Think about this example of abused women for a moment. In the classic movie, “The Color Purple,” released in 1985, a young Whoopi Goldberg plays the character of Celie. Celie is a poor, uneducated fourteen year-old girl growing up in rural Georgia during the early 20th century. A man who claims to be her father, Alphonso, beats her and rapes her. He is not her real father. Her real father died when she was too young to remember him.
Celie: The Abused Woman
Alphonso gets her pregnant twice and each time he takes her newborn baby away. They disappear and Celie thinks he killed them. In truth, he gave them away to the missionaries, saying the babies were abandoned. Then Alphonso forces Celie to marry a man that goes only by the name of Mister.
The abuse continues with Mister. Not only is it physical, it is also psychological. Mister treats Celie like a slave. Celie is made to feel that she is ugly and worthless. When Celie’s sister Nettie comes for a visit, Mister forces himself upon her, but Nettie escapes and runs away.
Even though a friend encourages Celie to leave Mister, she does not have the courage to do so. For years, Celie was abused by Mister, and she never hears from her sister Nettie. It turns out Nettie has been writing all the time, but Mister hides the letters.
Celie finds the letters from her sister hidden away by Mister and reads that not only is her sister alive, but so are her children. Her sister found them when she went to work with the missionaries. After this, Celie releases all the pent up anger on Mister and is barely able to keep herself from killing him. Then she finally leaves him.
Battered Woman Syndrome
This film presents a dramatization of the battered woman syndrome. Abused women are made to feel inferior by the males that torment them. They are manipulated and controlled by the men who seek to dominate them. These battered, abused women do not know how to escape. The cycle of abuse repeats itself and the severely abused woman feels helpless.
Even though The Color of Purple movie is set at a time long ago, and the story is fictional, the abuse of women in the UK often follows the same exact pattern. Domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness among UK women. On average, there will be thirty-five assaults before the abused UK woman calls the police.
A True Story of an Abused British Woman
Here is a recent real life example, not something that happened in a film. During October 2013, UK police responded to a 999 call from a house in the Isle of Wight. Gale Marmoy had called them after receiving an extreme beating from her husband. She had suffered this physical abuse for a decade. She is in her sixties. Her husband was 77 at that time.
Made to Feel Worthless
Gale said her husband made her feel worthless, completely useless, and that he told her she deserved the punishment. Gale suffered so much physical abuse that she was constantly terrified. The final beating had gone too far. She realized if she had not called the police, she would have died.
Abuser Puts on a Fake Calm Face to Fool Others
When the police arrived, Gale’s husband was calm when he answered the door. He tried to talk the police out of coming into the house, but the police insisted on seeing if Gale was OK, the man reluctantly let them enter the home. The police were wearing body cameras, which recorded the entire scene. One of the officers said he never saw such serious injuries as those Gale had received from the beating by her husband. The video of the event shows how bad it really was for Gale Marmoy. She was nearly beaten to death.
Reach Out for Help Because Abuse Will Not Stop
Gale’s husband pled guilty based on the videotaped evidence and got a ten-year prison sentence. He finally got his comeuppance after mistreating his wife for years. Gale now is an advocate in finding help for abused women. Regarding abusers, Gale says the abusers, like her husband, are the ones desiring the punishment, not the women. She advises women to seek help, otherwise the abuse will not stop, and to get help sooner than she did.
Does Real Life Imitate Films?
How can it be that a white woman in the UK experiences the same forms of abuse in real life as a fictional character from a film about a black woman in the American south a hundred years ago? This is what the famous psychologist Carl Jung called an archetype. Jung described archetypes as universal, innate, and hereditary. He demonstrated many examples from history, of males who matched the same archetype. In the UK, according to the book Death by Domestic Violence, 37% of women who are murdered, die at the hands of their husband or boyfriend.
