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Victim or survivor?

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Title:
Victim or survivor? socially constructed roles and self-identification for battered women
Alternate title:
Socially constructed roles and self-identification for battered women
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Berg, Sarah J. ( author )
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English
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1 electronic file (70 pages). : ;

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Abused women ( lcsh )
Abused women ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Review:
Based on data from 22 women living in a safe house, this phenomenological, qualitative study seeks to gain an in depth understanding of the factors that influence a battered woman s identifying as either a victim or a survivor and the social influences and implications of those identities. In recent battered women literature, scholars differentiate between victim and survivor identities. Victims are seen as passive and weak, presented in opposition to survivors, who are seen as empowered agents. To explore how battered women identify with these different roles, this study uses frameworks of identity theory, role theory, and social constructivism. The empirical data show that the majority of women reject the dichotomized identities of victim and survivor, and instead describe themselves as combinations of, rejections of, or transitions between the tow. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
Thesis:
Thesis (M.S.S.)--University of Colorado Denver.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographic references.
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System requirements: Adobe Reader.
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Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Sarah J. Berg.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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930380556 ( OCLC )
ocn930380556

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Full Text
VICTIM OR SURVIVOR:
SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED ROLES AND SELF-IDENTIFICATION FOR
BATTERED WOMEN
by
Sarah J. Berg
B.S., Boston University, 2011
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
Humanities and Social Science Program
2013


This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree by
Sarah J. Berg
has been approved for the
Humanities and Social Science Program
by
Candan Duran-Aydintug, Chair
Omar Swartz
Gillian Silverman
April 19, 2013
n


Berg, Sarah J. (M.S.S., Humanities and Social Science)
Victim or Survivor: Factors Influencing Self-Identification for Battered Women
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Candan Duran-Aydintug
ABSTRACT
Based on data from 22 women living in a safe-house, this phenomenological,
qualitative study seeks to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors that influence a
battered womans identifying as either a victim or a survivor and the social influences
and implications of those identities. In recent battered women literature, scholars
differentiate between victim and survivor identities. Victims are seen as passive and
weak, presented in opposition to survivors, who are seen as empowered agents. To
explore how battered women identify with these different roles, this study uses
frameworks of identity theory, role theory, and social constructivism. The empirical data
show that the majority of women reject the dichotomized identities of victim and
survivor, and instead describe themselves as combinations of, rejections of, or transitions
between the two. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Candan Duran-Aydintug


DEDICATION
For Billie.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION..............................................................1
Research Questions........................................................2
Methods...................................................................2
Sample/Sampling.......................................................2
Instrument............................................................3
Role of the Researcher(s).............................................3
Data Collection.......................................................3
Analysis..............................................................4
Ethical Issues........................................................4
Role of Theory............................................................4
II. VICTIM AND SURVIVOR IDENTITIES: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..............6
Victim....................................................................6
Survivor.................................................................12
III. ROLES AND GENDER ROLES.................................................16
Identity Theory..........................................................16
Role Theory..............................................................18
Roles (or Role-Identities)...............................................19
Roles as Resources...................................................20
Roles as Prescriptive................................................21
Performing Roles.........................................................22
v


False Roles........................................................22
Playing the Victim.................................................22
Roles and Gender.........................................................24
Performing Gender........................................................25
IV. THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER AND IDENTITIES........................26
The Social Construction of Gender........................................26
Difference...........................................................26
Social Control.......................................................27
Stereotypes..........................................................28
The Social Constructions of Femininity and Masculinity...................29
The Social Construction of the Victim....................................33
Advantages of Being a Victim.........................................35
Disadvantages of Being a Victim .....................................36
The Social Construction of the Survivor..................................37
Advantages of Being a Survivor.......................................39
Disadvantages of Being a Survivor....................................39
V. VICTIM OR SURVIVOR?.....................................................42
Neither Victim nor Survivor..............................................42
Both Victim and Survivor.................................................43
Transitioning from Victim to Survivor....................................45
VI. CONCLUSION..............................................................49
Implications and Possible Solutions......................................50
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Study....................................51
vi


Directions for Future Research
52
REFERENCES........................................................53
APPENDIX...........................................................
Interview Guideline.............................................59
Informed Consent Form...........................................62
vii


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
As many as one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point
in her life (NCADV 2007), which includes a variety of types of abuses. The United
States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as:
a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to
gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic
violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions
or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors
that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten,
blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. (USDJ 2011)
Eighty-five percent of persons that experience these types of domestic violence are
female (NCADV 2007). For this reason, this research will refer to the abused with
feminine pronouns, although the author readily acknowledges that males do also
experience domestic violence (USDJ 2011). Additionally, perpetrators discussed in this
literature are exclusively male and thus may be referred to with masculine pronouns;
however, the author also acknowledges that women can also be perpetrators (USDJ
2011). Finally, domestic violence does exist in some same-sex relationships, as well, but
this research will only focus on heterosexual relationships because of space and time
constraints.
Recent research on domestic violence has focused on a variety of topics, such as
discovering a demographic profile of a woman more likely to be abused, factors
considered in the decision to leave or stay in an abusive relationship, and what
interventions are most likely to be successful in the long-term, among others. Within this
growing body of literature, however, exists a smaller, more intricate debate: should
battered women refer to themselves as victims or survivors?
1


While the term victim lends itself to sympathy, it also comes with connotations
of passivity and weakness. Seen in opposition to victim, the survivor identity
empowers the woman, but this agency may also invite implications of responsibility or
blame. This research seeks to first examine the two terms in all of their intricate and
contradictory meanings. Next, data from qualitative interviews will be used to examine
how victim and survivor identities are perceived and used in the lived experiences of
abused women. With a deeper understanding of what it means to be a victim or a
survivor in practice, advocates can better serve populations of battered women, and
future research can more accurately discuss the societal problem of gendered violence as
a whole.
Research Questions
What does it mean to be a victim or a survivor?
Which factors are most predominant within each identity?
How do these factors interact to create or transform an identity?
How and why do some women self-identify as victims?
How and why do some women self-identify as survivors?
Methods
Sample/Sampling. This is a qualitative cross-sectional study using secondary
data previously recorded by a University of Colorado Denver faculty member. Data were
collected from one domestic violence safehouse in the greater Denver metropolitan area;
the unit of analysis is the individual. The CU Denver faculty member conducted
2


interviews with 22 women who had recently left abusive relationships and were currently
living in the safehouse. These women had been living in the safehouse for between one
and four months. Seventeen of the women in the sample were mothers. Their ages
ranged between 18 and 57 years.
Instrument. The data for this study were collected via an interview guideline
(see Appendix A for full guideline). Because of the in-depth nature of any qualitative
study, this instrument has high validity but only moderate reliability.
Role of the Researcher(s). A University of Colorado Denver faculty member
collected all data. Four months prior to the interviews, the faculty member began
volunteering at the safe-house, performing tasks such as organizing intake forms,
supervising children, assisting the sick or disabled with chores, and attending bi-weekly
support group meetings with the women. During this time she openly expressed her
interest in doing research and acted as a participant-observer by recording extensive field
notes.
This author, while not involved in the data collection process, also has extensive
volunteer experience with the studied population. She currently volunteers at a different
Denver-area domestic violence safehouse, and in the past has volunteered at daytime
shelters for homeless women in two major U.S. cities.
Data Collection. During the six months of interviews, the CU Denver faculty
member continued recording extensive field notes, for a total of ten months worth of field
notes. Twenty of the interviews took place in a designated private room in the safe-
house; the remaining two were conducted in a nearby coffee shop. Women were
interviewed once each, with the exception of five women who were interviewed twice
3


because of unforeseen interruptions to the first interview. Interviews lasted from two
hours and fifteen minutes to four hours and were recorded via electronic audiotape. After
each interview, additional field notes were recorded. The faculty member manually
transcribed the data after all interviews were conducted.
Analysis. This researcher independently coded and analyzed the data. Using
phenomenological data analysis steps outlined by John Creswell (2013), the researcher
coded and then categorized the data along the themes of victim and survivor identities,
expressions of passivity and empowerment, and expressions of helplessness and agency.
Ethical Issues. Before volunteering, the data collector obtained approval from
both the University of Colorado Denver Institutional Review Board and the board of the
safehouse. All participation was voluntarywomen responded to a call for participants
posted in the shelterand no personal incentives were offered. The researcher secured
written informed consent from all interviewees prior to the interviews (see Appendix B).
As the topic is emotional in nature, safehouse counselors were available nearby; thus, it
was determined that this study posed minimal risk to participants. Lastly, participants
were assured of complete confidentiality, including the use of pseudonyms, which were
inserted into the data with the analysis.
Role of Theory
This thesis is strongly guided by feminist theory in both question and
methodology. As a study about intimate violence against women, the research questions
are inherently feminist as they seek to contribute to conversations about how battered
women are seen and treated by society, and how that can be improved. Furthermore, as a
4


