelling, family therapists have tended to stay away from such individual-focussed pejorative terms used within the intrapersonal paradigm already mentioned. They have, however, resorted to the use of such terms as enmeshed, dysfunctional, and co-dependent, intended to reflect relational interactions but nonetheless applied to an individual in that relationship. Sociocultural and Feminist Perspectives The third theoretical perspective to address women who experience battering is one that includes historical, sociocultural, and political factors in its analyses. From this perspective wife assault is perceived as being on a continuum with other forms of violence against women, and is analysed as being indicative of a grave widespread phenomenon reflecting a pattern of coercive subordination of women including psychological, physical, and sexual abuse (Finkelhor, 1983; Stark & Flitcraft, 1988; Yllo & Bograd, 1988). Violence is believed to occur typically in situations of conflict over control, power, authority, and resources, and is due to perceived threats to male privilege evoked by women attempting to achieve greater independence and equality. Historical antecedents, cross-cultural factors, and an examination of those aspects of our society that support and sanction wife assault are critical to a feminist perspective. Historically, wife assault has been accepted practice in Western society since the Middle ages (Hofeller, 1983), written into religious codes as a justification for chastisement and correction (Dobash & Dobash, 1979), and supported by a legal system that, until 1874, permitted a man in America to beat his wife with a stick, choke her, pull her hair, spit in her face, or kick her without reproach (Browne, 1987). In 1866, a restriction in the law that limited wife assault to the use of a "stick no wider than a thumb" was considered a "compassionate reform" because it changed the weapons that were used. In 1874 the legal right to beat your wife was rescinded, although the courts maintained that family violence was a private matter (Dobash & Dobash, 1979). Historically wife assault has been perceived as a "misdemeanor," even though the same assault against an acquaintance or a stranger was and remains a criminal offense (Roesch, Dutton, & Sacco, 1990). Laws have changed, but attitudes take longer to change. Feminist analyses posit that a complete restructuring of social institutions is needed to eliminate hierarchical and gendered relations at all levels, in order to effect 57 meaningful and lasting change in violence against women. The battered women's movement has sought to clearly differentiate between aggressor and victim, and emphasize both the micro and macro contexts in which violence against women occurs. In spite of a feminist commitment to expose women's experiences of intimate violence, in the area of women's shame and their reluctance to report, feminism's impact appears to have been a somewhat mixed one for women in relationships in which they experienced battering. The delegitimization of wife assault increased women's guilt about their inability to escape, thinking of themselves as somehow flawed or lacking in strength, and adding to their sense of shame (Gordon, 1993)20 Professionals working from the sociocultural and feminist perspectives focus on 2 0 Again, I recognise that these theories of victimization are limited to heterosexual relationships. Currently, there are three still somewhat incomplete perspectives attempting to explain battering that occurs in some lesbian relationships. The first defines battering as a gendered construct, defining the battering as socially derived rather than biologically determined, with all relationships mirroring a hetero-normative hegemonic construction of human relations in which females are devalued and same-sex relationships lack recognition and dignity. These prescriptive norms are internalized through socialization processes even by those who appear to resist these norms by entering same-sex relations. It is assumed that lesbians in relationships in which battering occurs, behave in gendered ways, congruent with societal assumptions linking aggressive, threatening, violent behaviors to socially masculine characteristics (presumably the "batterer") and passive, dependent behaviors to socially feminine characteristics (presumably the "victim") (Eaton, 1994). Gender traits and gender oppression, believed to be internalized, are re-enacted in the relationship. Eaton critiques the heterosexist assumptions in butch/femme (aggressive/nonaggressive) stereotypes put on lesbian relationships, as insulting and limiting many lesbians' self-perceptions. A second explanation posits that intralesbian violence instead reflects pathological individuals who, regardless of gender, are and will be violent in a society that does not hold them appropriately accountable (Eaton, 1994). Studies supporting this perception report that male-on-female violence is virtually indistinguishable from female-on-female violence in frequency rates or in form (e.g., see Lobel, 1986; Renzetti, 1992). Based on the dearth of material on intralesbian battering, however, one cannot assume that the purpose or function of intralesbian violence is directly comparable to the battering experienced by women in heterosexual relationships. For example, heterosexual women who experience battering, frequently report sexual violence such as rape, as part of the battery, whereas this has not been consistently reported by lesbians who experience battering (Eaton, 1994; Renzetti, 1992). Finally, Eaton suggests an alternative theoretical perspective, one that links intralesbian violence to the larger societal context. Rather than subscribing to mainstream hetero-normative explanations of violence, such a theory focuses on the particularities and specificity of lesbian battering whilst interweaving these with larger antilesbian policies, practices, and other structural barriers experienced by lesbians. Rather than assuming that there is something inherent about lesbianism that results in violent outbreaks, the interpersonal difficulties may instead reflect the impact of daily living in a homophobic society, of being invisible, of being closeted in parts or all of one's life in order to guarantee some measure of safety. A starting point for such a theory is listening to these women's stories and their self- perceptions. 58 recognizing the strengths of women who have been battered (Margolin & Burman, 1993), and on issues of safety and survival rather than on maintaining the intimate relationship (Hart, 1988). Labels are critiqued as indicating power differentials between the one who diagnoses and the one who receives the diagnosis, as obscuring issues of diversity and complexity in women's lives, and as ignoring the sociocultural and historical contexts in which we live. With regard to women in relationships in which they experience battering, labels are viewed as constructs that benefit those in the position of power to use the labels, and masking the multiple reasons and conditions under which women stay or leave their relationships. Psychodynamically-oriented authors use the label "victim" to convey a woman who is dependent, lacking in self esteem, engaged in self-defeating behaviors, overly compliant, and subordinating herself in her relationships, whereas feminists and socioculturally-oriented authors employ the term "victim" to define women's externally imposed experiences whereby they are indeed being victimized. Furthermore feminists attempt to explicate the power inequities that women experience in relationships in which battering occurs, as being on a continuum with other forms of exploitation and hierarchies that operate in society at large (Dobash and Dobash, 1992; Dutton, 1992; Lamb, 1996). The three levels of analyses reflected in heterosexual theories of victimization along with the explanations of intralesbian violence are not predominantly grounded in women's self-explorations or self-definitions. This presents a gap between the theories and the women's experiences that the theories attempt to address. This gap is critical for those professionals who rely on a dominant discourse and theorizing to provide a theoretical framework along with insight and understanding from which to work effectively and empathically particularly with respect to intimate violence. The purpose of this study is to address this gap in the available literature by hearing the women's self-definitions and perceptions. Texts that Attempt to Hear Women's Voices A text that presents the voices of women who have experienced violence in their intimate relationships is that by Angela Browne (1987) in which she describes and quotes the women's personal stories. She carried out extensive interviews with women who killed their violent male partners, asking them about their experiences in order to gain insight and understanding into these women's lives and behaviors. Her research is 59 comparable to conducting numerous case studies that provide a comprehensive portrait, one that does not simplify or dismiss the women's voices or their experiences. A somewhat different research project is that of Ferraro and Johnson (1983) who employed a participant-observation approach in order to examine the language used by 10 women as they described their battering experiences. These researchers formulated a typology of "rationalizations" for why these women stayed in abusive relationships based on the women's narratives. Although the title of their project states that their purpose was to understand "How women experience battering: The process of victimization," their focus instead seemed to be one of asking and capturing why the women stayed or left relationships in which they experienced battering. The phenomenon of intra-marital violence was also examined by Margareta Hyden (1994). She relied on the heterosexual marriage as providing the interpretative framework for understanding the violence. Over a two-year period she conducted 143 in-person interviews with both partners of marriages in which the women experienced battering. The purpose was to uncover how each partner interpreted and made sense of the husband's violent behaviors. Her narrative analysis focussed on the differing accounts of the wives and the husbands. Whereas the husbands spoke primarily of the purpose or the 'why' of the violence, the wives emphasized the nature or the 'how' of the violence and its effects. Hyden links these two differing reconstructions and interpretations to the larger sociocultural, gendered, constructions in marriage. She focussed on the violent events and the subjective interpretation of these events. In her analysis, she first examines these interpretations in the context of the marriage on a micro level and then takes this analysis to the institution of marriage on a macro level. Hyden did not intend to capture the women's self-definitions nor how they constructed their identities, which the present study does. Her study took place in Sweden and is limited to white heterosexual middle-class couples. Finally, Susan Levin (1992), for her doctoral dissertation at The Union State University in Michigan, sought to give visibility to the experiences of women who have been battered. In her study, Levin carried out in-depth unstructured interviews with nine women, rarely using an interview guide that she had developed prior to initiating the interviews. She found that she did not need to rely on her interview guide, as each interview developed its own unique process of interaction, sharing, and "storyline." 60 Where necessary Levin asked questions for further clarification or for expansion. In addition to some demographic questions, the interview guide focused on the women's interpretations of when and why they shared their battering experiences with someone, what it was that enabled them to feel heard, and how this differed from when they did not feel heard or understood. In her final text, Levin took the data from the interviews and examined some mainstream questions directed at women who experience battering such as "why won't they leave" or "why does she provoke him" in light of the women's words. This study was limited to white, heterosexual women living in Michigan. Therapeutic. Self-help, and Popular Media Texts Counselling, therapeutic, and self-help books were examined for their use of the term "victim" and the consequent implications of that discourse. An example from the therapeutic community is Miriam Greenspan's (1993) text in which she presents an analysis of "Victim psychology" as defined by "victim traits." These include "indirect communication, indirect use of power in the passive/aggressive mode, internalized anger that emerges in acts of unconscious hostility" (p. 185). Greenspan's analysis implies that the woman is a victim due to her own thoughts and actions, that she victimizes herself, and as such Greenspan collapses the victim and victimizer into one and the same individual, the woman herself. This represents a shift in the definition of what it means to be a victim, a shift away from even the broader mainstream definition of the victim as someone who has been harmed by another individual. Second, her working definition of victim in this therapeutic discourse masks whether these "traits" reflect the sequelae of having been victimized or result in being victimized. Third, her description and operating definitions do not address the very real experiences of women who have lived with violence and hence she renders their experiences invisible. Her analysis focuses on individual women's behaviors with the implication that these women are responsible for, or at least play a key role in their own pathology. This is not to suggest that there are not some women who may behave in ways that are detrimental toward themselves and/or those around them, but it does suggest that the language used to describe such events must be clear and distinct from the language used to describe very different, painful, other-imposed, injurious behaviors in women's lives. Notably, an award-winning self-help anxiety and phobia workbook (Bourne, 61 1995) characterizes the victim as: that part of you which feels helpless or hopeless. It generates anxiety by telling you that you're not making any progress, that your condition is incurable or that the road is too long and steep for you to have a real chance at recovering. The Victim also plays a major role in creating depression. The Victim believes that there is something inherently wrong with you ..Characteristically, it bemoans, complains, and regrets things as they are at present, (p. 176). suggesting that there is such an entity as a victim characteristic, implying directionality in which this characteristic results in other problems such as depression or anxiety in one's life, thereby decontextualizing very real victimization experiences Xhatresult in depression and/or anxiety. The victim in this text is linked to other "incorrect" and "negative self-talk" or beliefs, the focus is on the individual, presuming that individual change in the form of "different tapes" is the only necessary and effective ingredient in determining a meaningful and potentially lasting shift for oneself. Again, my criticism is not intended to suggest that this is always problematic, and indeed I recognise that some of the exercises in the book are potentially empowering. My critique lies with the shift in definition of what it means to be a victim, along with the problematic links between this simplistic definition and plausible interpretations or management of lived experiences of victimization, and victim-blaming tendencies. Similarly, Beattie (1987) in her popular self-help book makes the problematic claim that "We allow people to victimize us and we participate in our own victimization" (italics added). In the context of these self-help books, the meaning of being a victim is completely internalized, obscuring and negating any prior externally imposed experiences. Moreover, these constructions lack an analysis of sociocultural, economic, and historical contexts as interactive factors in the experiences of those who are victimized. Other self-help literature stemming from the co-dependency movement perpetuates a victim discourse by proposing numerous ways in which we have all presumably experienced victimization as an inevitable consequence of growing up in dysfunctional families, thereby laying the groundwork and defining the need for recovery and recognition of ourselves as survivors (e.g., Beattie, 1987; Bradshaw, 1990). Adult children are portrayed as the innocent victims of their dysfunctional families and the overriding emphasis on victimhood becomes a primary source via which to organize one's identity. The co-dependency literature both describes and prescribes the recovery process as a life- long commitment (Kaminer, 1992). This pervasive preoccupation with addiction and 62 powerlessness impacts our self-perceptions as well as our perceptions of others. Kaminer posits that this is poignantly demonstrated in the inclusive nature of contemporary victimhood notions such that smokers are the victims of tobacco companies, troubled teenagers are the victims of the music they listen to, men are the victims of feminism, and of course almost everyone is a victim in some manner of the now dominant dysfunctional family. Such common and ubiquitous reference to potential individual pathology becomes problematic in the concurrent maximizing and minimizing of genuine suffering. One would begin to question the integrity and meaning of any term that on the one hand is posited to have such detrimental and longlasting impact and is simultaneously employed so extensively. Central to the victim discourse implied in the co-dependency movement is the process of identifying and labelling. Co-dependency must be diagnosed and treated by the "experts," thereby setting up a hierarchy and a focus on the individual, without an analysis of this movement as historically and socially situated. Interestingly most of the behaviors ascribed to co-dependents equate traditionally feminine behaviors in our society (Tallen, 1990). In addition, the particular use of language, the labelling process, the inclusive definitions, and the pathologizing all echo the processes found in the descriptions of women who experience violence in their intimate relationships. Women who live with violent partners are presumed to be co-dependent, and to "love too much" (Norwood, 1985), whereby the locus of responsibility is shifted away from the abusing partner to the woman being victimized. Tallen critiques the dominant boundary discourse and focus on boundary invasions as, for example, having spurred a redefinition of rape as indicative of "weak boundaries on the part of both the victim and perpetrator," thereby neutralizing the victimizing experience and implying victim-blame. In contrast to a feminist analysis of the family as being a site of oppression for many women, the construction of dysfunctional families is grounded in the belief that a loving, close, nuclear family is possible in a racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, capitalist society (Tallen, 1990). Alternative families that stray from traditional conceptualizations of the family are then promptly prone to descriptions of and prescriptions for their dysfunctionality. The focus on the individual and individual families, ignores the larger, systemic, contextual barriers in place experienced by many individuals and many families. 