Audiences Encouraged to Listen, Offer Support to Battered Women By Chris Rowett A battered woman may be most at risk after she stops living with her attacker. "We have tendencies to think that getting out is the answer," Nursing professor Jacquelyn Campbell said. "Oftentimes, it is the most dangerous point." Dr. Campbell, who has studied and worked with battered women for 15 years, spoke to about 100 students, faculty members and hospital staff at a memorial lecture titled "Recognizing and Helping with Domestic Violence When It's Close to Home." Last Monday's lecture was held in honor of 1994 nursing graduate Delores Winborne, 36, who was found stabbed to death last August in her Owings Mills apartment. Police said her husband, Steven Winborne, confessed to the killing and was charged with first-degree murder. Sandra Angell, assistant dean for student services at the School of Nursing, opened the discussion and said there was a conscious decision made to use a memorial to Winborne as a forum for education. "I hope that you will go away from today with a little better understanding of domestic violence. And that because of that understanding, you will be able to be a helpful person," Angell said. "When you do so, please think of Delores." Dr. Campbell said divorced and separated women are most highly at risk, in part because the abuser has lost the coercive control he maintained when the couple remained together. In the past, research suggested the abuse decreased if the abuser was arrested, Dr. Campbell said. But now, that is not always the case. "Arrest works best for middle-class men," she said. "It works least for men who have very little to lose." At least 2 million--and probably 3 million--women are abused in the United States each year, Dr. Campbell said. African- American women are more at risk for assault at the hands of strangers and acquaintances, but domestic violence, she said, is equally prevalent among all ethnic groups. The highest risk group, she said, is women with some college background. "Somewhere from 20 to 25 percent of all women are going to be involved in abusive relationships," Dr. Campbell said. "So when we look around at our fellow nurses or our colleagues or our friends, we may assume that 20 to 25 percent of them have been or will be involved in abusive relationships." There are, however, no consistent factors that make one woman more likely to be abused than another, she said. "There are no characteristic features that we can say, 'Well, she's more likely than she is,' or 'It's not ever going to happen to me,'" Dr. Campbell said. "I am just lucky I have never been hit in an intimate relationship. It has nothing to do with my smarts, or my good picking, or how I was raised. It is more or less luck." Professionals used to think growing up in a violent home made women more likely to be abused, Dr. Campbell said. And while that is no longer supported by research, men who grow up in such homes are more likely to become spouse beaters, she said. But there are no concrete methods to identify potential abusers, she said. "Battering men are very difficult to distinguish from other men," she said. "They are oftentimes not different at all." Before a battered woman leaves her abuser, she tends to experience a shift in blame, Dr. Campbell said. She will stop blaming herself for the pain and realize it is her partner who has a problem. That is one of the times, she said, when battered women need the support of friends, family and colleagues. "When the person you love the most keeps telling you that you're the crazy one, you need so much to hear from other people that you're OK," Dr. Campbell said. "You are not dumb." In addition to the psychological trauma, women who leave are faced with financial and physical changes. "Leaving a man in this society often means instant poverty for a woman," Dr. Campbell said. "She has to think very hard about that." Supporters can offer time, patience and understanding, Dr. Campbell said, even if the victim struggles with her decision to leave. "Make sure she knows she has your support, no matter what, for the long run, over a long time," she said. "It's important to listen to her story one more time if she needs to tell it, to never be tired of listening." Before the lecture, a moment of silence was held in Delores Winborne's memory. Then Dean of Nursing Sue Donaldson spoke of honoring a victim who had a commitment to helping others. "It really saddens me to know that someone who was such a friend to many of you--someone who gave so much to others--was unable to protect herself and her own life," she said.
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