qualitative study based on in-depth, face-to-face interviews, the original data collection
was also feminist in nature. The interviewer was conscious of power dynamics and was
careful to avoid coercion, whether in obtaining an interview or during it, by cognizant
word choice and an emphasis on a comfortable and safe interview environment.
Additionally, by using a phenomenological approach to analyzing the data, this
project again utilizes a feminist perspective. The emphasis behind all aspects of the
analysis is the womens own experiences. The 22 women interviewed for this project are
each treated as experts on their own lives, and their individual experiences contribute
valuably to the larger conversation on victimhood and survivordom for battered women.
Finally, this thesis project is feminist because it is action-oriented research that
seeks to facilitate personal and societal change (Neuman 2001:116). This exploration of
womens experiences as victims and survivors was done with the specific intent of
improving advocacy services for women. Women who experience domestic violence are
by no means a uniform group: their experiences differ widely, as do their reactions to
those experiences. Hopefully through a better, more nuanced understanding of what
inspires women to identify as victims or survivors, advocacy programs can be better
tailored to suit the needs of individuals.
This thesis will also use identity and role theories to guide the analysis, with an
additional discussion of the social construction of gender to bolster the argument. Identity
and role theories will provide a foundation for interpreting how victim and survivor
identities prescribe or limit womens actions. Next, the theory of the social construction
of gender will be used to adequately discuss the performative behaviors associated with
5


role-identities and gender roles. Each of these theories will be more thoroughly discussed
in the body of the analysis.
6


CHAPTER II
VICTIM AND SURVIVOR IDENTITIES: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
In reference to women who have experienced domestic violence, victim and
survivor are both heavily loaded terms. Extensive research exists discussing the
connotations of each term.
Victim
In the academic literature on domestic violence, victim is used significantly
more frequently than is survivor. As such, it is more thoroughly defined, but still quite
contradictory in many of its positive and negative connotations. Much of the literature
presents the term victim with many beneficial and therefore positive connotations.
However, other literature highlights how the victim is disadvantaged by negative
connotations of helplessness and passivity.
The most popular definition of a victim focuses on an absence of blame or
responsibility for what happened. Under this premise, the victim must therefore be
completely innocent and pure (Cahn and Meier 1995; Davies, Lyon, and Monti-Catania
1998; Dunn 2005; Lamb 1999; Loseke 1992). To be a victim, in this view, means to take
absolutely no action against the perpetratoreven in self-defense. Right away one sees a
problem with this definition of victimhood: it leaves no room for any responsibility.
Particularly, it fails to recognize the realistic ways in which a woman may have
participated in her abuse or reacted against it (Minnow 1993; Schneider 1993). Of
course, assertions of victim responsibility could easily slip into victim-blaming.
According to Amy Leisenring, Current cultural discourses surrounding violence against
7


women commonly depict them as blameworthy (2006:307). The blame may be laid on
the victim from a number of directionsfrom the victim herself (Kim and Gray 2008;
Leisenring 2006; Williamson 2010; Walker 1979), from the perpetrator (Lempert 1996;
Thapar-Bjorkert and Morgan 2010), or from the patriarchal society in general (Cahn and
Meier 1995; Leisenring 2006; hooks 1989). Thus, the literature defines the victim label
primarily in its absence of blame or responsibility; the acknowledgement of any
contribution to a violent episode would nullify the innocence and purity necessary for her
to claim the label.
Similar to being innocent, a victim is also considered helpless against her abuser
(Baly 2010; Kelly 1988; Leisenring 2006; McLeer 1998; Tutty, Bidgood, and Rothery
1993; Walker 1979, 2000). Her helplessness stems from her inability to change her
situation, or perhaps even the inability to attempt to change her situation. In regard to
battered women, Lenore Walker developed the theory of learned helplessness, which
describes when someone has lost the ability to predict that what you do will make a
particular outcome occur (2000:116). Under this theory, a battered woman resigns
herself to the belief that external forcesnamely the perpetratorexert more control
over her life than she does and, as such, she gives up trying to stop the violence.
Stemming from helplessness, scholars also declare passivity as an expected trait
of a victim (Cahn and Meier 1995; Walker 1979). As Johnson and Ferraro write,
Feeling victimized implies, for most persons, significant passivity in accepting external
definitions and statuses (1984:128). Again, a resignation of control of ones life results
in this passive behavior. However, not all researchers consider passivity to be the same
as giving up. Much literature discusses passivity as a subtle resistance method (Baly
8


2010; Dunn 2005; Kelly 1988; Lempert 1996; Schneider 1993). Passive resistance
which could be expressed through following the perpetrators orders or simply shutting
down and doing nothing at allcan be used as a coping mechanism, a means of self-
preservation, or even a strategic decision to preserve her victim status (Kelly 1988;
Lempert 1996). Even in situations where it seems self-destructive, many women practice
passive resistance as a means of keeping themselvesand their childrensafe and
protecting their identities as innocent victims.
Another aspect of victimhood relates to the social construction of femininity.
Victims are presumed to be traditionally feminine in a way that, in turn, reinforces their
victim status. Liz Kelly writes: The kind of femininity that is encouraged in girls and
young women, through compliance, self-denial, suppression of anger, dependence on
male approval and submission to male authority, socializes women to accept
victimization (1988:163-164).1 This vulnerable dependency is glorified and therefore
reinforced by popular cultures damsel in distress prototype of femininity (Baly 2010;
Lamb 1999), which stresses that women are incapable of saving themselves.
Lurthermore, heteronormative images of proper victimhood stress the importance of
traditional gender roles, marriage, and even motherhood (Leisenring 2006; Loseke 1992;
Martin 1981; Salazar and Casto 2008; Tutty et al. 1993; Walker 1979). In maintaining
the ideal image of femininity that is required for victimhood, scholars argue, the victims
dependency on men is reinforced.
Like the damsel in distress, victims are also presumed to be weak (Baly 2010;
Cahn and Meier 1995; Leisenring 2006). Baly writes that romantic and femininity
1 Quoting Gilbert and Webster 1982, out of print.
9


discourses can lead abused women to view themselves as being weak (2010:2310).
Popular discourses of femininity undermine womens agency, reducing them to necessary
weakness in order to qualify for victimhood. Similarly, weak victims are also expected to
suffer (Cahn and Meier 1995; Hyden 2005). Through her suffering, the victim earns the
sympathy of others: [Victimization claims make powerful appeals for sympathy,
solidarity, compassion, and attention (Minnow 1993:1415).
Another noted characteristic of a victim that may evoke sympathy is her intense
fearfulness. Much literature insists that a victim should be afraid of her abuser (Davies et
al. 1998; Martin 1981; McCann, Sakheim, and Abrahamson 1988; Sacket and Saunders
1999). Her fear is expected to be an overwhelming influence on her decisions, or lack
thereof: Fear immobilized them, ruling their actions, their decision, their very lives
(Martin 1981:76). Thus, fear may be interpreted as the cause for a victims passivity,
helplessness, and subsequent suffering. However, other scholars interpret fear as a more
complicated emotion. In her study of womens narratives about leaving an abusive
partner, Hyden found that [f]ear, helplessness and resistance are closely inter-
associated. .. fear is the resistance offered by those who are presumed to be powerless
(2005:172). Using this definition, fear is the only resistance available to a proper victim,
precisely because it does not appear to be resistance at all. It allows her to acknowledge
that her situation is problematic without taking any actual action against the perpetrator.
While many of the above victim characteristics may be considered positive and
beneficial in terms of garnering empathy and support, victims are also frequently
pathologized. Bell hooks argues that [p]eople within patriarchal society imagine that
women are hit because we are hysterical, because we are beyond reason (1989:85).
10