63 Naomi Wolf s (1993) critique of "victim feminism" exemplifies an account of victim discourse in a popular media text that sparks further concerns for women who have been victimized. Her analysis is premised on the construction of a dichotomy, victim feminism versus power feminism (p.136-137). By polarizing the words "victim" (i.e., powerless) and "power" as opposites, each defined/constructed by a separate, mutually exclusive descriptive list, she oversimplifies and negates many women's experiences of having or lacking power, or of being victims to violence. Furthermore, Wolf makes it abundantly clear which side of this dichotomy is preferable for feminists (or any woman). The "victim" is portrayed as passive, masochistic, self-serving, and powerless. Such pejorative and limiting language is strikingly similar to that found in the psychodynamic paradigm that minimizes, individualizes, pathologizes, and decontextualizes the very real experiences of women who have been victimized. From a critical perspective, the aforementioned examples including Greenspan's analysis, the co-dependency movement, victim labelling, and Wolfs account, all indicate the dangers of overly describing women as victims. This is, however, a difficult issue because an important feature of the feminist agenda has been to expose women's experiences of oppression and victimization, to give visibility to the violence that has been rendered invisible such as in battering and incest, or naturalized as in date rape (Mahoney, 1994). The feminist movement is committed to exposing women's victimization, and did so in part by portraying women as lacking agency, predicated on the very real lack in resources that was indicative of a variety of interactive factors such as economics, class, race, physical ability, safety concerns, and social supports for women experiencing violence. Current critiques of victim discourse can be misleading if the issues are riot clearly stated. First, it is important to name women's experiences of violence without defining individual women by their experiences of violence. Second, we need to hear women's self-perceptions, understand their immediate contexts, and defend these realities by locating the experiences within the larger sociocultural patterns of structural oppression. Third, I concur with Mahoney (1994) that the underlying assumption predominantly informing the victim discourse is the victim-agency dichotomy. As indicated in the above therapeutic, self-help, and popular media accounts, our society sets victim in opposition to agent, each 64 conceptualized by the absence of the other. As such agency does not include notions of struggling and the definition of victim does not permit acts of agency. Society, as reflected in these accounts, is generally quick to judge and dismiss any form of weakness. Being a victim implies weakness and triggers assumptions about the inability to care for oneself appropriately. Due to our restricted definition of agency and the focus on the individual in our society, there is a tendency to view experiences of struggle or hardship as further implying weakness (Mahoney, 1994). Personal admissions and confessions of struggle that integrate acts of agency with experiences of pain are often kept for our close friends. Dichotomous constructs oversimplify the many complex issues, the diverse strategies, and self-descriptions used by women who experience battering. Social expectations, cultural stereotypes, and psychological explanations of the behaviors of these women render their varied acts of resistance, their struggles, and their agency invisible. A woman who trusts herself to be an actor in her own life may not be able to understand the links between her experience(s) and those of other women experiencing violence (Mahoney, 1994). Given the demoralizing psychological impact this word can have, she may not be able to afford to see herself as a victim because she cannot reconcile her self- perception as having agency while simultaneously struggling, bell hooks (1984) states "women who are exploited and oppressed daily cannot afford to relinquish the belief that they exercise some measure of control, however relative, over their lives. They cannot afford to see themselves solely as 'victims' because their survival depends on continued exercise of whatever personal powers they possess" (p.45). We need definitions and analyses that encompass agency and oppression, wherein acts of resistance and of struggle are given recognition. The dichotomy in victim/agency is mirrored in the dominant focus on staying or leaving violent relationships. Exiting the relationship is equated with safety, appropriate self-care, stopping the violence (i.e., agency) and blurs very genuine concerns for threats and separation assault (Giles-Sims, 1983; Mahoney, 1994). Browne (1987) states that more than half of the women who leave violent heterosexual relationships are harassed, stalked, and even attacked after leaving. Mahoney goes on to say that the label "failure to leave" obscures the numerous ways in which women act to protect themselves and/or their children, and assumes that we are, at all times, free actors who can move about as we need 65 to, change our place of residence, our work, our support systems, while ignoring the many accounts of stalking and harassment that continue long after separation. By focusing on the individual woman's responses to the violence and on leave-taking, we ignore the multiple responsibilities in a woman's life, minimizing her commitment and her work toward establishing this intimate relationship, a family, and other relations. In addition, the categories of leaving versus staying, are predicated on the equation of leaving with safety, rendering any other actions a woman takes in her attempts to stop the violence as simply illegitimate. Because her attempts to deal with the violence do not yield the desired outcome, her efforts are pathologized, thereby further stripping her of her equality and agency (Mahoney, 1994). The victim is the woman who stays, whereas the agent or survivor is the woman who leaves (see for example Riessman, 1989). In summary, the victim-agency and staying-leaving splits collapse women's activities and behaviors into categories that mask their many acts of self-assertion. The psychological and research literature to date focuses primarily on: (a) understanding or providing a model for understanding, (b) establishing explanations for how and why the victimization occurs, and (c) defining why the women stay or leave violent relationships. The lack of insight into the subjective conceptions of how the women construct their experiences of battering or how they saw themselves at the time that the battering occurred, represents a gap in the existing knowledge base. The current literature does not permit an understanding of how these women defined or constructed their identities at that time. There is no study that has examined the meaning or the relevance of the concept "victim" to the women's self-identification process. It is this gap in the literature that I addressed in the present study. My Subjective Concerns In keeping with critiques and concerns explicated by several feminist methodologists (see for e.g., Kirby & McKenna, 1989; Lather, 1991), I briefly explore the genesis of my subjective interest in doing this research with regard to investigating victim discourse. When I first heard the term "victim" many years ago, it seemed to serve the purpose of naming painful, disempowering experiences; it helped define the seriousness of the problem, and to identify particular needs. In recent years, however, this term has taken on a pejorative feeling and I hear it increasingly being used in judgmental ways in phrases 66 such as "she is acting the victim" or "just stop being the victim" by both members inside and outside the therapeutic/counselling community. These phrases appear gendered as they seem to be employed primarily in relation to women. Recently, upon her return from attending a conference, a friend informed me of her experience there where, as part of a group, she met a woman who was staying in what appeared to be a somewhat unsafe district of town. Someone in the group cautioned this woman about locking her doors to which she scoffingly responded 'no, I'm not the victim type.' Increasingly I hear the term 'victim' employed in ways such as this, that implies individual pathology, suggesting that a particular attitude or mentality results in having a victim stance or becoming a victim, the implication being that in some way the victim has "asked for it." In this light it is interesting to reconsider my earlier quote from bell hooks' (1984) and Linda Gordon's (1993) words stipulating that frequently women who are being victimized prefer not to use the term victim, their reluctance originates in an understanding that using it may only make their lives harder, preferring instead to conceptualize themselves and to present themselves as strong. Victim discourse has at least four implications. First, it individualizes the problem, placing the focus and responsibility on one person whereas the notion of being a victim always implies that there was at least one other individual involved. Second, by collapsing all subjective experiences of violence into one, using one term in an all-encompassing sweeping manner and assuming common understanding of this term, we obscure the many forms of victimization, decontextualizing the varied, complex experiences of what it means to be a victim or to think of oneself as such (or not to think of oneself as such). Third, we remove the empowering potential that this word seemed or seems to have had for many who have been victimized. Last, we pathologize and diminish the experiences of victims in a variety of settings. I come to this project with a concern that the term "victim" has historically been beneficial but that this meaning has been transformed and collapsed into a discourse that defeats its original purpose. I would like to "re-cognize" the meaning and the usefulness of this term, to restore dignity, respect, and care to the word and to the manner in which it is utilized. Words and language are important because they influence how we perceive ourselves and our worlds, as well as how others come to understand us (Flinders, 1992; Tannen, 1986). Pejorative victim discourse is congruent with a lack in the prevailing, available, and broadly understood narratives. Such limited discourse marginalizes the women who experience victimization in intimate relationships because it renders their complexity, their diversity, and their acts of resistance invisible; it buries the victim's voices. Marginalization further occurs because women who experience battering are perceived as living outside society's norms, as being atypical, in spite of statistics that contradict normative assumptions. This study problematized the current, dominant use the term "victim," examined its usefulness, and questioned who benefits in the current prevailing use of this term. 68 Chapter Four: The Research Defined: Methodology and Methods I too think the intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden and open pressures and manipulations, should be the chief doubter of systems, of power and its incantations, should be the witness to their mendacity ... An intellectual is always at odds with hard and fast categories, because these tend to be instruments used by the victors. (Havel, V . 1990, p. 167). This study problematized the notion of victim in the context of women who have experienced battering in their significant intimate relationships. The purpose was to gain insight into how these women conceptualize or construct their experiences and how they define themselves. A l l phases and stages of research are inevitably informed by subjective philosophical beliefs, conceptual systems, and theoretical frameworks (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984; Kirby & McKenna, 1989; Sanjek, 1990). A formulation of my conceptualizations regarding research methodology, as well as the theories that shaped my research project, are the subject of this chapter. I begin by explicating a tradition of research conducted by women, for women and intended to hear women's voices. This is followed by a brief clarification of my use of a qualitative approach, and the theoretical perspectives that informed my work including feminist research, social constructionism, and the importance of language. Last, I review the method employed in this study, examining my use of interviews, and the role of listening as method to hearing narratives that spontaneously arose in the interviews. Methodology Listening to and Hearing Women's Voices Current interest in hearing women's voices within the social sciences has its genesis in the feminist agenda to render visibility to women's developmental and socialization issues previously not considered, particularly in psychological research and theorizing. Feminist critiques of traditional psychological research as being ethnocentric, androcentric, and limited to middle-class and upper-class mainstream populations, spurred research that turned to women's voices in order to develop theories and understanding about women, based on women, and for women. Feminist researchers have challenged dominant assumptions about women's psychological and moral development (Gilligan, 1982; Porter, 1991), and proposed alternative conceptualizations of women's identity formation and 69 psychological processes (Josselson, 1987; Miller, 1986). They critique dominant privileged theories that equate healthy psychological development with increasing autonomy and independence, with greater self-boundedness and self control, and increasing use of reason and cognitions, positing that these conceptualizations are limited and limiting constructions of human growth. Feminist researchers argue that these standard theories simultaneously pathologize female development by defining women as 'naturally' dependent, passive, emotional, and irrational (Jordan, Kaplan, Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991). In addition, from traditional standpoints, intense interpersonal and social relations have tended to be constructed as women's domain, and defined in regressive terms such as undifferentiated, symbiotic, or merged, implying that significant social relations for women indicate a regression into more primitive behaviors and connections (Jordan, 1991). Alternatively, feminists propose that women's psychological development is relationally based, and address women's experiences of empowerment in important social relations, asserting that their re-construction of women's development exemplifies potential healthy empowering human relatedness.21 Surrey (1991) defines empowerment as indicating negotiated understandings in which both participants in an interaction feel mutually heard, validated, and responded to: Each feels empowered through creating and sustaining a context that leads to increased awareness and understanding .. each participant feels enlarged, able to "see" more clearly, and energized to move into action. The capacity to be "moved," to respond, and to "move" the other represents the fundamental core of relational 2 1 I am well aware of the literature that critiques any constructions that potentially essentialize women's nature such as implied by the analyses stemming from the Self-in- Relation theorists who propose women's development and socialization processes as primarily relationally focussed (see for example Holmstrom, 1986, Porter, 1991, & Spelman, 1988). They reflect, however, the ongoing politically motivated debate regarding gender differences and similarities, as well as indicating various attempts to depathologize the dominant constructions regarding women's development. I too exercise caution with regard to such constructions of women's identity, particularly given the lack of exploration of problematic relationships in women's lives, and lack of critique of some of the problematic implications that a 'self-in-relation' identity potentially signifies for many women. Particularly with respect to this thesis and the women with whom I spoke this is a relevant issue and concern. Intimate relationships with their husbands or partners had significant importance to the women I interviewed, yet these women experienced judgment and dismissal by other important individuals in their lives during the course of living with and attempting to leave an abusing partner. I present these theorists here because inspite of my caution I also think they provide intuitive understanding for many women's experiences regarding the role of relationships in their lives, particularly regarding the desires for empathic shared understanding. In addition, I addressed these alternative researchers/theorists here in order to provide a historical and contextual backdrop regarding alternative constructions to conventional research and theory-building, thereby contextualizing my research and analysis. 