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Strategies for Battered Women
Battered Women continuing education psychologist CEUs

Section 18
House of Abuse & Inclusive Language

Question 18 | Test | Table of Contents | Domestic Violence
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEs, Social Worker CEs, MFT CEs

Another example of how “Defining Abuse” can be done is by drawing a large house on the chalkboard (see drawing below) which is divided into nine rooms. The facilitator would write in four of the rooms: physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse, and follow the example of first defining physical abuse. The facilitator would then go on to the next rooms (verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse) and complete them one at a time, with the input from the group members.

Beyond the Basic Four
After filling in the four rooms, the facilitator can suggest that there are other types of abuse they may have experienced. These types may include: social isolation, intimidation, alcohol and drugs, child abuse, male privilege, and others. The facilitator can list these types of abuse in the other rooms of the house as the group participants identify them. Some of these types may have already been identified in the four primary categories (physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse). You can point out to the group that the walls in the house are very thin, and often several types of abuse occur at the same time or in a sequence or series.

Memories and Emotions
The image of the house can be very powerful, since this is where a majority of the abuse may have occurred. Other thoughts and feelings may surface. The house could bring back memories of the abuse a woman witnessed as a child in her own home. A common thought for many women is that if any place should be safe, it is her home. This may trigger an emotional response in terms of lost hopes and dreams of what she had wanted for herself, her children, her partner, and her relationship.

Analogies and Metaphors
There are other analogies, metaphors, and ideas that can be presented to the group. For example, the facilitator could draw a basement on the house and ask the group what they believe might support this kind of house. It may be things like men’s attitudes towards women; women’s role as defined by a male-dominated society; systems that fail to protect victims; family secrets; or other examples of what is “underneath” the violence.

The facilitator could also ask what supports or keeps the abuse in the house where outsiders may not notice it. Examples may include fear, power, control, and embarrassments. The facilitator could explore with the group the times that the abuse has occurred outside the house and what has happened.

House of Abuse Battered Women CEUs

There are a number of questions that the facilitator could ask the group members after the rooms in the house are filled in. One very powerful question is, “How does it feel being on the receiving end of this abuse?” Responses to this question include such things as: afraid, angry, hurt, depressed, vengeful, trapped, imprisoned, helpless, isolated, and many more.

Another question that could be asked is, “If the perpetrator ‘cleaned out’ one room in the house, such as stopping his physical abuse, but didn’t clean out the other rooms, is he still abusive?”

The facilitator may ask, “How would it feel to be a five-year-old living in this house?” “What would be your concerns?” “What would be the child’s concerns?” “How would an adolescent feel?”
- Journey Beyond Abuse. Fischer, Kay-Laurel & Michael F. McGrane. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation: Saint Paul. 1997.

Using Inclusive Language
At first glance, the concept of using inclusive language may seem unimportant. But using inclusive language means that as women, we are all in this journey together. (When there is a male co-facilitator, the inclusive language is modified as appropriate.) None of us has escaped being abused in one way or another. At a minimum, we have all been abused as females by the media, billboards, religion, magazines, the judicial system, the educational system, and more. To understand and develop problem-solving strategies related to abuse means we have specific and inclusive language to use and not to use.

Using the words “we,” “us,” and “our” when talking about women as a group is crucial. For example, suppose you want to make a point about what it is like for women to be raped. We’ll assume this has not been a part of your experience. If you refer to “you women” who have been raped or “the women” who have been raped, or “those women” who have been raped, you have just set yourself apart as different, privileged, special, and a nonmember of this group.

The lesson here is never to talk about “you women,” “the women,” and “these/ those women.” The pronouns and descriptors are not inclusive and can be offensive and demeaning to group members, making them feel ashamed about their abuse. It is very acceptable to talk in terms of “we as women” when addressing any issues related to concerns of females.

Women, as a whole group, are in this fight for change together. Some may not yet recognize this. Some women see abuse and its consequences as something that happens only to other women. They separate themselves from the reality of abuse and want to define it as “you who are” and “we who are not” abused. As facilitators of women’s groups, we must learn the difference between inclusive and non-inclusive language and understand the meaning and difference in our hearts.

- Fischer, K., MA & McGrane, M. F. (1997). Journey Beyond Abuse. Amherst H. Wilder Foundation: Saint Paul.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 18
What can result from using exclusive rather than inclusive language with battered women? Record the letter of the correct answer the Test.

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