Researchers find victims described as brainwashed (Gondolf and Fisher 1988:14;
Loseke 1992:103) or sick (Cahn and Meier 1995:344) because they stay in the abusive
relationship. Most frequently, however, victims mental health is understood as the
consequence of a loss of self (Mills 1985; Sackett and Saunders 1999) caused by the
perpetrators incessant attacks on her person, both physical and verbal. From here, an
overwhelming amount of research connects domestic violence victimization and low self-
esteem (Aguilar and Nightingale 1994; Cascardi & OLeary 1992; Hendy, Eggen,
Gustitus, McLeod, and Ng 2003; Kim & Gray 2008; Lynch and Graham-Bermann 2000;
McCann et al. 1988; Mitchell and Hodson 1983; Orava, McLeod, and Sharpe 1996;
Tutty et al. 1993; Walker 1979), which in turn reinforces the weakness and suffering of
an ideal victim. By questioning a victims mental health, outsiders excuse victims from
responsibility for their failure to take action.
Within this wide variety of victim characteristics, some are considered beneficial
for battered women to adopt, particularly in terms of receiving sympathy and help.
Others offer only negative connotations. Minnow (1993) puts it best when she writes:
Victimhood is a cramped identity, depending upon and reinforcing the faulty idea
that a person can be reduced to a trait. The victim is helpless, decimated, pathetic,
weak, and ignorant. Departing from this script may mean losing whatever
entitlements and compassion victim status may afford. (1432)
Thus, the victim identity is understood to have both good and bad aspects, which
must be carefully negotiated by the identity claimer. To be a proper victim opens access
to many resources. However, the victim identity is narrowly defined, and, as such, the
portrayal of it is heavily constrained and policed by society. In order to access the
benefits of victimhood, one must also accept the disadvantages, too. With both positive
11


and negative connotations in mind, one turns to a discussion of the survivor. How is the
survivor different from the victim?
Survivor
More recent literature on domestic violence leans toward the use of survivor
when referring to battered women. A survivor avoids many of the negative connotations
a victim must endure, such as helplessness and passivity. However, a survivors
perseverance also causes many to question her need for help and can lead to accusations
of blame and responsibility, more about which will be discussed later. For a survivor to
be an agent in some contexts leads to questions about her lack of agency in other
contexts. Thus, much like the above conversation on victimhood, notions of survivordom
are comprised of intricate contradictions.
What is perhaps most defining about a survivor is her agency (Dunn 2005;
Leisenring 2006). While most scholars argue that the victim is passive in the face of
violence, the survivor is seen acting against it. Dunn writes: Framing victims as
survivors constructs a different, less pathetic and more reasonable battered women
embodying the cultural values of strength rather than weakness, and agency instead of
passivity (2005:21). Survivors may demonstrate their strength and agency primarily by
resisting violence and seeking help (Kelly 1988; Thapar-Bjorkert and Morgan 2010). Of
course, with agency also come questions about responsibility. Outsiders often question
the innocence of the agentic survivor: what action might she have taken within the
violence to which she does not admit? Women exemplifying agency often are not
believed when they say they were beaten, or are blamed for causing the violence or for
12


failing to leave the abusive situation (Cahn and Meier 1995:354). If a battered woman is
active in any way, she risks being blamed for everything that she did not do to prevent or
end the abuse.
A survivors strength is typically seen in interaction with her agency, as Dunns
quote illustrates. Her strength becomes evident when she shows determination to end the
violence (Bowker 1983). Strength may also be indicated by the survivors will to live
despite bad circumstances (Gondolf and Fisher 1988:20) and her resounding belief that
she has control over what happens to her (Walker 2000). These indicators of strength can
be seen in direct opposition to the so-called learned helplessness of victims (Walker
2000), further demonstrating how victims and survivors operate at opposite poles of an
agency continuum (Dunn 2005:2). Hence, agency and strength are two of the defining
characteristics from the literature that distinguish a victim from a survivor.
Similarly, survivordom is also considered synonymous with empowerment (Brosi
and Rolling 2010; Busch and Valentine 2000, Hasenfeld 1987; Lamb 1999; McLeer
1998; Walker 2006). Survivors demonstrate empowerment primarily through increased
self-efficacy (Busch and Valentine 2000; Orava et al. 1996; Walker 2000) and decreased
self-blame (Busch and Valentine 2000). Of course, like agency and strength,
empowerment also comes with an increased sense of personal responsibility (Busch and
Valentine 2000), which is difficult to maintain without inciting accusations of blame,
both internal and external (Cahn and Meier 1995; Kim and Gray 2008; hooks 1989;
Leisenring 2006; Lempert 1996; Thapar-Bjorkert and Morgan 2010; Williamson 2010;
Walker 1979). Dunn warns that a survivors empowerment might dissuade rather than
encourage assistance (2005:23) because she is no longer seen as needing help from
13


others. For the women, then, being a survivor can be desirable: it implies agency,
strength, and empowerment. However, for an outsider, these positive qualities can
discourage help because of an assumed lack of necessity.
On a different note, the survivor is not subject to the accusations of mental illness
that often accompany victimhood. Instead, survivors are said to have a new, healthy
sense of self, particularly as compared to the victims assumed low self-esteem (Brosi
and Rolling 2010; Park et al. 2009; Salazar and Casto 2008). Brosi and Rolling discuss
the emergence of a new self-story via survivor identification (2010:247), while Salazar
and Casto describe a secure sense of selfhood as a necessary step toward survivordom
(2008:93). Similarly, the survivor is seen as more reasonable (Dunn 2005:21) in
contrast to the hysterical victim discussed by hooks (1989). Last, the survivors self-
esteem is reported to recover over time (Aguilar and Nightingale 1994; Tutty et al. 1993;
Walker 2000), indicating further removal from the victim identity.
Thus, the survivor identity connotes many more positive traits, such as
empowerment and agency, as compared to the victim. However, for the survivor these
same positive connotations come at the expense of the sympathy the victim deserves.
So while the connotations may seem more desirable, the survivor identity still has
drawbacks like the victim identity does.
Compared to the amount of literature written about victimhood, significantly less
literature exists defining the survivor. This may simply be the result of the more recent
emergence of the term to the study of domestic violence. However, one might also
speculate that less has been written about survivors because patriarchal society prefers the
victim: passive, feminine, and unambiguous. Survivordom, with its increased level of
14


interaction on the part of the woman, questions the patriarchal system that normalizes
violence by contesting] essentialist characterizations of women and transcending]
gendered stereotypes (Dunn 2005:22). More about the implications of both victimhood
and survivordom on patriarchy will be discussed later.
15


CHAPTER III
ROLES AND GENDER ROLES
Identity Theory
Perhaps more important than the comparison of the victim and the survivor
identities is the question: why does a woman self-identify as one instead of the other? Is
it possible for her to identify as both? Can she transition from one to the other? An
overview of identity theory provides some insight into these inquiries.
Through explaining identities within a societal context, identity theorists describe
the ways in which shared meanings of identity guide and limit a persons interpersonal
relations. According to Peter Burke and Jan Stets,
Identity theory seeks to explain the specific meanings that individuals have for the
multiple identities they claim; how these identities relate to one another for any
one person; how their identities influence their behavior, thoughts, and feelings or
emotions; and how their identities tie them in to society at large. (2009:3)
The multiple identities Burke and Stets reference are combined to create the self. The
self exists as an object within a persons own mind, and as such it is malleable as the
subject progresses through life (Burke and Stets 2009). To achieve different goals at
different points of life, a person may slowly alter his or her version of the self.
Of course, the self does not exist within a vacuum; an individual needs
affirmation from others that reinforces his or her internal view of self. This process of
verification relies upon feedback from others; if the feedback does not match the intended
self, he or she will alter his or her behavior to better match the internal standard (Stets
and Burke 2005; Swann and Read 1981).
While individuals in general seek positive self-verification from others, many
scholars have hypothesized that individuals with negative (stigmatized) identities may
16


instead seek positive non-verification of themselves (Cast and Burke 2002; Swann and
Read 198f). However research has found that the opposite is true: individuals with
negative identities and low self-esteem prefer negative verifying feedback over positive
non-verifying feedback (Burke 1991; Robinson and Smith-Lovin 1992; Swann and Read
1981). Furthermore, Robinson and Smith-Lovin (1992) found that individuals in
situations that inspire low self-esteem and self-worthsuch as abusive relationships
reject feedback that is intended to boost their self-worth. Instead, those individuals will
surround themselves with others that reinforce their negative self-image because it
verifies what they already believe to be true. This phenomenon may explain why
battered women frequently stay in relationships, not despite but because of the emotional
abuse.
Similarly, Stets and Burke (2005) found that individuals accept negative feedback
fairly quickly. In an experiment in which participants were given either positive or
negative feedback based on simple clerical tasksregardless of actual performancethe
participants exposed to consistent negative feedback quickly stopped trying. This
phenomenon fits neatly within Walkers theory of learned helplessness in battered
women (1979, 2000, 2006): over time an abused woman becomes passive in the face of
persistent violence, accepting the notion that she can do nothing to prevent it. Here the
theory of learned helplessness contributes much to understanding why women suffering
from low self-esteem as a result of abuse would continue to seek negative feedback,
verifying the negative identity to which they have resigned themselves.
This phenomenon also demonstrates the overall consistency of identities. Burke
and Stets summarize: [tjhrough the verification process, identities resist change
17