70 empowerment... This is truly a creative process, since each person is changed through the interaction (p. 167-168). Such historical shifts mirrored in the widening scope and approaches of research and theory development influenced the nature of my research. These shifts provide a framework for engaging with and listening to women's experiences. These critiques that exposed issues of hierarchies, exploitation, and the role of empowerment in standard methodologies and theory production also speak to the manner in which I interacted with the women who participated in my project; an interaction in which it appeared that each of us was affected, "moved," and potentially empowered. Importantly these shifts in theorizing have been accompanied by parallel shifts in methodologies with increasing attention to alternative modes of investigation and analyses including a greater focus on subjective stories or narratives (Gergen, 1985; Laird, 1989; Riessman, 1989, 1993). These authors recognise the interactive and intersubjective processes in research, and endorse collaborative and mutually empowering research. From this perspective hearing is not simply listening, rather "hearing is a process involving a negotiation of understandings" (Levin, 1992, p.48). These negotiations of understanding include multiple exchanges of statements, questions, thoughts, and clarifications. Such theoretical and methodological accommodations have had further important implications for the manner in which I conducted this study, recognizing that I am not a neutral, objective bystander, nor assuming that a shared language means a shared meaning or understanding. This study has documented the ways in which women who have experienced battering make meaning of these events in their lives, how they interpret their victimization, how they define their identities, and perceive themselves. The women I interviewed informed me of their willingness to participate, based first on their expressed wish to help other women in similar situations, and second, three of the women stated they hoped it would enhance public awareness and understanding that experiences of victimization were not the defining features of their relationships, nor of them as women. They indicated some curiosity regarding the destiny of my research, but aside from this the women did not voice particular concerns or specific expectations of me or this project. Qualitative Research The nature of my focus required a methodology that would enable the subjective material to surface and capture the potential diversity, complexity, and richness of the 71 women's experiences. Qualitative research lends itself well to an intersubjective, interactive, collaborative approach for this research focus. More specifically, narrative analysis (Mishler, 1986a; Polkinghorne, 1988; Riessman, 1993) permits sensitivity to and attentive interpretation of personal narratives for illuminating individual self-perceptions and courses of action, as well as the effects of larger social structural-level constraints, comprehending lives simultaneously as individual and as socially or contextually embedded (Personal Narratives Group, 1989). This approach is especially appropriate to this project because narrative analysis emphasizes and privileges the interpretive process that individuals go through in attempting to make sense of complex and painful events in their lives (Riessman, 1988). Consequently I chose to use the ethnographic interview because the focus of ethnography is the study and description of culture, rendering visibility to contextualized lives and experiences (Wolcott, 1985), making certain voices audible (Reinharz, 1992), and employing the Self as research tool in seeking to understand in a self-reflexive manner (Adler & Adler, 1994). Qualitative methodology is congruent with my feminist and constructivist theoretical concerns because it gives prominence to reflexivity in the work, and also because it is most likely to capture the subtleties, complexities, and richness of the women's potentially similar and varied understandings of their victimization experiences. In addition to ethnography, feminist research and social constructivist perspectives have informed my methodology. Each of these paradigms brings different critical challenges to existing universalizing frameworks and research methodologies. For example, researchers working from a feminist perspective have attempted to privilege women's articulations of their subjective experiences and their interpretations, endorsing the explicit belief that subjectivity is an asset and worthy of attention. This is in stark contrast to the positivist framework that distrusts subjectivity, and instead stresses objectivity. Traditionally the distant, presumably more neutral observer was assumed to be capable of presenting a less 'distorted' version of the 'truth.' No perceptions or constructions, however, are completely neutral or objective. Further, although I agree that one can argue that there is a reality outside the Self, it is the Self that organizes this reality and gives it meaning (Stivers, 1993). Women's subjectivity has been central to the construction of this thesis, and is congruent with feminist research. 72 Feminist Research Feminist research, although not a hegemonic perspective, does have some consistent features including: (a) efforts to produce knowledge that is useful to women themselves, relying on methods for gaining this knowledge that are not oppressive (Acker, Barry, & Esseveld, 1983), (b) a commitment to research by women and for women, explicitly locating the researcher on the same critical plane as the participants (Harding, 1987), (c) a political commitment to account for and recognise marginalized individuals or groups (Adler & Adler, 1994; Jacobson, 1989), and (d) an ethic of "believing the interviewee" (Oakley, 1981).2 2 These concerns are mirrored in my subject matter, my choice of female co-researchers/participants, my subjective reflection on and awareness of my own experiences of marginalization, and my recognition that women who have experienced battering represent a marginalized23 group in our society. This project is grounded in women's real lived experiences without making claims that this is the definitive or authoritative text on the issues addressed here (hooks, 1988). I attended to both the feminist concern to intercept hierarchies by conducting collaborative interviews, and to the constructivist agenda to challenge traditional assumptions about the 221 respond here to critiques of qualitative research and narrative inquiry that question the "consistency," "reliability,"or "truth" of participants' stories that reflect positivist constructions of reality as necessarily objective, consensual, replicable, and grounded in singular, unchanging truths. Positivist assumptions are the antithesis to narrative inquiry wherein focus is on subjective, multiple, constructed truths, open to ongoing change, that capture the complexities and create "the evocative true-to-life and meaningful portraits, stories, and landscapes of human experiences that constitute the best test of rigor (and 'truth') in qualitative work" (Sandelowski, 1993). 231 feel compelled to clarify my use of the terms marginal and marginalized individuals and/or groups. I think there are at least a couple of ways of looking at the meaning of these terms. Marginalization is usually intended to imply individuals or groups considered at the margins of society based on any one or a combination of: class, race, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual preference, etc. It seems to me that an operating feature of each of these factors is that the individual or group does not meet certain criteria defined by the dominant culture. In this regard, I think that the definition of marginalization could be expanded upon to include many varied experiences of marginalization and this is my link to women who have experienced battering. These women do not fit mainstream notions of marriage, of wife-hood, of intimate partnerships, of romantic relationships, and from within the lesbian community women who batter or who experience battering do not fit assumptions of what it means to be a woman, of woman-woman relationships, nor of intimacy. We have all internalized these mainstream ideologies, which in turn make it difficult to "come out" about being in a relationship in which battering occurs. Second, I think society in its various structures (e.g., legal, medical, nuclear family) has negated, or has inadequately attended to this issue, and as such has also marginalized women who experience battering, that is, pushed them to the margins by an unwillingness to attend to these issues with appropriate concern, consideration, and care. 73 knower and the known in research by taking the interview material back to the women for their corroboration and elaboration. This research renders visibility to the ways in which these women's stories are unique, complex, and diverse, as well as how they overlap and are similar. Feminist perspectives are congruent with social constructionism. Social Constructionism Social constructionism posits that humans construct what we know and this construction does not occur in a vacuum. Rather it occurs in a variety of social exchanges, in shared language, and in conversations (Gergen, 1985). As humans we interact with each other in a variety of settings including families, educational structures, work places, and various other sociocultural structures, all of which have an impact on how we come to understand or know ourselves and how we make sense of the world around us. Consequently the ways in which we interpret events, make meanings, and integrate knowledges into our lives is socially constructed (Lather, 1991). There is no single, objective, or fixed truth. Instead there are multiple, diverse truths, and people construct meanings in unique and complex ways (Ayers, 1989). I presumed no clear distinction or separation between fact and interpretation (Stiver, 1993). From a social constructivist perspective the implications for research design are that the research must reflect interaction, subjectivity, context, and the recognition that all knowledge and understandings are socially constructed (Lather, 1991) and open to ongoing change (Gergen, 1985). A l l methods are distrusted as being incomplete, partial, culturally bound, and historically located. Hence all knowledge is also only partial, incomplete and located. From this perspective personal narratives from non-mainstream groups often provide counter hegemonic insight because they expose the mainstream perspective as being partial, situated, historically bound, and they reveal lived experiences that resist or contradict mainstream rules and norms. One way in which we construct this knowledge and understanding is through language. Language Language is the invisible force that shapes oral texts and gives meaning to historical events. It is the primary vehicle through which past experiences are recalled and interpreted (Etter-Lewis, 1991, p.44). Language is the means through which we clarify and share meaning, and through which we construct our experiences. Full and meaningful participation in various 74 sociocultural structures and systems implies a need to communicate with and understand each other. To this end we use language, a potentially shared and mutually comprehensible system (Gergen, 1985). Obviously this does not imply perfect communication and understanding at all times. Sometimes clarification is needed and meanings must be negotiated in order to continue social interactions. There is no single way of hearing and understanding, and each individual brings her or his own experience, subjective understandings, and meanings to any engagement. Given the variety of exposures to and expectations from various sociocultural settings, any one person is in effect the site of multiple and diverse discourses. As such language is a place of struggle. Language enables us to reconcile ourselves, to renew, as well as to re-connect and to re-member. Words are meaningful, they are an action and they imply resistance (hooks, 1989). Subjective understandings and meanings may shift or may be radically different (Richardson, 1994). The meaning of language or of words is contingent upon our time and place in history and culture. Language simultaneously reflects and informs our subjective interpretations and responses. For example, Richardson (1994) states that the meaning of violence in an intimate (heterosexual) relationship depends on whether this behavior is perceived as indicating "normal" male violence, the "husband's rights," a "normal marriage," "wife battering," or "wife assault." In contrast to the former phrases that normalize the behavior, the latter two suggest that the violence will be interpreted as inappropriate, reflecting an abuse of power, and hence not to be tolerated. Clearly the same experience may give rise to different interpretations, different meanings, and different responses. As such, language is both internally and externally constitutive, meaning that language is a vehicle that simultaneously enables us to define a Self and to construct our realities, as well as it constructs and delimits our lived experiences. Thus language and the use of language is not a neutral or empty act. Tannen (1986) additionally states that language is multidimensional, and permits communication at several levels. Words at an explicit level provide information about people, ideas, and things, and words at a tacit level convey interpersonal, relational information including notions of having or lacking degrees of privilege, power, and status. Language is important to my method as it is the vehicle through which the co- 75 researchers expressed themselves.24 Polkinghorne (1988) points out that language enables us to re-enter our subjective and emotional experiences, to explore our realities, to give them verbal understanding, thereby providing a subjectively meaningful interpretation of this primary level of our existence. This process of finding meaning in our experiences and giving verbal expression to the meanings via language permits the individual and others in society to think about experience and not just live it. The language chosen mirrors our subjective world and it is this subjectivity in personal narratives, this groundedness in personal experience, located in time, in place, and in perspective, that is considered significant (Personal Narratives Group, 1989; Riessman, 1993). Method Co-researchers/participants When we construct texts collaboratively, self-consciously examining our relations with/for/despite those who have been contained as Others, we move against, we enable resistance to, Othering (Fine, 1994, p.74). Traditionally research in the natural sciences has stressed a dichotomy between the researcher and the participant, a self-Other relationship (Fine, 1994), with the participant- Other being the object under study, being observed, quantified and analysed by the researcher-Expert. In recent years this imbalance has been challenged in various disciplines and attempts are being made to address this inequality in theories and in practices. This project reflects these changes in re-conceptualizing their role as co-researchers, co-creators, co-knowers, and/or narrators, reflective of a different understanding of who is the knower or the expert, and indicating the interactive, intersubjective process central to the interviews (Anderson & Jack, 1991; Kirby & McKenna, 1989; Levin, 1992; Reinharz, 1992). In order to establish greater equity and a more collaborative interaction during the interviews, I spoke openly with the co-researchers regarding this project, indicating that they are the experts in their lives, and that my role was one of learning from them, as they shared their knowledge and understandings with me. For the purpose of initiating this research, I did have specific selection criteria that provided explicit guidelines for determining participation (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984), and my criteria were as follows: (a) heterosexual female or lesbian who has experienced 2 4 It seems fitting at this moment, to clarify that, based on the fact that both the researcher and the co-researchers in this project are women, female pronouns are used in this paper except where it would not be appropriate. 