Self-Image, -Presentation, and -Preservation: Battered Women's Internalized Help-Seeking

Angela M. Moe, Western Michigan University

Throughout the course of abusive relationships, many women rationalize, justify, and otherwise make sense of the violence perpetrated against them in various ways. This paper examines the specific mechanisms in which nineteen residents of a domestic violence shelter relied upon internalized means of surviving and resisting partner battering. The findings, based on qualitative, semi-structured life-history interviews, detail the women's efforts at psychologically surviving the abuse, including internalizing guilt and anger through self-destructive behaviors, altering physical appearance or legal identity, and writing poetry or journaling. The women's efforts are couched within a social, historical, and political context in which complacency toward violence against women can be observed on many levels. Indeed, the women utilized internal/individual-based mechanisms of help-seeking in lieu of, in combination with, or after being deserted by outward mechanisms of help-seeking, including calling the police, obtaining court protection, filing for divorce, pursuing faith-based support, telling friends and family, and relying on social services.

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Updated 05/20/2006