(2009:176). Negative identities are particularly resistant (Robinson and Smith-Lovin
1992), as demonstrated in the above studies. Resisting change is not the same as not
changing, however. Persistent positive, non-verifying feedback may eventually improve
an individuals low self-esteem (Cast and Burke 2002), as long-term group or individual
therapy with battered women has demonstrated (Bowker 1983; Brosi and Rolling 2010;
Busch and Valentine 2000; Haj-Yahia and Cohen 2009; Sackett and Saunders 1999;
Tutty et al. 1999; Walker 2006). While the process is not easy, many formerly abused
women have successfully reconstructed their identities.
Role Theory
While the above discussion of identity theory shows how identities are difficult
although not impossibleto change, role-identity theory offers a more malleable model
of self-identification. Under role theory, a person may activate a certain role-identity in a
given situation chosen through the salience hierarchy (Burke and Stets 2009; Stryker
1968). The salience hierarchy serves to answer the questionwhat identity would be
most beneficial to me in this situation? Stryker defines the salience hierarchy as the
probability, for a given person, of a given identity being invoked in a variety of
situations (1968:560). Furthermore, the more often an identity or role is activated, the
higher on the salience hierarchy it exists. For example, an abused woman who is seeking
help from others may have a more salient victim identity than survivor identity, as the
former is more beneficial in garnering assistance (Johnson and Ferraro 1984).
In addition to considering the salience hierarchy, individuals also consider levels
of commitment when choosing to identify as a particular role. Commitment is measured
18


on two levels: the number of relationships based on the identity, and the depths of those
relationships (Stryker 1968:561). Research has found that commitment tends to have a
higher influence on a persons choice of role-identity than salience does, although both
are important (Serpe 1987). For example, under the commitment principle, a woman in
the safehouse would consider how many others in her counseling group interact with her
as a victim, versus how many interact with her as a survivor. This consideration, in
addition to the salience hierarchy discussed above, would influence her decision to adopt
either the victim or the survivor role.
In discussing identity and role theories in reference to victims and survivors of
domestic violence, one sees that many factors contribute to the decision to identify as one
or the other. So while the victim is considered passive and the survivor active, in identity
and role theories they are both seen in terms of strategic activity: .. .it may be more
accurate to view people as active agents who, after fashioning images of themselves,
behave in ways that tend to bring their social environments into harmony with these
images (Swann and Read 1981:1127). Just as the connotations of victim and survivor
are socially influenced, so is the decision to enact either of these identities.
Roles
After choosing to adopt a particular role-identity, it is important that one must
properly enact that role so it can be verified by others. Roles come with shared meanings
of acceptable behavior (Burke and Stets 2009; Stryker and Serpe 1982). At best, these
shared meanings provide guidance and access to resources; at worst they restrict the
persons options.
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Roles as Resources. More positively, roles can be seen as a resource that can be
utilized by an individual. For Baker and Faulkner, a role is a resource because it:
defines and signals a person's social identity; it enables others to classify,
understand, and anticipate a person; it is an answer to the question, Who are
you? A role is a resource used to claim citizenship in a social community, with
rights and obligations pertaining thereto; a person without a role is like a person
without a country. (1991:283-284)
Thus, without roles a person cannot be placed in society and therefore will be rejected by
others. However, by successfully claiming a particular role, one achieves access to the
cultural, social, and material means necessary for pursuing their interests (Baker and
Faulkner 1991), such as access to legal or social support for battered women.
Understanding roles as resources leads to a phenomenon of situational role
adoption. Depending on the context and the goal of the situation, one may choose to
enact the role they believe would be most likely to allow them to attain their goal,
regardless of whether or not it is the role with which they consciously identify. In an
essay on gender identities, Judith Butler writes:
[We] take up identifications in order to facilitate or prohibit our own desires. In
each case of identification, there is an interpretation at work, a wish and/or a fear
as well, the effect of a prohibition, and a strategy of resolution. (1990a:334)
Thus, the use of a role as a resource has potentially huge benefits, especially for the
women in this study. The use of one particular role versus another could mean the
difference between accessing needed resources or not.
In an essay on role-playing and role-using, however, Peter Callero problematizes
roles as a resource, writing that, [w]hen roles serve as resources, behavior is limited and
constrained through the denial of access to other roles. Thus, in much the same way as a
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resource facilitates action, it can limit or structure one's options (1994:231). Under this
perspective, one must turn to a discussion of roles as restricting.
Roles as Prescriptive. While roles can be positively utilized as resources,
theorists like Callero also identify negative aspects of roles. Roles, as socially defined,
are often limiting; in order to access the benefits of the role, one must fit the roles
definition very closely. For example, in the above review on what it means to be a victim,
a woman could lose her victim status by not being weak or passive enough.
More specifically, roles are explicitly prescriptive because, by definition, they
include what actions do and do not fit the role description. Role relationships are
governed by behavioral expectations; the rights and duties of each interactant are
normatively prescribed. Thus, if one knows who one is (in a social sense), then one
knows how to behave. Role requirements give purpose, meaning, direction, and guidance
to ones life (Thoits 1983:175). In the above review of victim and survivor identities,
these roles are defined in terms of the action of the role-taker; for instance, since the
victim is defined by her passivity, someone enacting the victim role must be passive.
While these prescriptions can be beneficial in terms of providing a blueprint for assuming
a role, they are also severely limiting. In the context of victimhood, straying from the
passive role of victim even the slightest amount can quickly lead to accusations of blame
and responsibility, thereby negating ones victim status. In this way the prescriptiveness
of roles can be damaging for battered women.
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Performing Roles
Despite these risks and limitations, individuals may use roles in order to achieve a
particular goal within an interaction. Sometimes these roles are true components of their
identity, simply magnified for the appropriate situation. Other times roles are enacted
merely as performance for a means to an end.
False Roles. While different roles can sometimes both be considered aspects
of ones identity, other times one of the roles is internally acknowledged as false, but still
utilized strategically in order to maximize benefit. One participant in this study clearly
enacted false roles as a resource, as she said:
I am likewhat is that animal? You know the one that changes colors?
[Chameleon?] Yes, thats it, I can be what you want me to be.
Laura
While Laura self-identifies as a victim, she admits to activating a survivor role in certain
contexts, such as group meetings with shelter staff. For Laura, it is more important to
receive the maximum benefit from an interaction than to maintain a consistent or accurate
role identity.
Related to the above example, Laura loses access to the victim roles resources
when she utilizes the survivor role instead. She seems to recognize this trade-off as she
describes herself as a chameleon, playing a different role depending upon the context
and the audience.
Playing the Victim. Slightly different than using a false role, playing the
victim is a phenomenon in which women pretend to be helpless in order to gamer social
support. One participant in particular discussed exclusively enacting her identity as a
victim rather than exploring the survivor role:
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if a woman is a victim then chances are she will be even more supported. So
I think, I mean maybe not totally consciously, but some women just stay as
victims. Why bother? It is easier to do and you get everyones sympathy.
Angela
Angela is particularly self-aware in recognizing the benefits of retaining the victim
identity over using other or additional identities. Angela is different from Laura in that
she does identify as a victim, however she also consciously chooses to elaborate upon her
victim identity because she recognizes the benefits of being a victim in this situation.
Thus, the utilization of roles in general can be both positive and negative for the
role-taker. Adopting a role as a resource can allow a battered woman to get the most out
of an interaction with safehouse staff members; however, that same role also serves to
restrict her available actions. While Laura gains approval from staff during her
enactment of the false survivor role, she loses the possibility of expressing her actual
self-identification as a victim. Angela, on the other hand, maintains but exaggerates an
aspect of her identity by playing the victim. However, she also limits herself from
enacting non-victim-like behaviors which could prove to be more beneficial in the long
run.
One last note on the topic of role enactment revolves around the position of roles
in society. As discussed, each role can be considered both a resource and a limiting
prescription. In considering the cost-benefit ratio of enacting a particular role, one must
first understand how that role is seen in society. In the words of role theory scholar Peter
Callero:
The greater the level of cultural endorsement of a role, the more likely it is to be
employed as a resource in the community. A minimum level of cultural
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endorsement is necessary if a role is to be employed as a resource: the greater its
acceptance, the greater its accessibility as a resource. (1994:236-237)
Hence, while the victim role is more limiting, it is also a better potential resource because
society accepts and sympathizes with victimhood. The survivor role is less limiting but
also much more ambiguously viewed by society. Consideration of cultural endorsement
might lead a woman to adopt a victim role instead of a survivor role.
Roles and Gender
In discussing victim and survivor roles specifically, one must also understand the
impact of gender on roles. Even in contexts in which gender is not explicitly relevant,
often the availability of a role as a resource and the prescriptive elements of a particular
role are both stronglyif not completelyinfluenced by the persons gender.
Theorists frequently refer to gender as a background identity because it always
exists within an interaction at some level. More specific roles and identities cannot be
seen without the background information of gender identification, even in contexts in
which gender does not explicitly affect the situation. [T]he interactional conduct of
gender is always enmeshed in other identities and activities. It cannot be observed in a
pure, disentangled form. Gender is a background identity that modifies other identities
that are often more salient in the setting than it is (Ridgeway and Smith-Lovin
1999:193). For both the victim and survivor role identities, the individuals identity as a
woman is inseparable from the role, prescribing how the role identity should be both
performed and interpreted.
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Performing Gender
As discussed above, roles are performed in various social contexts. Gender can
also be understood to be performative in that individuals do gender by acting in ways
which are considered socially appropriate for their biological sex: Doing gender consists
of managing such occasions so that, whatever the particulars, the outcome is seen and
seeable in context as gender-appropriate or, as the case may be, gender-inappropriate
(West and Zimmerman 1987:135). Just as roles are both resource and prescriptive, the
accuracy of gender performance can either benefit or limit the individuals social
acceptance and access to resources. Gender performativity scholar Judith Butler
explains:
It seems fair to say that certain kinds of acts are usually interpreted as expressive
of a gender core or identity, and that these acts either conform to an expected
gender identity or contest that expectation in some way... That gender reality is
created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an
essential sex, a true or abiding masculinity or femininity, are also constituted as
part of the strategy by which the performative aspect of gender is concealed.
(1990b: 278-279)
Gender performance, much like role performance, is a typically unconscious response to
social norms. In other words, the performance of a victim or survivor role is inherently
gendered in a way that reinforces gender performance expectations in order to be deemed
successful. Using a previous example, victimhood rests on an assumption of passivity
that is stereotypically feminine. Failure to be feminine or passive would both result in a
failure to adequately enact the victim role. As such, a womans performance of
victimhood serves to reinforce the very gender norm upon which it rests.
To better understand how gender performativity influences the enactment of both
victim and survivor roles, a discussion of gender social construction is necessary.
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CHAPTER IV
THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER AND IDENTITIES
Before one can successfully perform gender, one must first understand what that
gender performance should be. Rather than being an innate characteristic as it is
commonly misconstrued, gender is a system of socially constructed norms and
expectations in a society. These gender specifications correlate to biological sex:
femininity is for women; masculinity is for men.
The Social Construction of Gender
Some of the first work on the social construction of gender comes from
sociologist Erving Goffman. He writes:
In all societies, initial sex-class placement stands at the beginning of a sustained
sorting process whereby members of the two classes are subject to differential
socialization. From the start, persons who are sorted into the male class and
persons who are sorted into the other are given different treatment, acquire
different experience, enjoy and suffer different expectations. In response there is
objectively overlayed on a biological gridextending it, neglecting it, countering
ita sex-class-specific way of appearing, acting, feeling. (1977:303)
While not every society defines gender in only two opposing categories, the majority
doincluding American society within which this research takes place. As described by
Goffman, this placement serves to socialize individuals into their appropriate gender.
The treatment of young boys serves to instill masculinity in them just as the opposing
treatment of young girls serves to teach them femininity.
Difference. More important than simply understanding that individuals are
differently socialized is comprehending the mechanisms and effects of the different
socialization. Years of socialization as a certain gender cause one to behave in self-
26