76 battering in an intimate relationship as defined and stated in the Invitation to Participation in a Study (Appendix A), (b) being at least 25 years of age in order to have had some life experience, (c) having fluent English in order to articulate her thoughts and discuss her experiences, (d) not being involved in a relationship in which battering is occurring at the time of the interview, (e) having sufficient distance from the experience(s) of battering to be able to discuss this, (f) having appropriate counselling or other support currently in place, and (g) the ability and willingness to discuss her experiences with the understanding that she can withdraw at any time. In stressing that eligibility for this study meant the ability to discuss her experiences yet have distance from the kind of immediate trauma that is usually connected to the experience of violence, each woman was asked about the recency of her battering experiences in the telephone screening interview (Appendix B). Given the sensitive nature of this topic I also discussed access to counselling or meaningful support with each woman. I advertised through different Women's Centers in the Lower Mainland by distributing letters describing this study, and inviting women who had experienced battering in their intimate relationships to participate (Appendix A). The term "battering" was defined in the letter as well as in the invitation, and I did not question each woman's subjective definitions or interpretations of her experiences regarding battering (Oakley, 1981). A telephone screening interview was then carried out with the women who volunteered. Four women responded and all four women met the selection criteria. Interviews Power is the ability to take one's place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one's part matter (Heilbrun, 1988, p. 18). The interview is an instrument used to gather information or data. It is also an interaction, a sharing of experiences, of thoughts and emotions, and a discourse between two people (Mishler, 1986a, 1986b). The interviewer initiates and responds in a searching manner, following the co-researcher's lead as implied by the information shared, thereby reflecting a joint endeavor (Anderson & Jack, 1991; Reinharz, 1992). The oral interviews provided a means of uncovering these women's experiences in order to gain understanding from their own points of view, and to gain insight into their subjective formulations. The interviews represented a point in the life of each woman when she was being asked to think 77 back over the events that took place in her intimate relationship, to give a retrospective account of the meaning of her experiences in that relationship, and to reconstruct how she saw herself. Each woman chose how to verbalize or articulate what she believed was important or relevant. I found, as stated by Mishler (1986a, 1986b), that each woman readily shared her experiences in storied form with me as an attentive listener enabling her as narrator to continue rather than cutting her off with a specific set of pre-constructed questions. Some literature suggests that in order for a woman to genuinely speak her story, to feel heard and understood, it may be best for her to be interviewed by a woman. It is, however, important to keep in mind that women interviewing women does not automatically presume common understanding. Catherine Riessman (1987) in her research found that "gender was not enough." Women may have difficulty trusting those of us carrying out the research due to various differences such as class, race, ethnicity, age, ability, education, and so forth, as well as differences in the experiences of battering (Reinharz, 1992). I did not assume a common understanding regarding language use or word choice, asking for clarification as deemed necessary so that each woman had an opportunity to explain what she meant. I came to the interview with the assumption that careful listening and hearing with an empathic presence are central to an effective interview process. Using attentive, empathic listening and hearing can enable another woman to develop her thoughts, construct her meaning, and use the language she wishes to use to express herself with authenticity. As such this was a collaborative labor. In the brief telephone screening interview (Appendix B), the conversation was permitted to meander thereby providing an opportunity for the women to voice their thoughts, questions, and/or concerns regarding this project. The goal was to (a) introduce myself and explain this project, (b) ask how long it had been since she was in the relationship in which she had experienced battering, (c) clarify her support system and ensure that she had access to counselling if necessary, and (d) explain her rights as a co- researcher (see Appendix B for Telephone Screening Schedule). My intention was to establish a degree of comfort and rapport. Based on my past research experience, and supported by the literature, participants frequently want to know something about us (see Lather, 1991; Mies, 1993). Furthermore, the "goal of finding out about people through 78 interviewing is best achieved when the relationship of interviewer and interviewee is non- hierarchical and when the interviewer is prepared to invest... her own personal identity" (Oakley, 1981, p.41). It was made clear that participation was completely voluntary, that any questions they had at any time were welcome, that they could end or break the interview at any time or choose not to respond to or expand on particular experiences (Kirby & McKenna, 1989). The co-researchers were not viewed as passive participants. The telephone screening was followed by an in-depth semi-structured interview (Appendix D) for which I prepared some questions in advance. This type of interview permits freedom within the interview itself, yet also provides some guidance (Bernard, 1994). The semi-structured interview is flexible enough to foster a sense of being participant-guided, while concurrently supporting an interactive relationship in the interview. Before we proceeded with the interview I provided each of the co-researchers with a consent form (Appendix C) that I reviewed with her and again, answered any questions that arose. She was given a copy. Following the semi-structured interview, having completed the transcriptions and analyses of this round of interviews, I again contacted the women in order to clarify, elaborate, and/or corroborate what I had heard the women tell me. When I attempted to contact the women for this second interview, two of the women had moved, three of the women had new telephone numbers, and one of these was an unlisted number. Nevertheless, I was able to contact all four women, but despite this contact I was able to set up a second interview with only three of the four women. The fourth woman was in the process of moving and asked that I call again at a later date. Due to unsuccessful further attempts, however, I did not complete a second interview with her in spite of her expressed eagerness to meet again. The other women, too, verbalized that they were happy to meet for a second interview, and the second interview with each woman seemed even more comfortable and congenial than the first interviews had. In the second interview, my questions reflected both the uniqueness of individual women's responses based on their first interview, as well as questions that focussed on the commonalities among the four women. I had generated the latter questions based on my analysis of the first interviews and these questions primarily initiated a clarification process whereby I had the opportunity to check that I had understood what the co-researchers had told me (Sandelowski, 1993), reflecting my concern for accuracy of representation of the 79 women's stories and self-perceptions. This interview permitted an occasion to negotiate meanings, to seek clarification and mutual understanding, thereby further empowering the co-researchers. This second interview in part reflects my belief that this material belongs especially to them and that they should be given an opportunity to comment. The women were given time to reflect on and respond with regard to the completeness and accurate representation in my questions or points of analysis (Flinders, 1992; Kirby & McKenna, 1989; Lather, 1991; Sandelowski, 1993). My intent and purpose was to involve the co- researchers and to further encourage reciprocity within the practical and ethical considerations of doing this research. Listening and Hearing as Method Listening is the ground of being upon which stories grow, against which story exists, and out of which Storytelling weaves her particular magic. All voices have access to stories, all beings have access to voices; it is the act of listening that makes story manifest, makes it happen.... Sometimes it is difficult to imagine even a single listener (Arnott, 1994, p.28). Oral interviews are important for uncovering women's experiences as these experiences have often been rendered invisible in our society. This may be particularly true for marginalized individuals or groups. With this in mind listening and hearing are tools to comprehending the thoughts, ideas, and experiences of the narrator. Anderson and Jack (1991) caution that the woman whose own voice has been "muted ... may be speaking two conflicting views in her life," that of the dominant and that of her own. It requires attentive, empathic listening to hear both of these voices. We have learned to construct our experiences in mainstream language and dominant concepts because that is what is available to us.25 It is important to listen for the different levels from which the narrator responds. This is done by asking, exploring, and listening to the meaning that she attaches to the words she uses, uncovering her interpretation of the events in her life. Anderson and Jack (1991) suggest a listening that hears what the woman implied, intimated, started to say but stopped, a listening that pays attention to the pauses, encouraging the woman to interpret 25 I am well aware that authors (e.g., Anderson & Jack, 1991) would probably say "women" instead of we, but I hesitate to do this because I think men too have internalized the dominant language and self-concepts. I also realize that structural inequalities in our society have permitted white middle-class men as a group greater privilege, and as such this experience of having internalized a dominant view and dominant self-concepts has very different gendered consequences, further complicated by issues of race, class, sexual orientation, and so forth. 80 and explain what she means in her own terms. Listening and hearing reflect a process of negotiating meanings and understandings, and it is critical to do this work explicitly throughout the interviews, rather than relying on assumptions of common meanings or understandings with regard to the use of specific words or language. The telling of one's story is never simply the end-product of that story. What happens with that story depends upon the listening. Anderson and Jack (1991) suggest three ways to listen. The first is listening for the person's "moral language" because this reflects the gap between what that person values and what others value. Central to my interviews was my attempt to permit each woman as narrator to define her construction of her self-image/identity and her perceptions of how others construct these. She is the expert on her experiences, and on her psychological and emotional well-being. Additionally this permitted hearing the two levels of self-descriptions, one centered in her own perceptions and the other centered in external perceptions or expectations that she has internalized.26 The second way of listening suggested by Anderson and Jack (1991) is to listen for "meta-statements" in the interview. Meta-statements are indicated in moments when the narrator stops talking, thinks about what she is saying and articulates these thoughts as though she were watching her own thinking processes. Meta-statements are indicated by statements that begin with "do I sound like and they indicate the narrator's experience of a potential discrepancy between what she is saying and what she thinks might be 26 These statements are somewhat problematic to me as they raise the question of whether it is possible to separate out how I see myself/what I want/hope for me (i.e., my internal voice) from how others see me/what they want from/for me (the external dominant voice about women or about anyone), given that at some point, these really are inseparable and not simply a neat dichotomy. Nevertheless, I think there is some intuitive/reality-based "truth" to the experience that we often do function out of two distinct/overlapping voices in us, reflecting the struggle of the dominant versus my subjective voice; the culturally acceptable mode versus my own. [See, for example, Michelle Fine's (1994) analysis of working at the hyphen (self-other) in research but which I think can be extended into other arenas in our lives]. To further illustrate a similar point, Jack (Anderson & Jack, 1991) refers to an interview in which she asks a woman to clarify what she meant by stating she was "very dependent." The response was "I like closeness. I like companionship" (p.21). A similar example came from my own work in a women's clinic 2 years ago hearing women refer to themselves as "codependent." Asked to clarify this term, their self- description simply did not imply the pathology inherent in the dominant codependency literature. Hence I was struck by the dominant voice that was re-presented in the use of such terms, and simultaneously recognizing that at times the use of such terms played a facilitative role. In other words, I respect the potential of the word(s) to be personally meaningful and/or functional. The point here is to illustrate the tension between the notion that on the one hand our use of the language cannot be easily divided up into the "dominant" or "subjective" voices, while on the other hand these constructs reflect a lived reality. 81 expected of her in the interview. This process implies the underlying difficulties this person has in trusting and accepting her own perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, and values. The third way of listening is reflected in attending to the "logic of the narrative" by noticing internal consistencies and inconsistencies. These may reflect specifically salient issues for the woman or indicate dichotomous ways of thinking, such as either/or statements. Again, this is a method for uncovering her underlying processes, or understanding how she attaches meaning to her experiences and how she identifies herself within those experiences. The narrator must be given an opportunity to explain her meaning in her own terms. In addition to careful listening, it was critical to use a self-reflexive, self-listening method throughout the interviews, and, in part this concern reflects my training as a counsellor. In the interviews I was aware of my own thoughts in response to what was being said, I trusted my internal responses, and chose when to articulate this in a nondisruptive manner in order to foster further exploration. In addition, I was aware of any feelings and thoughts indicating discomfort and/or confusion for me, using these as internal indicators or guides in the interview in order to obtain clarification (Anderson & Jack, 1991). Finally, based on my work as a counsellor, I know it is prudent to respect and honor the narrator's appropriate need for privacy, to value her sense of integrity and limits, and not to pursue what she did not wish to share. I recognise that the context of these interviews was such that they were not therapy or counselling sessions and consequently I refrained from responding to the narrator in a manner that would be more in keeping with counselling work. Nevertheless, on two or three occasions I felt compelled to respond, based on my personal ethical considerations not to turn a blind eye, by providing what seemed to be appropriate and necessary information. Narratives Sometimes it is difficult to imagine even a single listener. Sometimes, it is painful to remember having been received, heard, accepted, for the contrast made to the usual responses we gather from the world and her people. When we invite Storytelling to come through, sometimes we can't hear anything at first. Then a stutter, cough, choke, like rusty old pipes that have long lain unused. The first trickles of wet sound may carry such brilliant red dust that we are fooled into thinking we seeing wounding rather than healing.. When we invite Storytelling to come through, and we hear silence, coughing, sputtering, see something wet and red, it is necessary for us to keep listening. The unpredictability of Storytelling is sure to come through, to honour us. ( Arnott, 1994, p.29). 