Why is it that most women think that ANY woman can be a victim of domestic violence?
One reason is a basic psychological phenomenon: A woman, having been entrapped in a domestic violence relationship, convinces herself that staying with this violent man could happen to any woman.
This is a coping method; it eases the mental anguish and guilt. However, this perspective does not explain why some women, who have never even experienced domestic violence, actually believe that domestic violence can happen to any.
Another explanation applies to women who’ve never personally known domestic violence.
But they know an abused woman, perhaps a sister, and if this abused or formerly abused woman just happens to be a computer programmer, or in some way is very accomplished, her family and friends may believe that if this particular woman could actually end up staying with a cruel, controlling man, than any woman can.
The belief that domestic violence can happen to any woman is reinforced when a woman observes this situation from only the abused woman’s point of view.
“No one wants to blame the victim,” notes Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist who counsels couples and individuals; author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.
Dr. Tessina explains, “For many years, women were blamed for whatever men did to them; they were also in a subservient position, with no legal or financial rights in court.
“Those things have changed, but the pendulum has also swung too far to the other side. Women now have more power, and they need to accept and use the power they have.”
But what about from a man’s point of view?
Many women who are convinced domestic abuse can happen to any women, create their perspective based on women they personally know, or even those they see on a talk show or read online about.
Their perspective is also often formulated on their own family life growing up.
“Often, women who are subjected to abuse, choose an abusive and controlling men to date, or who stay in relationships where they are abused, grew up in homes where there were controlling or abusive fathers or stepfathers,” explains Dr. Tessina.
“Sometimes, they had no father present in the house at all. These women do not know how to identify an abusive situation from a healthy situation, because they just don’t have a model to follow.”
But do these women, who believe that any woman can be programmed by a bully and stripped of her self-esteem, even know what the bully had to do to get control over his victim in the first place?
The controlling man makes it look very easy. But is it?
Suppose Erin’s boyfriend Doug was abusive, but she married him anyways, and then remained with this violent man for 18 years before finally leaving him.
But perhaps Erin was this abusive man’s Tenth Attempt to control a woman and to “chip away” at her self-worth.
Doug failed nine times before Erin, with nine other women, because those nine others absolutely refused to tolerate the man’s controlling behavior.
Each of these nine women left at various stages of the courtship – all early stages, including the very first date for one of these women, in which Doug insisted that his dinner date order what he thought she should order.
She saw the red flag, slammed down her purse, brashly told Doug never to call her again, then stormed out of the place. This was one woman Doug didn’t wish to pursue; too much work for him.
This man’s fifth girlfriend, “Sharen,” just two weeks into the relationship, saw the bold writing on the wall when he became furious after losing a game of Scrabble to her.
The alarm bells rung hard in this woman’s head. She told Doug to leave and never contact her again.
Maybe the next woman in this man’s search for his perfect mate, “Debbi,” ended the relationship two months in, when he smacked her for the first time.
This man profusely apologized, promising he’d never ever do it again. Well, she refused to fall for that ploy and terminated contact.
But then one day he meets Erin. So when women insist that ANY woman can become entrapped by an abusive man, they may be seeing it from the viewpoint of the woman with whom the man finally engulfed.
They are not seeing the other women, the Sharens and Debbis, maybe dozens, with whom this man attempted to manipulate but failed to.
How many women must a violent man date, before he finally finds one who will marry him, and stay married to him and tolerate his violence?
The nine women before Erin are the women whom domestic violence can never happen to.
But Erin’s friends and family see things a bit differently, because in their eyes, Erin has always been a high-achieving, empowered woman who worked her way through college, earned her master’s degree, traveled the world by herself for a full year …
…and as she, poised and articulate, tells her story on a talk show, many viewers (women and men alike), become convinced that if Erin could stay with an abusive man for 18 years, then literally any woman out there is capable of being sucked into this hell hole.
Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts, and has been in private practice for over 30 years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer for Bally Total Fitness.