fulfilling ways. These behaviors are traditionally described in essentialist terms: women
are more emotional than men, for instance, rather than understanding male socialization
to include suppression of emotions. The effect of gender socialization is that:
[Gender difference] paradigms are woven into individual and collective
perceptions, and they influence personal choices and evaluations of experience.
Thus difference is insisted upon, it focuses on and is reinforced by the apparent
naturalness of different spheres, different abilities, different moralities, different
orientations or different behavior for the sexes. (Epstein 1991:55)
Hence, the social construction of gender roles is structured so that it is invisible.
Differences between the sexes are attributed to natural, biological differences. This
naturalness is difficult to argue against, allowing for the development and sustainment
of gender norms that are nearly impossible to upset.
Social Control. Just like the availability of certain roles to certain people,
socialized gender difference limits ones options for behavior. What looks like choice on
an individual level is actually tightly constrained by institutionalized gender differences
which, in turn, are monitored by both formal and informal social controls, ranging from
non-verbal expressions of disapproval to social ostracism (Epstein 1988). Of course,
social control via gender roles is not arbitrarily construed, but rather designed specifically
to reinforce the current system of gender hierarchy. As Dobash and Dobash write in their
book Violence Against Wives: A Case Against the Patriarchy.
Socialization into an acceptance of the rightful nature of the order and its
inequities can, if successful, allow such inequities to go unquestioned and
unchallenged or to make challenges seem unnatural or immoral. Such a general
acceptance of the hierarchal structure means that any challenges to it (from those
who are not internally controlled by the idea of its rightfulness) will be met by
external constraints in the guise of social pressures to conform (from those who
do believe in its rightfulness) and by legitimate intervention both to prevent and to
punish deviance. (1979:44)
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The legitimate intervention of which they speak is exerted across a spectrum of
sexismfrom benevolent to overt. Benevolent sexism, otherwise known as chivalry,
reinforces heteronormative gender roles in the context of male paternalism and female
purity and domesticity. Overt sexism is more obvious, the most pertinent example being
violence against women. Again, as Dobash and Dobash write: We propose that the
correct interpretation of violence between husbands and wives conceptualizes such
violence as the extension of the domination and control of husbands over their wives.
This control is historically and socially constructed (1979:15). Thus, social controlor
social coercioninto socially constructed gender roles serves to not just reinforce those
social constructions, but also provides an opportunity to enact them.
Stereotypes. Another mechanism for social construction of gender is the use of
stereotypes. Gender stereotypes are incredibly pervasive in society and, as such, highly
effective in disguising and reinforcing the social construction of gender. Gender
stereotypes, like role identities, are prescriptive in that they closely detail how men and
women should and should not behave (Rudman et al. 2012). As such, these stereotypes
are self-fulfilling as actors learn how to behave through stereotypes albeit reinforcing
those same stereotypes. As discussed above, those who stray from stereotypical behavior
risk being socially sanctioned:
Given that agency is high in status, female agency is discrepant with women's low
ascribed status, and this status incongruity elicits backlash. By exhibiting
masculine competencies, agentic women undermine the presumed differences
between the genders, and discredit the system in which men have more access to
power and resources for ostensibly legitimate reasons. That is, agentic women
should incur penalties because they threaten the gender hierarchy. (Rudman et al.
2012:166)
Related to social coercion, stereotypes serve as the cognitive basis for decisions about
28


exerting social controls. When a woman exhibits non-stereotypically feminine behavior,
she risks compromising the gender system and thus must be punished swiftly. These
punishments, again, can range from mere disapproval to physical violence.
The respondents who were above seen assuming false roles or playing the
victim again come to mind within this discussion of social coercion. Rather than simply
choosing to perform roles that are inaccurate or extreme depictions of their identities,
Laura and Angela may instead be seen as responding to social cues. Alice Eagly writes,
People often conform to gender-role norms that are not internalized, because of the
considerable power that groups and individuals supportive of these norms have to
influence others behavior through rewards and punishments of both subtle (e.g.
nonverbal cues) and more obvious (e.g. monetary incentives, sexually harassing
behavior) varieties (1987:19).
In this sense, Laura and Angela both are responding to social cues and chose to enact the
role seen as most socially appropriate. In doing so, they avoid social punishment and
may even benefit from the interaction.
Thus, the social construction of gender is seen to be incredibly influential in
society. Individuals are socialized to reinforce the constructed system via stereotypes or
risk being punished. As such, the social construction of gender is not only hard to
identify, but even harder to challenge.
The Social Constructions of Femininity and Masculinity
Within the theory of social construction of gender, individuals are socially
constructed as either feminine or masculine, almost exclusively in opposition to each
other.
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In the famous words of Simone de Beauvoir, One is not born, but rather
becomes, a woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that
the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this
intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine
(2011:283). Long before it was named, de Beauvoir critiqued the social construction of
femininity as just that: socially constructed. She goes on to discuss femininity as
primarily characterized by passivity and powerlessness, both of which notions remain
true today.
Even earlier than de Beauvoir, John Stuart Mill discussed the artificiality of the
nature of women as a mixture of forced repression and unnatural stimulation. He
writes:
The masters of women wanted more than simple obedience, and they turned the
whole force of education to effect their purpose. All women are brought up from
the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite
to that of men; not self-will, and government by self-control, but submission, and
yielding to the control of others. (1970:141)
This socialization, then, teaches women to be dependent upon men, thereby reinforcing
their secondary status (hence the title of de Beauvoirs book The Second Sex). The social
construction of femininity, then, teaches women to be passive, submissive, and dependent
in order to attract their presumed gender opposites and potential mates, men.
Furthermore, in The Feminine Mystique Betty Friedan writes that [t]he feminine
mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the
fulfillment of their own femininity (1963:43). Under this guise, proper femininity
becomes more important than independence or competence. Many of the women in the
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safehouse described themselves in terms of this typical femininityhelpless and lacking
control:
I am trying to take control... It is not easy to take control when you dont know
how to do things... I am just a mom. I am a nice person; I am a God fearing
person, and I believe in Jesus.
Tashina
I am not in control of anything. I dont think I have ever been in control. I am
paralyzed.
Linda
Both Tashina and Linda admit to not being in control or even not knowing how to be in
control. In doing so, they rely on scripts of femininity in which women are lost without
men. Furthermore, Tashina emphasizes her femininity when she refers to herself as just
a mom, as if her feminine fulfillment of motherhood further justifies her lack of
direction.
The social construction of masculinity offers the complementary side of womens
passivity and submissiveness. As men are socialized to dominate both women and each
other, violence also becomes a socially conditioned component of masculinity. Dobash
and Dobash write that: men who assault their wives are actually living up to cultural
prescriptions that are cherished in Western societyaggressiveness, male dominance,
and female subordinationand they are using physical force as a means to enforce that
dominance (1979:24). In other words, masculinity is socially constructed to include
even valueinterpersonal violence. As such, enacting violence against women, while not
legally condoned, is socially endorsed on either a conscious or unconscious level. One
respondent in particular embodied this phenomenon of gender construction as she
31