82 Narratives, according to Polkinghorne (1988), are schemes that enable us to give significance to our personal experiences and our behaviors. They provide a framework for understanding temporal events and deciding on further actions. They are a fundamental widespread means of making the events in our lives meaningful. Narratives are ubiquitous, occurring readily in our families, amongst friends, and in our culture. In shared dialogues, personal narratives recapture every detail of an event or exchange in our attempts to engage another. In addition to narratives being a widespread, familiar, and accessible practice, they have strategic benefits. Narrative retelling in the counselling or therapeutic context enables an individual to make sense of various events or behaviors by making the appropriate links (Polkinghorne, 1988; Riessman, 1989). Storying our lives permits us to connect with other ongoing stories, to deconstruct and reconstruct our own and larger narratives in the context of our culture and to see how our stories are socially embedded (Laird, 1989). The self-narrative is a process of exploring and affirming one's identity, strengthened by making sense of our experiences and understanding their coherence. As already stated, the interviews for this project are not therapy sessions. Notwithstanding this, I concur with Riessman (1989), that the process of understanding how we construct our identity and how we come to attach meaning and coherence to specific, even painful events from our lives, in any therapy session, could well be similar to the process in narrative interviews given the focus in these interviews. The interviews, however, were not therapy sessions.27 Finally, for women who have experienced marginalization, this process of storying, of giving voice to their experiences, is potentially validating and empowering. I 27 I believe there are many therapeutic (i.e., empowering and healing) exchanges that occur outside therapy sessions under conditions where there is a genuine authentic caring interaction between two people, and in which either and/or both feel heard. Hence I come to these interviews with a broad understanding of what is potentially therapeutic without minimizing the impact that a specific interview intended with my particular focus, could have. The early consciousness raising groups initiated by the Women's Movement are a practical example of empowerment and healing that occurred as a result of women listening to each other's stories. Furthermore, the proliferation in counselling and therapy services over recent decades is potentially a critique of a society wherein individuals have forgotten to engage in genuine empathic listening such that therapy would not have become the industry that it has. With respect to the four women in this study, I was struck by those aspects of their stories in which they experienced not being heard or being seen, of being rendered invisible and inaudible by those people close to them in their lives at times when they were experiencing battering. Had they been genuinely heard they may not have needed to seek out "professionals" who, based on the women's narratives, it must be said were also not all necessarily consistently helpful, empathic, or empowering either. 83 am referring here specifically to the degrees of privilege reflected in the politics of narrativization or of storymaking (Laird, 1989). Certain narratives in our society are privileged over others; some are given hearing whereas others are not; some are re- membered and others are not. Relatedly, Mishler (1986b) posits that empowerment is experienced as a consequence of an interview setting in which the narrator is given more latitude and control over the interview content and direction than is traditionally done in conventional interview-based research. Mishler (1986b) also states that empowerment may occur as a result of a participant's deeper understanding initiated by the experience of speaking in one's own voice, making sense of one's experiences, affirming one's identity and knowing oneself to be a contributing member of society. Narratives in my project are defined as stories told by the women being interviewed, reflected in the process of the women storying their experiences. Polkinghorne (1988) defines narrative as a kind of organizing scheme that is expressed in story form. "Human agency and imagination determine what gets included and excluded in narrativization, how events are plotted and what they are supposed to mean. Individuals construct past events and actions in personal narratives to claim identities and construct lives" (Riessman, 1993, p.2). Narrative analysis is appropriate for studies looking at subjectivity and identity precisely because it focuses on and gives credence to human agency and imagination. The Process of Analysing the Interviews The goal here was not to predict but perhaps to extend our sense of the possible by portraying some of the bredth and scope ... (Ayers, 1989, p.4). Eroding the fixedness of categories, we and they enter and play with the blurred boundaries that proliferate (Fine, 1994, p.72). In my analysis of the transcripts I was not seeking a grand narrative or a comprehensive theory, nor did I wish to tidy up contradictions. My intention in the analysis is to document and present the voices heard throughout the interviews. After each interview as well as throughout the process of analysing the transcripts, I kept a journal in which I reflectively wrote any thoughts, questions, and/or responses I had for possible follow-up. In this manner the process of analysing starts early on in qualitative research (Marshall & Rossman, 1989). The first step toward analysing is transcription of the interviews and I followed closely Bell's (1988) format of transcribing interviews. I 84 retained as many features as possible of the narrator's expressions, noting nonverbal expressions during the interview. Nonlexical utterances, "urns" and "uhs," hesitant speech, stops and starts, as well as repetitions were left intact because this degree of detail demonstrates how their stories emerged and reflects how we commonly construct and articulate our thoughts. Analysing the women's narratives initially required reading and re-reading their transcripts several times in order to become intimately familiar with the contents (Mishler, 1986a). Reading through the transcripts I underlined words, phrases, and sentences that appeared to stand out. I then read through the underlined transcripts pulling out these underlined sections as possible quotes. In this second step some of these potential quotes became longer than the initial underline may have indicated because the longer version seemed more complete. A l l quotes were arranged in a left-hand column on the computer such that I could carry out the analysis on the right. I read through these quotes, frequently referring back to the original transcript to check for accuracy, and I made notes in the right hand column based on the co-researcher's words, often using her words to capture her point. I then highlighted these key words and went through the columns of quotes pulling out some of the highlighted words that appeared to imply repeating themes. In pulling out these themes I noted counter-themes, that is, the ways in which each woman spoke differently with respect to a particular theme and also ways in which her own narrative addressed diametrically different aspects of a theme. In this fashion the boundaries of a theme were kept flexible and in my many readings of the transcriptions I often added further content from the transcripts where it seemed appropriate to extend the quotes or add new quotes. Last, I read through the quotes and the highlighted words, inserting comments and thoughts for writing up the analysis. My frequent return to the original transcriptions and re-reading of the quotes reflected an attentiveness to the content of the women's narratives in order to allow the complexity and diversity in the material to remain intact. Narratives are meaning-making structures and therefore it is critical that the narratives be preserved, not fractured, by the researcher, during the analysis (Riessman, 1993). The respondents' ways of constructing meaning and self-perceptions must be respected. To avoid imposing my interpretations I relied primarily on direct usage of the co-researcher's words. 85 Narratives are socially embedded and historically situated, and therefore the analysis must also address the impact of the broader sociocultural context on the women's narratives (Mishler, 1986b). This further analysis was conducted using "disciplined abstractions" (Lofland, 1976) that were grounded in the concrete articulated realities of the women's words, that is, I moved back and forth from the concrete episodes, events, actions, and so forth in the women's lives, to the broader, more abstract context and meaning of their everyday lives, bell hooks (1989) states that all theory emerges in the realm of the abstraction, event that which emerges from the most concrete of everyday experiences. My goal.. is to take that abstraction and articulate it in a language that renders it accessible - not less complete or rigorous - but simply more accessible, (p.39) The process of abstraction permits us to create and name realities, to see and understand what might otherwise be left invisible. Isolated abstractions not grounded in social realities, however, can become disorienting, debilitating, and meaningless. Therefore these abstractions must be grounded by "continual reference to and interplay with concrete" qualitative content (Lofland, 1976). The interplay between abstractions and concrete episodes/events, results in an emergent portrait rendering visibility to both the situation and the strategies that are grounded in the everyday world. In this thesis, using the women's own words, I explicate the events, actions, interactions in their day-to-day experiences, and extrapolate from these experiences to the broader sociocultural context in which they/we live. 86 Chapter Five: Hearing More From the Women We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups. It's a natural tendency, since we must see the world in patterns in order to make sense of it; we wouldn't be able to deal with the daily onslaught of people and objects if we couldn't predict a lot about them and feel that we know who and what they are. But this natural and useful ability to see patterns of similarity has unfortunate consequences. It is offensive to reduce an individual to a category and it is also misleading. - (Tannen, 1990, p. 16) In my interviews with the women who participated in this study, although I asked some basic questions to facilitate their story-telling, I was not looking or listening for one consistent story nor was it my intention to elicit particular kinds of experiences or subjective interpretations. Hence, the women's narratives vary as they each chose different stories to exemplify what they wanted to portray and what they felt was relevant or important. The combination of similar and diverse subjective descriptions of their experiences challenge any presumed homogeneity of women's experiences in relationships in which they experience battering, yet each woman also contributed to a larger understanding of their overlapping experiences of what it might mean to live in a relationship in which battering occurs. The women's stories, taken from their larger interview narratives, have been organized around recurrent and similar themes that arose in speaking with the women. In contrast to Chapter Two, where I focus on the women's self-introductions within a cultural context, the purpose here is to go beyond these self-portraits. In that earlier chapter the women simply presented stories of their family relations, whereas in this chapter I focus on the ways in which the women interpreted and spoke about the impact of their families of origin, their personal histories, and the role of friends or others as relative to their relationships. I conclude this chapter with a discussion based on excerpts from their narratives that indicate cultural dictates with regard to the public/private split, particularly regarding intimate relationships. Although the women described oppressive experiences regarding their families and their partners, based on their stories they did not portray themselves as merely passive victims of hegemonic relations of oppression. Instead, they provided accounts of why and how they responded and acted, constructing their choices as rational, reasonable, and understandable within their circumstances. Hence, they actively negotiated the boundaries 87 of what is considered normalcy, presenting their decisions and their behaviors as means of attempting to make changes, to maintain or take charge of various aspects of their lives, and to make sense of their contexts. Family of Origin Experiences Each of the women volunteered in their own words descriptions of their families of origin indicating the important role this played in their lives. They stipulated that a meaningful part of their understanding the events in their lives included looking back to their original families and thinking about the various messages they had received. They spoke of these histories as implying a piece or pieces in a puzzle. Elsie described strained family relations, and in particular spoke about the pained relationship with her father, indicating the hurt she felt, stating that this relationship has remained abusive to this day: ..1 came to Canada .. and my parents - first of all they couldn't afford to keep me which was a blessing 'cuz I lived for a while with an aunt and she was kind. That was the first person in my life that had really showed me some - some love and kindness - so that was really good .. I've never felt that I'd mattered because my dad just - because he always told me I was stupid and good for nothing I was, and lazy and that I'd never amount to anything. And then when we moved to Canada, he told my aunt - he says - she's stupid, she's no good for anything, just - she's 16, just send her out to be a waitress (teared up - pause). And so she says no way, she's going to High School and I-I graduated in 2 years on the university program - I wasn't even speaking English so I did alright. That was good for me but - he would never admit that that's what he said .. Later in the interview she went on to describe her current still painful relationship with her father whom she does not like to visit: .. my dad abuses me every time I go down there. He still abuses me - (since marrying) I very rarely went down there (to parents) for Christmas because the minute I got in the door my father would start after me. Even when he came up here to visit - you can't make coffee, that's not how you make coffee. See those pictures - they shouldn't hang like that, what's this? - this is a mess - you should do it this way, and I would say, can you see that flower up there, it's red, (he'd say) - it's not red, it's blue - like that - everything I'd say, nothing, if I'm - before I finish the sentence it's no .. even to this day when I see him I just -1 actually hate him. Even-even, you know, on the phone he'll start abusing me - well, how's your weight - like - not how are you, or how are you feeling - how's your weight. Elsie described being the focus of and receiving much criticism, which in turn, resulted in her turning against her father. Elsie spoke of her family of origin experiences as having an impact on her sense of self, as providing a schema from which she had learned how to interpret or handle later experiences. For example, Elsie stated: .. I guess I blame my dad and it's not a nice thing but I sort of blame him for my 88 weakness, for making me like this. Why did he not treat me so I wouldn't be like this and take abuse from the next person so - so I could have my self esteem so I would have been able to-to-to lead a quote "normal" (indicates the quotations with her fingers) life, the strength to stand up to some of this or even to recognise it for not being right. In addition to focussing on her father figure as Elsie had, Care also spoke about her family more generally: I think I was very sheltered when I lived at home .. it was very controlling. My father would - you were to be seen and not heard, you do as I say, not as I do - um - we never discussed anything in the house about how we felt - (pause) - um -1 guess it was abusive at home too- emotionally abusive. I can remember my dad coming home from work and we'd all scatter because, you know, we were afraid of him and my mom - my mom didn't seem to do anything - um - but she would always try and push us - well, go and talk to your dad or go and ask your dad. I remember that - (thinking) I don't want to ask him (said between clenched teeth and very softly).. Then it got to the point where you didn't even ask, you just didn't bother to ask and you missed out on lots of stuff but - (pause) - we got no encouragement - no - (said with a smile) even though you know all us kids were great! Care's description of the overall impact of her family of origin is somewhat different than Elsie's. Her experience of feeling controlled in her family resulted in feeling she had to: .. cut them out of my life - because I was embarrassed -1 wasn't going to tell them what was going on - 'cuz I knew better somewhere in - (points to her head and her heart) - in there, you know .. Despite this she also mentioned that her family had provided her with a foundation of what she was capable of and of specific values: .. they had taught me differently even though their relationship wasn't wonderful either - I had a building block - a pretty good one (pause).. I mean even though in those years I did participate in all that garbage and stuff (with my husband) but in my head I knew this isn't right, this isn't the way I was brought up, this is not how I wanted it to be - (pause) - (and later).. I knew I was a smart person -1 mean my background. I mean I came from a family where education was important and I went on to college and university - mind you, I didn't finish but I went and I could have - if I hadn't gotten involved in these relationships. So I think I had a good building block.. Care's words suggest that in spite of parental struggles this did not and does not necessarily interfere with her internalizing alternative messages, and in spite of her other relationships the: building block., just didn't get smashed to pieces. It was still there and I can keep building on it . . Her formulation implies her own resiliency and ability to move on. In the second interview Care made her past family experiences contiguous with her present by describing the 89 orderliness in her life now: I think my past was linked to my future -1 was just thinking that I have gone back to my family - to how it was at home, because my life is much more under control now. I don't go running around and - it's disciplined - um I mean a situation came up where I - um (pause) - on very short notice somebody wanted me to go somewhere and I-I said well, no, I'm sorry, you need to give me more notice. I mean I have to get a sitter.. Care indicated that her life as a young middle-aged adult has changed and that she feels more in control of her life. Echoing Elsie and Care, Kathleen also indicated that her past experiences in her family of origin were linked to her later choices. She described this as: I was labelled as a bad girl -1 was not a bad girl. . . I didn't feel - lovable. Well, it's based on the fact that it's been said to you that you're not a very lovable person and that you're the problem - you're the reason there's a problem. So you're the problem in the home and then I became the problem in the marriage. Something made me feel like the third and least loved daughter and-uh -1 went from the problem child to the problem wife. I didn't see it that way at the time -1 thought this was like a new beginning and that I would be accepted for whom I am and boom! -1 wasn't! That's why I stayed - because you're learning this behavior, you're learning this attitude about yourself from him and it really was like -1 was only 19 and he was 21 and it really was like he became my parent. Those were the kinds of things he did to me - do this , do that. It became the same kind of control that my parents had because in those days at 19 you were still not an adult - you had to be 21. Her family experiences provided a dominant thread in her life's cloth and Kathleen went on to narrate how in stepping back she began to be able to recognise this dominant thread as it had interwoven with other threads in her life. It was important for me to understand the role my family had for me, to understand what my relationship with my husband was about. A l l I can say is that I had tried every avenue to try and figure out what was wrong with this marriage and then my thought processes were that I had left home - that was to get away and to become myself - to be an adult - to be in control of my life - not answering to parents and in doing so I walked into something that became exactly the same thing and I wasn't happy with that. I wanted to have some control in my life. I didn't want someone dictating to me about every aspect of my life .. I tried to stand up to (husband) but standing up to him got me hit - got me hurt - got me - emotionally battered - uh - calling me names .. and my reaction to everything now is that they started this off - as a child and so thinking over it all - that's how I sorted out why I was behaving the way I was .. Kathleen indicated that she had internalized a way of thinking about herself with which she came into her marriage. She went on to convey an example of how past learning surfaced in her marriage: Oh, it was helpful for me to see the similarities between my family and my husband - and one of them was my response to anger and-um - um battering. I'd seen my 90 mother abused .. there'd be arguments but my mother would do something that I learned I did - um - she'd go away quietly by herself and cry and get ov-get it out of her system and then come back as if nothing was hap-would happen and that's what I would do .. you don't even know you're doing it, but that's what you learned. So that was an insight. (She added) I did try to stand up to him but that got me hit.. Kathleen suggested that standing up for herself brought out more violence so that one of the reasons she withdrew to deal with her response was to prevent her husband's violent outburst. She also indicated that the picture was more complex than this, however, based on having children and wanting to protect her children as much as she could at the time. So when he: took everything he could find - glass - and he (points across a fairly large room) - from about that fridge to that wall - smashed it on the fireplace. I was frantic - and I looked at my little girls - they woke up and they were holding hands in the hall - looked at them .. thought what am I going to do. I'm going to get my brother-in- law .. I knew the girls were safe - he would never hurt them - got in my car, a few blocks away, bring him back and he-he calmed him down .. He was drunk and he finally went to sleep - and the next day - 1 mean our house was a mess - 1 - I got up early and just cleaned it up. I did it because I didn't want my children seeing that. When Kali spoke about her family of origin in the context of her marital experiences she handled this somewhat differently than the other women. In the first interview she focussed more on her first husband's family as portraying a pattern which at that time was not readily recognized: That family was just a series of-of-of-uh - like the grandfather and father before that - alcohol in that family, um - majorly .. but I guess, you know, you didn't recognise that then .. and (besides) he had a really close relationship with his mother, the violence in the house was between his father and like he had several brothers.. (and) I had this silly notion that (pause) he didn't like the way his father treated his mother and he wouldn't necessarily treat me that way .. Kali indicated that she had believed, based on his positive relationship with his mother and his criticism of how his father behaved, that he would be different. Furthermore notions of family patterns were not as prominent, particularly in the lay public, at that time, given that she is talking about a time almost two decades ago. About her own family she mentioned that "it was verbally abusive at times" and consequently she was eager to leave home as an older teen. In terms of linking her marriage to her parents relationship with regard to modelling violent behaviors she made the point that: I think in my first relationship it was like .. I guess this is what happens in relationships and yet that wasn't my parent's relationship.. In the second interview, she developed the issue of one's past influencing future behaviors 91 further. By exploring this issue within a larger sociocultural context with regard to women who are in relationships in which they experience battering, she addresses the fact that there is no simple correlation between our experiences in our families of origin and our future relationships: Sure there is a link, but that is part of our socialization as women as well - um - in terms of the family of origin stuff - lots of women who have had no traumatic things in their pasts end up in abusive relationships as well, and stay in them because we're socialized to stay in them, you know, so there's - socialized to stay in them in that we're supposed to be the-um - the emotional glue that keeps relationships together .. so that can happen to any woman but I think what happens with - and I'm just speaking for me and my experience of having those things from my childhood or my past that actually made me just that much more vulnerable to staying in that kind of a situation. I think it can happen to-to any woman just because of the kind of culture that we live in - but-um - for women that have had other issues like sexual abuse or whatever - that just leaves them that much more without protection from that and feeling more responsible also - um - to make things - to make things work out (pause).. Kali clarifies that although there is a link between our pasts, current, and future experiences, there are other factors that interact with our expectations about relationships and our learning how to negotiate intimate relationships. Other factors include the responses that the women received when they attempted to talk about their relationships with various family members. With respect to the response from her parents, Elsie said: They won't listen to it . . they said what do you want us to do about it? .. I got no support from my parents - nor my brother, who works as a counsellor with people. (My husband) is charming - everyone loves him .. so nobody believes you. Elsie indicated a lack of support or validation from family members, even from her brother whom she thought would understand given his occupation in the helping profession. Care described an initial similar lack of understanding and compassion, but then went on to speak of a shift that happened within her family towards her when she left the second time. .. they didn't understand abuse and the issue of abuse and - and sometimes - well, the first time around they would make judgmental statements - like you should be doing this and you that - (and) I told you so - and I couldn't handle that, (and) the support had strings attached (meaning if I didn't comply I heard) then you can't stay here anymore or you had better find somewhere else to live - on your own, but this time around they're - they're educating themselves. My mother is educating herself, his mother is educating herself - not-not as overtly as my mom .. my dad doesn't understand but he - I think he admires my strength because he had - he sees how well (son) has turned out - okay - despite all of this and .. he's pleased about that and he sees that I'm-uh stronger this time. Care conveyed a process and interaction involving both her and her family. Initially, sensing their judgment, she became isolated but later was able to shift this isolation from 92 her family back to being connected with them. In addition to portraying her own process, she described the effect her family's alternate responses had on her. She narrates the shift that moved from at first: I'm just trying not to be seen, I don't want anybody to see me, and make judgment or criticize or anything .. within my family .. I didn't want any attention drawn to me because I didn't want to have to explain anything .. I just didn't want anybody to ask me anything. I didn't want to say that there was something wrong .. because it was like T told you so' to later including her family: ... towards the end of our relationship I was getting out more - um - with my family and that and I was - letting uh-uh towards the end of the relationship I was letting them know - well, he is hurting me .. at which point her family, as well as his family, were able to be more supportive of her. She described her visit to his mother: I went to visit (his) mother 'cuz she was - I told her that he had broken my nose because they had encouraged me to go - don't let this one get by you .. arrest him, leave him, charge him. He can't do this to you anymore. In our second interview, Care described the overall development within his family, shifting from not knowing what was happening between Care and their son to knowing, and how they responded: I didn't want others to know .. even his family. I didn't want his family to know 'cuz we went to all his family functions - all of them. They always thought everything was okay because I'd always worked these double shifts or whatever.. and there was always - everybody had a Christmas present, and -1 mean -1 worked really hard and-um - and when it came crashing down - um - their family - you see my family always knew and their family didn't know and now they really know and they are experiencing their stuff now -1 mean - the mother is in denial and the daughters are just - but that family is divided - very divided. The mother has changed her position. She went into court with him on the custody issue - she had changed her position. She holds a double standard - and now I don't speak with her. I try and maintain contact for (son) - some of it's his dad's responsibility now but I make sure that (son) remembers their birthdays and sends cards and that sort of stuff. That's just with the mother, not with his siblings - it's different. I get along with them and I feel safe - they've been very good to me. That family's divided - the daughters have a concern about my son whereas his mother has a concern about her son. In her statements, Care explored her difficult process as she meandered between letting family members know and getting the support and validation she needed. These factors interacted with her ability to include her family members in her painful experiences at different times. Kathleen gave one example of turning to her parents and her feelings of being 93 spumed away: I had reached out for help when I was 21. My daughter was - um - just a year old. I went home, and my husband was being terrible and had been hitting me and staying out and I - I'd go to my parents on Friday nights - 21 years old with a baby - it's like your life is over.. I wanted to go out with my partner but my partner was the one who was out, going out, having a good time, and I'm the one who's being the mom .. I'd had enough - and I didn't like being hit either. So I told my parents - and my father said - Kathleen, go back and try one more time .. and I saw that as being - (teared up) - that they didn't want to get involved, didn't want to be bothered, so we actually ended up living with them for about 2 years while we purchased a home .. She went on to talk about her somewhat confusing experience wherein, although she had turned to her father for protection from her husband, she then had to protect her husband from her father: .. my father at that time was still drinking - like he could be nasty himself.. there'd been words between them but what (husband) didn't know is my father was approaching him with this - two by four - when his back was turned and he was going to clobber him over the head and I didn't think that was fair. So, ironically, Kathleen stepped in and prevented a violent disaster in a situation where she was herself asking for protection. Many years later in Kathleen's life, when her mother was in her 80s and Kathleen first left her husband she did stay with her mother, apparently receiving acceptance and support at that time. By that time, both her daughters were grown lip and had left home. During the years just prior to leaving her husband, Kathleen describes the rare occasion when in desperation, she would talk with her adult daughters about her marriage, and again, her experience was one of being rebuffed: .. when my eldest daughter phoned and asked 'what's wrong' -1 said I'm having a tough time and then I started to cry - (she said) oh for god's sake mother get off it. . (and in another phone call with my other daughter who said) 'oh jesus, well, what the christ am I going to do and hung up' - yeh, it wasn't fair to do that to her (voice lowers) but I didn't know where else to turn. Kathleen found it difficult to obtain appropriate supportive help. If family members are unwilling or unable to provide help, then how much more difficult it must be to turn to someone outside the family. She spoke of the pain of experiencing her children's denial that their father had ever assaulted their mother: .. why did my kids turn against me the first time (of leaving)? Why did they do this? They even said - no they'd never seen any abuse - (pause) - and, well, they did later acknowledge, yes - they'd seen it because they heard a scream, they came running in the house and here I am with a bleeding back.. On another occasion when she was speaking with one of her daughters, she encountered a 94 somewhat different lack of support: I remember my daughter when I was 42, and-and-uh he'd been nasty - she was calling long distance and she said mother-um - something about why d'you put up with that - and I said, well, I don't have to put up with it -1 know that I could - I didn't say that I had choices but I did say -1 could leave. She said, oh mother, for heaven's sake - you're 42 years old, who's going to want you - you're an old woman (laughs) - and well I was thinking - she doesn't know but there is a man who was calling me and writing me letters at the time so I thought - yeh, well what does she know? (laughs) It might have set me back another 10 years if there hadn't been - it was not that other men didn't, you know, become interested in me -1 just wasn't interested - that was not what I wanted. Kathleen indicated how her own alternative knowledge helped her remain immune to the lack of support and potential hurtfulness in her daughter's comment. She implies that sometimes alternative scripts or images are necessary in order to imagine different