A woman’s response to an abusive relationship is often contingent on her position within family and community. That insight comes from research into how women cope when leaving a violent relationship is not an option.
“Women’s resistance is often conceptualized only as exit, which is problematic,” said study author Stephanie Paterson, Ph.D., of Concordia University and the Centre for Research in Human Development in Montreal.
“We know that violence increases upon separation. Focusing on exit obscures the experiences of women who are unwilling and/or unable to leave,” said Paterson.
Paterson’s study found that, contrary to popular theory, wealth is not a guaranteed escape from an abusive relationship. It’s just one of many factors that can help a woman resist violence. Those factors can be tangible, such as access to a caring personal network.
They can be intangible, such as her partner’s perception of her resources, and his perception of her role within the family. If a partner perceives a woman as being in a strong position to resist, he’s more likely to reconsider being violent towards her.
Paterson’s study examines the different options faced by battered women – from placating an abuser to threatening to exit – and how these options can influence subsequent violence.
The notion that women have some bargaining power in cases of domestic abuse, she argues, forces society to reconsider the dynamics of violence and expands the options for victims of such abuse.
For women’s negotiation tactics to be effective, however, much has to change in society at both the household and public policy levels.
“Not only must we provide women with adequate material resources,” Paterson said, “we must also address and challenge the origins of authority within families.”
“Enabling resistance is not about making women accountable, but rather challenging the state to create systems in which effective resistance is possible,” she said. “Only then will violence against women cease.”
The study is published in the journal Review of Radical Political Economics.
Source: Concordia University