excused her abuser as simply fulfilling his masculinity, as she fulfilled her role as a
woman:
He hit me couple of times like when I came home late from the store. He is
jealous thats all. I didnt like it but I am OK with it. After all, he is a guy, he
works and then he wants you to take care of him like his mom does. He just
wanted to tell me how his rules are and I am OK with that. I was extra nice to
him after that. Each time and he was like shocked. He expected me to make a big
fuss, but I was like I know you are the guy and I am fine with that. I think he
actually liked that. Plus, the kids and I need a strict guy, you know. He took care
of us, he really did.
Gabi
Gabis acceptance of her abuse stemmed from the logic of gender roles in any given
situation. Within her relationship, she expected and accepted her partners dominance as
inevitable and appropriate masculinity. At the same time, her passive acceptance of the
physical and verbal abuse was a behavior appropriated to and reinforcing her femininity.
At the conclusion of her interview she reasserts her belief in normative gender roles by
saying:
I need to find someone who will take care of me and this new baby.
Gabi
Gabis acceptance and enactment of stereotypical gender roles are seen as strongly
influencing her actions and identity. It comes as no surprise that Gabi also unabashedly
identifies as a victim.
The social constructions of both femininity and masculinity, then, are seen as
destructive to women: the social construction of femininity is itself structured to create
victims out of women, just as the social construction of masculinity is structured to create
oppressors out of men.
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The Social Construction of the Victim
As the socialization of women into femininity makes them into ideal victims,
many scholars further discuss how the victim role is complementarily tailored to suit
women. In his book Labeling Women Deviant: Gender, Stigma and Social Control,
Edwin Schur writes: Basic socialization and ongoing patterns of routine interaction have
encouraged males to victimize women, and have imposed on women the victim role
(1984:133). Furthermore, the term victim has itself become gendered as the social
construction of femininity so closely relates to the definition of victimhood: weakness,
passivity, and helplessness (Reich 2002).
Many victim-identifying interviewees discussed themselves in terms of
helplessness:
To me victim is the helpless princess.
- Angela
Victim is not in control. Doesnt want to be in control or is convinced that she
cant be in control... I dont know which one. But victim is helpless... Others are
in charge... But victim is the one who is letting others be in charge. Does the
victim know this? I dont know. I have to say she has to, but maybe there are
some who dont. Victim is defeated. Thats what I think.
- Mindi
I was your typical victim. To me that is someone, who doesnt understand whats
going on. She is helping the abuse to go on by making excuses and blaming
herself, she has self-esteem issues and all that like I dont deserve any better...
She is waiting for things to change... But the society sees women like that...
Helpless, needing help from others. She doesnt know any better.
Anastasia
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These allusions to helplessness allude to the earlier conversation on femininity, especially
in its relation to the damsel-in-distress trope. Angela goes as far as to call the victim a
princess, further exaggerating her appropriate femininity.
Other women responded to questions about victimhood by applying the victim
label to everyone in the shelter. Both of these women discussed victimization in terms of
a lack of responsibility for abuse:
I mean thats all what we are here, right! In a safehouse, hiding because we have
been victimized. Victims need to learn that they didnt ask for what happened to
them... But I still sit and ask myself why me? Why do I have victim of abuse
label on my resume? It makes me sad. It makes me sad that I cant stand on my
own feet, still. That have to have help... These thoughts can overwhelm you.
Then you get immobilized. You want the world to know that someone turned you
into a victim and it can happen to anyone.
Denise
Yeah, I am a victim. What else? Things happened to me that I cant undo. I need
help and there aint any? If thats not a victim, what is? Here, I think everybody
is a victim.
- Crystal
Crystal also identifies the influence of gender roles on victimization:
... when it comes to men, women are victims. Men are stronger.
- Crystal
Although she believes womens victimization to be more a product of physical strength
than socialization, she still recognizes the gendered element. Looking more closely at
mens socialization in a conversation about physicality, Michael Johnson writes:
... focusing on gender socialization rather than physical differences, individual
attitudes toward violence and experience with violence make such threats more
likely and more credible from a man than from a woman. Put simply, the exercise
of violence is more likely to be a part of boys and mens experience than girls
and womensin sports, fantasy play, and real-life conflict. (2007:263-264)
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As discussed above, the social construction of femininity raises women to be the
appropriate victim, and the social construction of masculinity creates men who are
capable of interpersonal violence. Ultimately, fulfillment of these gender roles comes
with advantages and disadvantages for everyone.
Advantages of Being a Victim. As mentioned above, being a victim comes with
many advantages for battered women. Perhaps the most pervasive advantage of
victimhood is simply likeability. The proper woman is nice but incompetent, fitting
established gender stereotypes, traditional heterosexual needs, and accepting the power
relationship, whereas non-traditionally feminine women are seen a competent but not
likable. They violate conventional gender expectations, do not meet heterosexual needs,
and challenge the societal power relationship (Glick and Fiske 1999:201). Since
victimhood fits neatly with the description of a proper woman, being a victim is an easy
path to social acceptance, particularly from men.
Other obvious benefits of being a victim are access to resources and sympathy
from others. As one respondent said:
If you say you are the victim cops and like social services people they are more
helpful to you than if you go around saying I am not a victim and I am a strong
woman and whatever. Then you are a bitch.
Laura
Since being a victim is also the fulfillment of proper femininity, outside helpespecially
help from traditionally male-dominated institutions like law enforcementis more
forthcoming to victims. Furthermore, with victimhood also comes the excuse of being
helpless and needing extra assistance.
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Another victim-identifying interviewee expressed appreciation for a particular
staff member who allowed her to utilize the victim role to receive more services:
I like Miss June the best. She be like OK lets see what you need and how we
can help you. The others are like you have to help yourself kind of thing. What
does this even mean, right? Honey, trust me, if I knew how to do it, I was not
gonna ask you.
Jasmine
Jasmine embodies helplessness, as seen through her rejection of staff members who
encourage her to make her own decisions, and her preference for Miss June, who enables
her victim status.
Disadvantages of Being a Victim. Of course, being a victim also comes with
disadvantages, as women like Jasmine refuse to put effort into rehabilitation because they
prefer being dependent on others. These victims risk being further victimized by those
offering them help through paternalistic devaluation of them from self-managing people
to dependent, hapless people (Bayley 1991:62). When a woman is exclusively helped
by others and does not work to improve her situation herself, she becomes even more of a
victim. This situation risks the development of resentment from others, like Mary Ann,
who says:
What I find as the most frustrating thing is some of the other women who come
here. I try to understand where they are coming from and I get that. But some,
they expect things to be handed out to them. Instead of working for things or
working on themselves. They have this attitude which is really funny, on one
hand they act so very helpless and they turn around and act like they are entitled
to everything and the world owes them because they have been abused.
Mary Ann
In other words, by being a helpless victim one risks running out of the same sympathy
and favors to which being a victim grants access.
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Similarly, another risk of victimhood is being blamed for doing too little. Again,
this view of victimhood may cause the victim to lose the sympathy and support the victim
role is designed to garner. Just as Mary Ann disclosed frustration with the victim-
identifying women in the safehouse, Ruby also finds the victims helplessness to be
unattractive and unproductive. She says:
I am not a victim of abuse, I am not a victim of anything. Do I look like a victim
to you? ... A victim is helpless, a victim whines all the time but is not willing to
produce solutions. A victim gives up.
- Ruby, 19
For her, victimhoods definitive helplessness and passivity is undesirable because the
victim does not contribute to her own improvement. The weakness of victimhood that is
often seen as an expression of proper femininity is instead seen as exactly that: weakness.
The Social Construction of the Survivor
In contrast to the victim, the survivor is defined by empowerment and agency. As
such, it is an inherently masculine term and its application to women is strategic and
pointed: The use of survivor was meant to help draw attention to the abuse of women
and girls as an institutionalized practice in our culture, something common, unquestioned,
and almost expected (Lamb 1999:119). Survivordom defies gender stereotypes and, as
such, is much less likely to be adopted by abused women. The few unhesitant, self-
defined survivors from this sample focus on themes of control and determination:
I am a survivor. I will always be one. I survive what life throws at me. And life
happens and will continue to happen. It is all about what you do and how you
deal with it.
Lachet
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Because you are a survivor, if you process what had happened to you, name the
beast like I said and then work on how to get yourself out of it. You need to
believe that you can do it... I know it is not easy and it will take lots of sacrifices.
But then, you have done something you can be proud of. You have survived this
situation and moved to a new one. You are not allowing the history to repeat
itself because you have learned from it. I think I am certainly a survivor.
Serna
I have been always a survivor. You know why because I never gave up.
- Mindi
For these survivors the identity does not come with negative connotations often applied
by outsiders. Another woman from the safehouse, however, seemed to question the
empowering, counter-normative aspect of survivordom by saying:
I guess [survivors] are the ones who like kill the guy. You know like she has been
beaten for years and then she finally takes the gun and bam! She survives it! [So
she has to kill the abuser to survive abuse?] No, I mean, I am not suggesting that
killing is OK. I am just saying. Maybe she has family or something that she can
go to, stay with. Maybe she has money and can leave, like even leave the state...
Go start somewhere new. These will be surviving too. You have to have money
and people who will help you.
- Ruby
Ruby seems to miss the point of survivordom and instead dramaticizes the description
before returning to a victim-like script of dependence on others. As such, Ruby shows an
adherence to gender norms within which women are either completely deviantand
presumably should and would be punishedor dependent on others under a guise of
survivordom.
Advantages of Being a Survivor. As the above examples illustrate, being a self-
identified survivor means challenging socially constructed gender norms. Being a
survivor is advantageous for women because it allows them to reject the damsel-in-
distress trope of femininity and instead focus on helping themselves.
38