circumstances, without necessarily acting or wanting to act on them. Kali too, articulated experiences of interacting with family members that were invalidating and lacking in support. She spoke of trying to talk with both her own and her first husband's families: .. and I guess also a lot of stuff was going on - it's easy to see in retrospect - like trying to talk with his mom or his, you know, his sister, who was my best friend, about it and their attitude is kind of like 'well, that's the way men are' and 'take up knitting' or blah-blah-blah, you know, that kind of thing and not really saying a whole lot to my own family - um - for the simple reason - their attitude was, well, you made your bed and you lie in it, and so I did - for 8 1/2 years. Her words suggest that finding no support in her family structures, she too experienced being dismissed. It appears that both families saw the situation from what are often unspoken widespread perceptions or generalizing assumptions about how men behave and how women ought to handle such men's behaviors, as well as assuming that having made a decision, she would have to live with it. In addition to narrating their families' responses to their experiences of living in relationships in which battering occurred, the women also spoke of hearing a variety of other voices outside their families. The Role of Friends' Perceptions and Others' Responses Although the women rarely spoke in the interviews about the responses of others to their experiences, they nevertheless, did mention a few voices that ranged from providing support and validation to judgment and shame. Elsie briefly described a friend who questioned: .. why is she doing this, why is she torturing herself with this man? She knew I 95 could do a lot of things because I ran my own company while I was trying to raise my kids and I had done secretarial work, ran a party center with bar and (various activities). I did everything and in the summer when the (center) was closed I painted it. So she knew all those things. Further to addressing her friend's perception, Elsie alludes to the complexity and multifaceted nature of being human, such that having accomplishments and being proficient in some areas of her life did not necessarily translate or take care of challenges in other aspects of her life. Hence, although Elsie was a 'Jane' of all trades, her diverse abilities and energies did not necessarily empower her to end the relationship at that time. Positive perceptions from friends may be helpful but they too may not be enough as indicated by Elsie's interpretation of her friend's challenges: .. (she asked) why do you put up with this? I would never put up with this for two minutes, you've put up with it for 20 years - why? Why do you subject yourself to this - he's crazy. He wouldn't last 2 minutes in my house. Towards the end I felt good about what she was saying - (but) when she first started saying this .. when I would once in a while I would tell her about the spats we had, and she would say this is not normal, and I wouldn't believe her, I just thought she had a different reality than me maybe. Elsie's interpretation of her friend's statements suggests that pacing and process were an important part of understanding what her marital relationship was about. Elsie stated it was important to hear positive and challenging perceptions, as these made her consider her situation further: .. when I tried to talk to old neighbors and they validated me somewhat and even to hear what they thought about the situation - that was good. (They said) my god, he treats you like that? I never heard of anything like that - and that woke me up. I needed to hear that from somebody else. (As well as) I met somebody the other day that hadn't seen me for quite a while and she said you know, you had fear in your eyes all the time. She says your eyes look better .. (and) my friend - she says you know when you're not with him, you're a totally different person .. you're much more relaxed - 'cuz I wasn't on guard or scared to say something that I would get heck for later. Elsie used the word "somewhat" implying hesitancy in her neighbor's validation. She experienced similar reluctance from another neighbor who had been friends to both her husband and herself, which may have been the reason for the hesitancy. She described: It was a bad day the other day (teared up) and I phoned up these neighbors of mine - we used to have them for dinner all the time .. I hadn't talked to them in a long time. I told them I'm really down, do you mind if I come and talk for a while, and she said oh sure, come over, but I could tell she was distant. She had planted herself way down at the other end of the chesterfield and she says - well, just get out of there, just leave him alone and do your own thing and - you know you're not the only people in - the first in this situation, you know, - like she belittled me a bit. 96 In the above excerpt, Elsie addressed her need for genuine, unreserved support, particularly as she was still in the early stages of attempting to finish up and close off her marriage. Her vulnerability seemed to have made her more aware of body language, the non-verbal cues that were congruent with the verbal communication. In contrast to this experience she described staying at a Transition house where: I'd come home and the girls and I - we could laugh about something .. that was a good experience .. where somebody waits, somebody cares, there is always somebody to listen to and somebody to share a story with .. Elsie experienced a sense of community and connection. Instead of her husband directly isolating her as was Elsie's experience, Care recounted a more indirect loss of friends: .. my friends had drifted away from me because they didn't like him, but they didn't tell me that they didn't like him, they just cut themselves out of my life .. Care went on to describe the delicate problem of having friends speak honestly with regard to their perceptions of her relationship based on her sense of herself at that particular time in her life: .. the friends that have come back into my life .. they say now that they didn't like him - and-um I'm not offended about what they say but I think I would have been offended in the relationship - them telling me what he was without me figuring it out first. I would want to figure it out because it would almost be like an insult - if they said you should do this - (and) I don't think I would have responded if someone had been gentle about approaching me that something was wrong - it was a catch 22. I didn't want them to lecture me but then I think at that time I would have been - had the need to be lectured.. if someone approached me on a nurturing level I wouldn't be listening .. it's too soft and I would go away and think why are they interfering in my life .. how do you do that when I'm fighting in myself.. Care's words indicated two different issues. One is that she perceived a difference in vulnerability regarding others' perceptions of her intimate partner contingent upon whether she was inside or outside the relationship. Another issue inferred by her words is that timing, pacing, and approach appear to be critical factors. She went on to elaborate on this referring to her experience with her sister who: came into town and .. said - we're going to go and find some information - whatever it is that we need to find out. She didn't know what we needed to find out but she said she had found this number in the phone book and I remembered that -1 remembered that you could always find information - because then after that I just - I gobbled up things if I found them in the paper about um - advocacy or whatever.. It may be of importance that her sister did not appear to be concerned about Care's potential response, she simply acted. In addition, the sister took her to a third, neutral source, rather 97 than "lecturing" or telling her directly, and this may therefore have circumvented triggering any potential hurt or defensive feelings. In any case, Care indicated as does Kathleen, that the responses of friends are sometimes perceived as a delicate issue. Kathleen likewise had friends who either did not verbalize their concerns while she was still in her marriage and/or maintained some distance. Kathleen, however, had a somewhat different reaction. Here is how she described her experience: .. it's amazing though, that people never really want to be (pause) - involved - (pause) - like my friends .. there's four of them .. we had lunch just before Christmas and um - and I had left, you know, and they-they wanted to know how I was doing, and they were concerned about me and everything else .. and another friend whom I've known since I was 2 .. she said you know, Kathleen, we've known for a long time that Kathleen's had problems but you can't say anything to anyone, you can't - you can only be there and be supportive but we all wanted her to get out of that situation. We'd wanted it for a long time. So they were there for me but i-it might have helped if I'd known. One of our very best friends said -1 started not wanting to come to your place - who wanted to put up with that asshole, you never knew what you were going to get. Although Kathleen wished that her friends had expressed more openly how they perceived what was happening in her marriage, in the second interview, however, she elaborated further, indicating that she understood the issue to be more complex: I know this with my good friends - I would probably do it myself - you really can't tell another person because if you're wrong then you've destroyed something - and (pause) -1 think if it was my sister - (pause) - and I saw her face battered - I would probably sit down and say - heh, do you really want to take this anymore? It's wrong - but if she isn't giving of anything it's really hard to break though - really hard, and you don't want to get involved between people, you just don't. I've found all kinds of people who have come out of the woodwork since having gone - and it's been a real eye-opener. It would have been helpful - it would have been .. Kathleen indicated that in part the hesitancy to address this issue between friends relates to the possibility of being wrong, and, as in the example of her sister, she also clarified that she would need a particular kind of relationship as well as visible proof to confront the person, although she again suggested "it would have been helpful." She went on to say: .. when I did announce it to my friends they were all really - surprised - surprised at what I had to tell them but in a sense not surprised. They didn't know the extreme things he did to me but they did know from his behavior that he was not a nice man. So when I did allow myself to tell them, then I had all kinds of support. So part of it was I hadn't brought it up - they didn't feel there was an open door. Although her friends had some indicators that her relationship was unpleasant, they found it difficult to say anything given Kathleen's silence on the subject. Thus, according to this account, it takes both sides to make it possible to discuss such an intricate matter. Kathleen 98 did, however, indicate that once she spoke the unspeakable, her friends were attentive and supportive. Kali spoke somewhat differently about her experiences with her friends. In her first marriage she sketched a lack of alternative marriage modelling and of neighborly response: I had a lot of people around me that were in situations like that so it looked like the norm - when the bizarre is normal. (And regarding my neighbors) I'd be dragged, you know, kicking and screaming down an apartment hall - like I had carpet burns, all over - people opening their doors and going - and not - and not helping - I mean I've had that experience. And I thought I'm going to die and they're not helping me.. This was contrasted by the responses of her friends during her second marriage when: .. all of my friends were at their wits' end, they were. I mean - they could see me - being destroyed - literally and my kids and-um (pause) some of them just sort of quietly going crazy about it and others being quite openly - like, if you don't do something about this, we're going to have to do something for the kids' sakes.. which I understood .. In the second interview, Kali explored in greater depth the meaning of her friends for her, along side of the cultural dictates that limit genuine open communication, particularly about delicate issues. She reflected on this as being: .. cultural, it's family - all of those things (pause) - the cultural imperative is that you don't involve yourself - it's this sacrosanct - you just don't - and besides you're O N L Y a friend. You see, women's friends are O N L Y (pause) superfluous fluff to their R E A L relationships in life with men, you know, even though women's experiences may be different - but men see our relationships with other women that way too - that they should be superfluous fluff and we don't take our - well, I take my relationships with women very seriously and I think that's what saved me - what kept me going even when I was living in those situations, is having those - those deep abiding relationships with women and with women who were courageous enough to - to say, to act, to do something and thank the goddess for them. And my ex- used to say, well, do you think so-and-so is going to be around - well, lo and behold she was and so were others. They were there - um - and I didn't have to sleep with them to have their support. Kali raised two interesting points prevalent in our culture that she used to portray the role of her friends while she was in a relationship in which she experienced battering. The first point, congruent with Kathleen's words, is that we do not interfere with another's marital, intimate, or primary relationship. The second point is that women's relationships, in spite of the intensity, authenticity, and closeness that women may experience in these friendships, are not given the same credence or value in our society as are heterosexual marital-type relationships. Kali challenged this dominant assumption about women's 99 friendships, expressing gratitude for the depth and breadth of their impact in her life. 1 use Kali's analysis to springboard into my own discussion about the role of culture with regard to issues raised in this chapter. Cultural Mandates Defining the Public and Private Nature of Our Lives As in Chapter two, 1 reiterate that although the interviews represent a co- construction of the women's narratives, I found from time to time that there were issues that raised my concerns, particularly for women living in victimizing circumstances. Such a concern was raised for me in the above section, where the women alluded to culture as circumscribing, as well as prescribing, particular distinct modes of conduct regarding what is private versus what is public. As a conclusion to this chapter, I expose and discuss my thoughts, grounded in a further interaction with the women's words. We all live quite comfortably much of the time with a private world/public world split. It is reasonable to recognise that none of us could be consistently or continuously open and vulnerable about what goes on in our private lives, and we tend to make such choices carefully. The kind of private/public split that I would like to challenge, however, is one that speaks to the need for secrecy, for hiding, or compartmentalizing such that people close to us do not know about important details in our lives. Although I respect privacy, I think there are situations that challenge this split or compartmentalization, particularly situations that trigger such questions for me as: who really benefits, and, who is this actually for. These questions were raised for me when I heard the women speak about a component in their lives that appeared to silence them, to render their painful experiences invisible, and that in many ways could have put their lives at greater risk. As Kali stated above, intimate committed relationships are still considered "sacrosanct," that is, they belong to the personal and private sphere and we make a clear insider/outsider distinction. In their narratives, two of the women described how their partners appeared to utilize this distinction such that they displayed two different faces, one in public and one in private. For example, in Elsie's words: .. I used to cook dinner parties .. I loved to cook - several times he'd come into the kitchen and he'd start a fight just before the people came. He would be mad .. a discussion over nothing .. he'd say, you phone those people, they're not coming for dinner.. The doorbell rings 3 minutes later - (he'd say) oh, how nice to see you, oh, it's wonderful.. or I'd be in the kitchen and he'd come in - smiling from the room - and I'd be there and he'd pick at something. The other people wouldn't see this. He would dig at things where nobody else could hear.. 100 and referring to excerpts from Kathleen's words partly alluded to in Chapter two: ..under the table - kick me in the shins if he thought I might say something .. (or the episode when) he cut my knuckle with (a canning lid).. we were having people for dinner in 10 more minutes. (Another time) he came up with .. it was an ashtray .. marble and chrome thing and he came at me with this thing. I got to sleep at 4 in the morning. I had to go to work the next day. We took my cousin and her husband to a game that night - you would never have known anything happened .. In the context of a culture that dictates that such behaviors are not discussed out in the open, the women are silenced. What would happen if they had announced their partner's controlling behaviors to the others present? In a culture in which we prefer not to hear or see, they might have experienced a reception similar to Kali 's when her husband dragged her down a hallway, such that she sustained carpet burns, and the neighbors were "opening their doors .. and not helping." Living within a particular culture we tend to subscribe to, consciously and unconsciously, the cultural dictates regarding certain expected behaviors and proprieties, and as such we sometimes unwittingly participate in sustaining or perpetuating these dictates. Kathleen provides an example, one she had seen in her mother: .. I could be a mess in the morning. He could go out of the house calling me whatever and be angry for something dumb - and I would fall apart, and then I would just pull myself together, walk out the door and no one ever, ever knew .. Kathleen went on to relate this to feeling shame. In his definition of shame, Kaufman (1985) aptly stated that there is a: feeling of exposure and accompanying self-consciousness that characterizes the essential nature of the affect of shame. Contained in the experience of shame is the piercing awareness of ourselves as fundamentally deficient in some vital way as a human being (p.ix). Kathleen recognized this was true for her saying: "there was shame—I didn't want people to think that—that I had any problem," as did Care: "I'm embarrassed—it's kind of connected to a sense of shame. I didn't want others to know." In addition to this subjective and privately painful interpretation of their victimization, the women experienced a silence or silencing around them echoing the notion that 'we don't hang out our dirty laundry.' Elsie expressed this as "nobody wants to listen to someone's sad tales, they want to feel good," and Kathleen verbalized it as "I think people genuinely liked me for being me—that I never talked about my problems, I never talked about how things were, I just did it." What does it mean to be genuinely liked when they do not know some critical aspects, and possibly do 101 not want to know about these critical experiences in our lives? Additionally, earlier in this chapter Care and Kathleen in particular, described how friends had withdrawn in response to their partner's abusive mannerisms. Kathleen indicated in the second interview "we don't interfere in people's private lives" and earlier that her friends said "you can't say anything .. you can only be there." Forme this triggered the question, what does it means to be there for someone if we do not speak up? It is imperative at this point that I clarify that I am not criticizing these women, but rather that I am looking critically at a subtle yet powerful social silencing tool that we all participate in. More importantly, I think the implication based on their stories is that the struggle experienced by women who live in victimizing relationships is more complex than just whether or not they turn to others. From this discussion it would seem that the implied focus is larger. It must be remembered that these women were functioning in the context of their primary intimate relationships. Others who came into their lives were not in that same vulnerable position, and hence, I posit that the risk of addressing the issue is inherently based on being inside or outside that relationship. Given this distinction and the experience of three of the women who had been told to "just stop being a victim" (in which victim is equated with being passive),2^ I think it is interesting and worth consideration to challenge this with the alternative question: who in this situation is actually being (or acting) the victim? The women spoke of friends who withdrew because they felt uncomfortable around the abusive partner, yet they never said anything. With the exception of Elsie's experience, no one told these women that they did not deserve to be mistreated. In fact, it appears that some friends found it easier to slip away or withdraw than to provide clear alternatives or ask appropriate questions. It is not just in downtown New York that people turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to others' struggles. Probably a critical component in this issue is education and familiarity with the various appropriate questions or statements that would be helpful, and that nevertheless permit women who are being victimized the option to act when they are ready, thereby leaving their dignity intact with regard to outsiders as well as clearly indicating support and alternatives. Finally, my discussion does not minimize or preclude the very real support that, for example, Kathleen or Kali indicated they received. Moreover, I would agree with 28 In Chapter eight I address this equation in greater depth. My use of it here is not to imply agreement, but simply to indicate its dominant usage. 102 Kathleen's inference in the following excerpt that timing and sensitivity are critical components. Kathleen speaks about her experience with a friend: .. we ended up working together and .. one day I saw her in the store and she had a black eye - and she wouldn't say anything and it was too long past saying hello for me to say what happened to your eye and she obviously wasn't going to tell me, and then a few years go by and we get together and yen, her husband was a batterer - and she ended up leaving him. Now, there was a person that I could go to and she was very supportive because she knew. She told me after I finally confessed that I was having similar problems and she said and I knew that. So - and I obviously knew from seeing her but I also knew not to say anything because I didn't want to - you know - if the woman's ready, she's ready, if she's not, she's not. I nevertheless think it is worthy to critically consider those factors that stop us from responding to a friend or acquaintance whose situation appears very troubling and may even potentially be life-threatening. More importantly, given the focus of this thesis, in this section I reflected on the issue that although these women are often seen as being "in denial," this presumed denial takes place within a larger context of denial. Conclus ion The silencing of the victimization as expressed by the women in this study, in the context of certain cultural imperatives, was threefold: (a) the husbands were frequently two-faced, masking certain inappropriate abusive behaviors, (b) the women experienced shame and conceptualized their experiences as a private matter based on cultural messages, and (c) friends did not wish to interfere. Regardless of whatever cultural dictates we ascribe to as ways to explain or justify a lack of honest response or verbalizing concern in these situations, whether this be out of respect, or beliefs about needing to be invited in, it seems cold and friendless to permit someone we know to suffer for any length of time without some acknowledgment or readiness to indicate that meaningful support is available. Given this broader context, I inverted the statement often directed at these women to "stop acting the victim" (reflecting the dominant operating definition that equates victim with being passive or docile) by putting forth the question, 'who in such a scenario is really acting the victim'? Last, in the helping profession, as counsellors or therapists, we need to be aware of sociocultural imperatives that play a critical role in silencing and shaming those who experience intimate victimization. Recognizing these factors and exposing them in our work can result in de-individualizing the issues and promoting healing. 103 Chapter Six: Struggles and Management Strategies I believe The lights came up the music died I saw you from the corner of my eye And 1,1,1,1 Could not believe The magic that came over me I walked into the opportunity I stood before your disbelieving face The words that I spoke I cannot recall But the meaning is emblazoned on my soul I heard a sound like fire in my ears, It drew me close although I felt no fear And I believed The universe was in your eyes The sun the moon the stars were in your hands Hands that reached out to me With endless possibilities I want to make them my realities I want to claim the magic lost so long ago And I believe that you and I can make it so I believe I believe - Kali (1996). As formulated in the previous chapter, families of origin and friends presented a composite picture of mixed ambivalent and empowering experiences for the women who participated in this study. The women further described various personal struggles, feelings of ambivalence, as well as deep attachments, all of which participated in establishing a complex understanding of their experiences and of them as individuals. In this chapter, I have clustered together portions of the women's narratives in which they spontaneously addressed these matters, implying in their words that they were engaged in a process of trying to adapt, trying to understand, and actively attempting to shift the dynamics, in their efforts to ensure relationship or marriage survival. The women, from a perspective of hindsight, also formulated thoughts related to disbelief and ways in which they had minimized and/or denied what was happening in their relationships in order to cope. Adjustment and Coping Elsie described her process of trying to adjust in the context of this being her second intimate relationship, having four children and wanting very much to have this relationship succeed. .. I learned, okay, so this is in your early marriage, you adapt, you adapt, you - you don't rock the boat and you adapt and I was only 30 at that time .. I'm trying to adapt to all these moods and this fear and not do something wrong .. 104 Elsie's words imply her struggle to gain a sense of understanding of what was happening in her relationship in order to prevent doing something that might provoke his anger, indicating that fear was a motivating factor. It would appear that in contrast to the dominant provocation myth Elsie exemplified how these women consciously and repeatedly laboured to avoid provoking their partners. She goes on to provide examples of how she discovered what appeared to her to be effective coping responses, indicating that the process of adaptation was not simply passive. Elsie's first example reflected socioculturally available means of trying to mend rifts in a relationship, that of using cards. I didn't know what I'd done so I would write him love notes, or I'd go to the card store and I'd say I'm sorry, I don't know, I hope everything will be okay .. that snapped him out of it. So I learned this way of coping.. In Elsie's narrative she described times when she was able to circumvent or sort through the issues and therefore felt she was effectively coping. Her second example indicated her efforts to avoid conflict by attempting to communicate thereby feeling she had some control. She would ask: what is it that I've done - that sort of - (his answer) - 'you didn't ask me to cut the roast, you let (x) cut the roast'.. at least.. I could stop the jealousy .. at least you had a handle on what it was. The ability to make sense of an issue and feel effective was subjectively important. Elsie's reference to what would, for many, seem to exemplify a minor issue in a relationship, is an interesting one. The problem she addressed could be readily construed as easily dealt with and understood as exemplifying aspects of any new relationship that requires adjustment and simply becoming familiar with each others' preferences, ostensibly similar to the oft heard jokes about marital fights regarding how the toothpaste is squeezed or how the toilet paper roll is hung. In contrast to Elsie's description of adaptation and coping, Care did not mention adaptation per se, although she did narrate three coping strategies: (a) her participation in aspects of the relationship that made her uncomfortable as a means of experiencing some control, (b) maintaining financial responsibility and control, and (c) providing alternative experiences for her son. She distinguishes between earlier and later acts of participation: I mean even though in those early years I did participate in all that garbage and stuff but in my head I knew this isn't right.. but for me to speak out was not going to work for me because I would be threatened so I thought I could gain the control by participating in it... I said I don't like it that your friends come here and stay but that never stopped., he was going to do what - what he wanted to do and I would 105 either join in or keep my mouth shut (pause). I had financial power - yeh, I did .. In addition to participating, she confronted her partner by articulating her displeasure, but her concerns were dismissed. In contrast to this experience of decreased control, having an income presented an alternative experience, enabling her to cope and to feel she did have some control. I'm working to pay the bills - in some cases I had taken on double shifts, I had taken on second jobs .. in order to make ends meet.. trying to stay on top of the bills - um - (pause) - because I knew I had an edge that way 'cuz I had the money, I had the income, I had an edge. I mean I had some kind of control because there were some things he couldn't - could not do because I had the money - so I guess in a way I had found my little place where I had control arid I was hanging on to that.. In addition, in the context of returning to the relationship in order to be with her son after losing custody of him, Care formulated acts of coping that were focussed on providing alternative experiences for her son: I could protect him and show him that things were nice and that i-it - (pause) that to be with mommy - that it's not always chaotic. ... (and when her husband found work) I mean I would do nutty things like move the furniture so that (son) would have a bigger play area and move the furniture back when (husband) got home .. Care's portrayal reflect her contradictory experiences of both having and lacking control, within a context in which she perceived herself primarily as able to cope. Her activities of coping kept Care's focus on the relationship. Kathleen, in her narrative, implied that the process of adapting to and coping in the relationship was linked to her ability to avoid triggering him and losing important connections in her life. She described herself as actively and audibly engaged in doing all she could in her marriage to improve and mend their relationship. In her words she clarifies, as did Elsie, that this amended the situation somewhat for herself: So you start avoid to do-doing some things - it took me a while. Somehow I developed this, this-um way of knowing not to cross boundaries and needing to have him say it's okay, because that would avoid a problem for me. .. I did everything I could to try and resolve this, and-and part of that was just being very vocal .. Coping for Kathleen was integral to her commitment, which, based on her words, implied hard work. Moreover, she expressed the intensity of wanting him to experience what she was going through, of wanting him to understand: When I was inside the relationship I had my nose to the grindstone and outside I - well, I think that this - this-um - defiance I had - which was a really powerful feeling - wanting to stand there in front of him and risk whatever - um - it was 106 always part of me but like I said it-it (pause) - I can't say I sabotaged anything - but in my own mind I had -1 had a feeling that I had - yeh - he beat me up but maybe it would just be a thought - one day - one day I ' l l . . One day meant one day I'm going to make you feel this pain - I'm going to hurt you this same way .. part of me did really want to get some justice here for myself -1 mean knowing it was wrong. I wanted to have an impact -1 wanted him to feel the same thing .. Her process included attempts to avoid conflict and avoid loss: .. because there's a pattern been set here - that I'm - I'm threatened with a loss of love, security, - um (pause) - children, whatever. A l l the way along something's been thrown at me so - and I don't want those things to happen to me .. She described actively coping with those aspects of her marriage that were painful by trying to ensure his approval, by talking to him and involving him in her plans to obtain further training, as well as discussing her wish for a supportive or joined parenting style. I was still trying to win his approval, just trying to do things right, and-and (in getting training) I was proving to him that it wasn't a waste of money .. I wanted to support him. Her coping style was not void of voicing her anger or of confronting her husband, as indicated by Kathleen regarding parenting conflicts: .. to be a team - when it came to our children .. we talked about that but whenever it happened he took over .. I was really mad -1 was angry. How-how dare you again - I mean I talked about this - let's have a joined front with these kids. Don't be one- upping me .. I wouldn't do it to you .. The above constructions reflect Kathleen's attempts to actively protect herself, to uncover ways that seemed to her to provide effective strategies, as well as continuously challenging and confronting her husband with the hope for genuine change. Finally, she indicated that "I guess how I dealt with it is I stored it up" implyied that coping