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Another woman said that her usual way of coping with the trauma of battering was by overeating, a device she also used before she was ever battered. The terms 'illness', 'unhealthy', or 'destructive' can certainly be used to denote addictions and assaults on oneself and others in response to the stress of being battered. Regardless of how such negative coping devices are labeled, however, the women's accounts in this chapter support the earlier suggestion that stress, crisis, and illness (physical, emotional, mental) are interactionally, not causally related (see Figure 4.1, p. 70). Figure 4.1 suggests that stress not only precedes but also follows a battering episode, and that emotional crisis may or may not be part of the total episode. These findings also support the work of Hilberman (1980) in which mental and emotional disturbances of battered women were found to follow rather than precede battering.
Analysis thus far reveals not so much a failure of coping by individuals as it does the limitations and misdirection of personal coping responses (natural crisis management) to certain traumatic life events. That is, suicide, assault, addictions, and emotional disturbance are forms of coping, though most people would regard them as unhealthy or ineffective (Caplan and Grunebaum 1967; Hoff 1989: 60-2). Put another way, 'natural crisis management' needs to be supplemented by 'formal crisis management', assistance from sources beyond the individual and immediate family.
The need for both personal coping strategies and social support has profound implications for the successful resolution of crises around battering. In Sophia's case the initial support she received from her family was misdirected, e.g. 'You go back ... he won't do it anymore ... Welfare won't support you .Here's $10, go buy a pizza and forget everything.' Only after a near-fatal suicide attempt were institutional networks mobilized, and these only for emergency rescue purposes. Prior to this destructive crisis outcome, however, crisis management did not go beyond the 'natural' level. The suicidal outcome of the crisis suggests that 'formal crisis management' was needed as well. The distinctions and relationship between natural and formal crisis management as applied to battering are illustrated in the Figure below.
-Hoff, Lee Ann, Battered Women as Survivors, Routledge: London, 1990.
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