In this positive light, female survivors of a variety of life-altering situations are
seen as proud of themselves for surviving (Mills 1985) and as having advantages in
terms of psychological well-being and active involvement (Park et al. 2009:434). As
one interviewee stated,
Even if you have to make difficult choices, you cant be wrong in taking control
of your life.
- Mindi
Thus, the advantages of survivor-identification are easy to see. However, as being a
survivor challenges gender norms it also comes with socially sanctioned disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Being a Survivor. Battered women who act and identify as
survivors are frequently met with challenges to their legitimacy of needing help. The
most documented of these come from the legal system, another historically masculine
institution:
Ultimately, the problems with these characterizations arise from the fact that
current popular and legal interpretations of agency (labeled the reasonable
man standard) and of victimhood leave battered women in a double bind: the
burden of rationally proving that the battering relationship was sufficiently
coercive or life-threatening is placed on their shoulders by asking why they never
attempted to leave; and if they fail to fit the archetypal profile of the true victim
by not being repentant or traumatized enough, or by being angry, then they are
judged as not truly victims, and therefore as not meriting legal redress. (Picart
2003:99)
While empowerment and agency are beneficial for the survivors mental health and
personal progress, these positive qualities take on negative connotations from the outside.
By surviving too welland therefore rejecting stereotypical femininity, a battered
woman may alienate potential resources. One of the women in the safehouse recognized
this risk, especially as it relates to accessing the safehouses limited resources:
39


No I am not. What survivor? This is what they want you to say. Then, you leave
and you are not their problem anymore.
Linda
Another woman questioned the survivor label because of its anti-feminine connotations:
So, I am an active person but I dont want to be known as pushy, busy-body,
intrusive, you know. I try to pay attention to that because when especially women
are active and actively in control thats what others tend to think.
Lachet
While Lachet does identify as a survivor, she is the only survivor to openly acknowledge
its implications for gender stereotypes. In rejecting feminine stereotypes of passivity,
Lachet recognizes that she must be careful not to stray too far from normative gender
scripts.
Interestingly, one woman from the sample raised the notion of gender scripts in
her discussion of survivordom, but in an inverted way:
Survivor my ass? Who survives what? This aint some fairy tale. You survive
when you can leave it all behind and start all new, all fresh. Like who is gonna be
able to do that. It is all bullshit.
Crystal
Crystal does not identify as a survivor, but nor does she believe that any battered woman
could or should; here she alludes to traditional gender constructions in a non-traditional
way. Typically, in fairy tales the victimized woman awaits rescue from an agentic,
handsome male. For Crystal, however, the fairy tale is about women rescuing
themselves, which she wholeheartedly rejects. She seems to recognize how gender roles
40


are socially constructed, but still ultimately believes ideas about stereotypical femininity
and strongly assumes the victim identity, made explicit when she says:
Yeah, I am a victim. What else? Things happened to me that I cant undo. I need
help and there aint any? If thats not a victim, what is? Here, I think everybody
is a victim.
For Crystal, survivordom is the fairytale, while victimhood is the reality. As such, she
accepts and enacts the socially constructed fairy tale of women as damsels in distress.
Looking at various safehouse residents, one can see different levels of
internalization of social constructed roles. Some women support normative constructs of
femininity and victimhood completely, depending on the safehouse staff for help and
resigning into their prescribed helplessness. Other women concentrate on determination
and taking control, thereby rejecting stereotypes of femininity. Yet this socially
constructed victim-survivor dichotomy fails to describe the majority of women in the
sample. Just as many women in the sample acknowledge and even reject the socially
constructed system of gender identities, so too do many women acknowledge and reject
the socially constructed dichotomy of victimhood and survivordom.
41


CHAPTER V
VICTIM OR SURVIVOR?
Given the sharply defined dichotomy of victims and survivors found both in the
literature and in socially constructed ideologies, it is surprising to find that less than half
of the women in this sample defined themselves absolutely as one or the other. Instead,
many women saw themselves either failing to conform to either identity, failing to
conform to just one identity, or actively moving from one end of the dichotomy to the
other.
Neither Victim nor Survivor
When asked questions about self-identification, a few women denied
identification as either victim or survivor. Asked to elaborate, their reasoning revolved
around the specificity of each category; the tightly defined victim and survivor labels
could not accurately describe their personal experiences:
I think here [the staff] expect you to see things black or white. There is not much
room for gray. I see everything gray right now.
Theresa
If surviving means not going back to him, OK then I am a survivor! I think I can
only call myself a survivor when I have a place on my own, a job to take care of
my kid and myself, and not to worry about what will happen tomorrow. So, I said
I am not a victim but I am not sure what I have survived either.
Latisha
No, I am no victim of abuse [makes quotation marks with her fingers]. Those
are the ones who are all time abused, beaten, you know. Those men dont love
em and the men are sick in the head and the women get sick in the head, too.
They are like beaten down dogs. They dont know whats gonna happen
tomorrow. Nobody wants them. They gave up, right? Look at me, told you, it is
different for this one [points to herself].
42


Survivor what? It is not like these women get to be all powerful and in control
and that shit just because they have come here, you know. Like what are they
gonna do? Not much? What can they do? Not much? Dont ask me. I am none
of that. I have been in a bad situation, thats all.
Jasmine
The earlier conversation on identities and roles showed that shared socially constructed
meanings employ prescriptions for those who seek to claim those labels. In the words of
Judith Butler: Identity categories are never merely descriptive, but always normative,
and as such, exclusionary (1992:15-16). The victim and survivor identities are seen here
enacting this phenomenon: both identities are narrowly defined and, as such, exclude
Theresa, Latisha, and Jasmine from self-identifying as either one.
As multiple women rejected both sides of the victim-survivor dichotomy, one sees
how the social construction of both victim and survivor identities is too limiting. As
society defines them in such sharp contrast to one another, no room is left for the
ambiguities of lived experience.
Both Victim and Survivor
On the other hand, as social constructions of victimhood and survivordom are so
thoroughly defined as to exclude some, the rich definitions of both identities can also
appeal to the same individual in different ways. In other words, because the connotations
of both the victim and the survivor are so substantial, the same woman may see aspects of
herself in both identities.
Three women in this sample actively identified as both victim and survivor
simultaneously:
43


