Author(s): Elaine Weiss
This is not a reference text about domestic violence. It is not an instructional manual on how to escape from a batterer. Plenty of these exist. It is a travel guide to a country no one visits willingly, the collective tales of past travelers making the landscape less threatening, less alien. I hope the many voices in this book will convince you that these stories belong to all of us. Domestic abuse doesn't just happen "out there" somewhereit happens in our town, in our neighborhood, on our street. It happens to people we see at the supermarket, the movie theater, the ballet, the bowling alley, and the PTA board meeting. It happens to our friends, our coworkers, and our family members. Women who have experienced domestic abuse look just like everyone else. They look just like me. Abused women look just like Judy North, a first-grade teacher from Nebraska who remained with her abusive husband for ten years, until the night she finally stood up to him...and woke up in the emergency room. Abused women look just like Whitney Benson, a Mormon college student from southern Utah. She worries about the scars on her face from her boyfriend's class ring; I worry about the scars on her soul from his carefully crafted campaign of criticism, intimidation, and punishing rape. And abused women look just like Andrea Hartley, a pediatrician in her late forties who considers herself extremely fortunate. Although the man she married when she was thirty proved to be extremely violent, the emotional support of her family, friends, and medical colleagues enabled her to leave him only four months later. They come from all walks of life. Some are well educated; others barely finished high school. Some comefrom wealthy families; others come from poor ones. Some witnessed terrifying family violence as children; others never heard an angry word. Some were raised by warm, supportive families; others by cold, distant families. Some married young; others married late. They worship in churches, in synagogues, or not at all. They come from big cities, small towns, farming communities, and suburbs. What these women have in common is that each was in an intimate relationship with a man who abused her. Some were abused physically. Some were abused sexually. All were abused psychologically...the most devastating type of abuse, leaving the deepest wounds. This is not a book about guns, knives, emergency rooms, or police reports. Many stories focus instead on the subtle campaign of abuse, wearying and corrosive, which trapped their teller in a web of daily threat. Yet despite the humiliation, fear, and isolation, each woman managed to escape from her abuser. Theirs are stories, not of frailty, but of clarity, resourcefulness, and strength.