Abuse of women takes many forms, which are:
Verbal abuse is characterized by name-calling, belittling, not allowing the woman to speak, yelling, and swearing. It often involves disrespect, ridicule, and excessive criticism. In addition, there are always threats, which may be overt such as “I am going to kill you” or more subtle such as “I know what is best for you”. The body language and the tone of the words are as important as the words themselves.
Frequently, this verbal abuse is continuous but hidden from outsiders. The abuser acts like a perfect gentleman in public, but the moment they get home the abuse starts. The verbal abuse can be triggered by almost anything, even about something others would consider insignificant.
Even if the things said by the abuser are completely incorrect, with enough repetition, this technique takes hold. The result is that the woman starts to believe all the negative things being yelled at her.
Punching, slapping, choking, throwing things at someone, pushing them, burning someone, kicking them, and hitting someone with objects are all forms of physical abuse. Sometimes the abuser ties up the victim, or locks them in a room. There are cases where women have been chained to heavy furniture or locked in the basement. Other forms include sleep deprivation, withholding of food, forced drug or alcohol ingestion against one’s will, and caustic chemicals like acid thrown in the face.
One form of cruel manipulation is when the physical violence is directed at pets or children and the woman is blamed for causing it to happen. Women in this type of situation submit to horrid levels of abuse in order to try to protect their children or defenseless pets.
Sexual abuse is a special subset of physical abuse and includes rape, sodomy, and any sexual act where the woman is an unwilling participant. It also includes forced mutilation of the female genitalia. During 2010, in the UK, the Forced Marriage Unit investigated 1,785 cases of forced marriage.
Psychological or Emotional Abuse
This type of abuse is commonly called “crazy-making.” The woman is made to feel like she is losing her mind. The mind has a strange ability to try to rationalize things and make sense out of a nonsensical situation. The abuser convinces the victim that they are the source of the problem, that if only they followed the rules the abuse would not occur.
Sometimes the supposed infraction that triggers an attack is unpredictable, almost as if the abuser is changing the rules of conduct indiscriminately, which is exactly the intent. The abuser may also use humiliation and make false accusations just to keep the woman off balance. The abuser, to create insecurity in the victim, purposefully uses conflicting actions and confusing statements.
Threats to kidnap the children or do harm to them are also emotional abuse. Pretending to be sorry, asking for forgiveness, being overly kind as a setup for the next attack are included in this category. This form of abuse does not necessarily leave physical evidence so it is difficult for the victim to prove it is happening.
This occurs when the abusers controls all the finances, will not let the woman get a job, have her own money, or build up any financial resources that might allow her to get strong enough to leave the negative situation.
A misuse of spiritual practices or religious beliefs allows the abuser to enslave the victims and make them follow a specific set of rules of faith that they do not accept.
Any one or all of these abuses are possible. They may occur simultaneously or come in waves. There may be periods when the abuser is very congenial, followed by sudden violent outbursts. According to HelpGuide.org, which has a great explanation of domestic violence a common pattern is:
- Abuse – An attack occurs.
- Guilt – The abuser feels guilt and expresses remorse (real or fake).
- Excuses – The abuser rationalizes away his bad behavior.
- Normal Behavior – The abuser acts normal for a while.
- Fantasy and Planning – The abuser thinks about abusing again because they like doing it.
- Set-up – The abuser creates a situation so some infraction can occur to give an excuse for abuse.
- More Abuse – Another attack occurs.
Important Tip for Abused Women
There is a simple rule that anyone can follow to know what they should do. If your partner scares you, it is time to make plans to get away from them. Please do not wait until your partner almost kills you as Gale Marmoy did. Call the police and get away from the abuser as fast as you can. Nobody deserves abuse.
The focus of this article is on abused women, but that is not to say that there are not abusive women and many cases of women abusing men. There are also abuse issues in LGBT couples as well.
In the UK, ANYONE suffering domestic abuse should call 999, or they may call CrimeStoppers anonymously at 0800 555 111. As an alternative, the UK National Domestic Abuse Hotline is 0808 2000 247. It is free and operates non-stop, 24 hours per day.