I am both, I think. I have somewhat survived because I have left and I am
thinking to try my wings out. I act like I am ready to move on and leave this
behind and be great role model for my kid. But then I feel totally like a victim.
That I have been betrayed and nobody cares about that. Here they talk about
taking responsibility? The only think I can hold myself responsible for is the fact
that I rushed things. But, the rest is his doing, sick or not!
Denise
Of course I am a survivor I am not dead now, am I? So, I have survived. [So, in
your opinion is an abused woman a victim or a survivor?] Both, right? You
survive it, unless you are dead. But you have been made into a victim.
Ilan
Similar to the adoption of a false or exaggerated role discussed earlier, identifying as both
victim and survivor not only adequately describes the true experiences of many battered
women, but alsoif properly executedoffers the benefit of access to additional
resources. In a previous analysis of battered womens identification patterns, Nina Reich
writes:
Therefore, women may be both victims and survivors, victims may be both
women and men, victims may need help and simultaneously be strong, and the
label victim may mean different things in different contexts and in different
moments in time. For instance, it may be advantageous to label a woman a victim
within the criminal system and refer to that same woman as a survivor when
offering her face-to-face counseling. (2002:308)
While neither Denise nor Ilan seem to make a conscious decision to identify as both for
strategic reasons, Reich makes an important point connecting dual-identities to social
rewards. Both identities come with advantages and disadvantages, so by identifying as
both one could reap strategic benefits. In practice, however, women from this sample
tended to see themselves as suffering the consequences of both identities. To be a
survivor means accepting responsibility in situations you might prefer claiming
helplessness. To be a victim means recognizing the ways in which you have been
mistreated by a loved one.
44


Not everyone who identified as both saw the identities so negatively, however.
Faith, who identifies as both, experiences the survivor identity in a more positive light
and, as such, seems to be leaning toward full identification as a survivor:
Just like I will call myself a victim or at least having been a victim, I will also call
myself a survivor. I planned to get out; I planned to find a place for the two of us
and to start over. Then I did it... Did I solve the problem completely? Oh no, I
dont need illusions of that. I know with whom I am dealing. But I am not
stopping. I am actively working on plans, trying to arrive at the best decision for
me and for my sons future together. So, I am both maybe, or maybe I changed
from one into the other.
Faith
Faiths perspective on victimhood and survivordom is perhaps the most pragmatic, as she
recognizes her shortcomings but refuses to be stalled by them. Her identification as both
victim and survivor reads more like a journey than a resignation.
Claiming identification on both ends of the victim-survivor dichotomy opens up
additional options, but also additional limitations. Women who see themselves in both
identities can be easily overwhelmed by the disadvantages of bothparticularly feelings
of helplessness in spite of being forced to take responsibility. Dual-identification can be
more positive, though, as it is seen as a step towards a transition into the survivor
identity.
Transitioning from Victim to Survivor
Identifying as being somewhere between victimhood and survivordom was the
most popular position utilized by this sample. Previous research on battered women by
Johnson and Ferraro found similar results from which they concluded that: Feeling
victimized is for most individuals a temporary, transitory stage (1984:128). Seven of
45


the twenty-two women spoke of being in a transitory state, whether ambiguously in the
middle or more decidedly switching to an identity of survivordom.
Some respondents did not actively see themselves as transitioning from victims to
survivors, but described themselves in victimlike and survivorlike terms:
I took a look at myself and didnt like who I was. I wanted to be different, more
strong, more in charge of my life. I started seeing the light. I may still not be
there fully. I know that. What counts is that I am working on things. Working
on myself.
Angela
Angela first reflects on her past self as a victim wishing to be more agentic and
determined before describing her current self as currently progressing to becoming that
agent. Although she speaks in abstractions, the concepts toward which she strives fit
neatly into the survivor description, seen of course in sharp opposition to an implied
earlier victim identity.
Other women were more explicit in describing the process toward survivordom.
Sherrell, for instance, uses the precise terminology discussed above connoting the
survivor identity:
Empowerment is a process. It needs to be worked slowly and patiently.
I am going through a transformation. Remember I said that it is a process; that is
exactly what I am experiencing.
Sherrell, 45, unmarried, no children.
Sherrell sees her identity in terms of a process between victimhood and survivordom,
specifically in terms of oppression to empowerment. Sherrells insights are particularly
interesting as she comes from a background as a former employee of another Denver-area
46


safehouse. Because of this prior knowledge, she is perhaps the most responsive to
counseling and group therapy as being steps in recovery. However, she also alludes to
feelings of increased blame and responsibility for being in an abusive relationship in the
first place. The drawbacks of her knowledge do not outweigh the benefits, however, as
Sherrell is the most self-aware respondent in terms of victim-survivor identification and
the transitional process.
Other respondents found themselves on a journey somewhere between
victimhood and survivordom in more or less elaborate terms. Serna simply says:
I have not fully survived yet as I am still here. But soon and I mean very soon, I
will have survived.
Serna
This implies an understanding of the transitory nature of these identities, without going
into great depth. However, Sernas word choice reflects a persisting belief in the victim-
survivor dichotomy, rather than an understanding of a continuum like Angela and
Sherrell. Rhonna similarly articulates a dichotomous change between being a victim and
being a survivor in greater detail:
I have been a victim! I am not anymore. When you are in an abusive
relationships, in an abusive situation and it happens to you and you cant do
anything to stop it, you are a victim. You have no place to go, you are a victim.
You have nobody to support you, you are a victim. You are scared, you are a
victim. You believe that it is wrong to break up your marriage, your family, you
are a victim. You may not even know you are, but you are. You are scared and
helpless. Then, it changes. When you decide to stop it, when you look for ways
to help yourself, your children, then you stop the cycle and you stop right then
and there being a victim.
I am a survivor. I love this term. It gives you a meaning. You have done
something. You have stopped some terrible things after having experienced them
and now you are on the other side of the fence. This doesnt mean that you cant
47


relapse; this doesnt mean that you will not make any mistakes on the road, this
doesnt mean that everything is going to be great from now on. What it means is
that you took a huge step! You thought about it and you did whatever was in your
power to stop it and you asked for help.
Rhonna, 44, married, mother of two boys: nineteen and twenty-three.
Despite describing it in very different ways, these two women share parallel
identification processes. For Serna and Rhonna both the transition is less of a process and
more of a switch, whether slowly or quickly. No matter the timeframe of the transition,
both women recognize the dichotomized identities as not set in stone.
Thus, a small majority of the women in this sample reject the perspective of
victim and survivor identities as a clear-cut, uncompromising dichotomy. Instead, these
identities are used as overlapping, rejected entirely, or considered changeable. What does
this mean for the debate over using victim or survivor labels in safehouses or in society in
general?
48


CHAPTER VI
CONCLUSION
In the face of a vast multitude of research depicting dichotomized understandings
of victims and survivors, this research is not the first to challenge it. Other research
especially feminist researchhas problematized the victim-survivor opposition for being
oversimplified and exclusionary, like many other socially constructed binaries. Dunn and
Powell-Williams put it nicely when they write:
... a culture of individualism in the contemporary United States creates a forced
dichotomy for understanding victimization; that is, it provides little or no space
for understanding and negotiating the complexity of battered womens lives or for
conceptualizing agency as a continuum (2007:978).
Their notion of agency as a continuum accurately defines the phenomenon seen in this
study. While some womenalmost half of this sampledo identify distinctly as either
victim or survivor, in doing so they allude to socially constructed visions of femininity
and masculinity, victimhood and survivordom. These womenconsciously or
unconsciouslyenact the scripts as defined and promoted by a patriarchal society. For
self-identified victims, that means being helpless in order to garner the support of others;
for self-identified survivors, that means being empowered, but less supported.
These neatly defined identities are either approved through positive verification
and commendation or chastised through a wide range of social controls. To access the
benefits of a socially approved identity without the drawbacks that come with challenging
gender norms, some women in the sample chose to act more victimlike than they truly
identified. Others gave up or decided not to attempt the struggle against gender
stereotypes, instead fully identifying as victims. Still others chose to face possible
adversity in exchange for the advantages of survivordomempowerment and self-help,
49


to name a couple, especially within the context of the safehouse itself. Each of these
identification options is a reasonable, even quite popular, option for battered women.
However, this researcher argues that better options should exist.
The other half of this sample claimed nontraditional identities. Some strove to
access the resources that come from both victim and survivor roles. Others focused on
avoiding the drawbacks that potentially stem from either identity by declaring themselves
to be neither. Still othersand perhaps the most astute of themsought the best of both
worlds by identifying transitionally. By either falling between the victim and survivor
identities, or switching from one to the other, seven women could access the assistance
allowed to victims, but also grant themselves the agency of survivors. All of these
women acknowledge the dichotomy but challenge it to some degree.
Implications & Possible Solutions
Empirical evidence from these interviews makes clear that a staunch victim-
survivor dichotomy fails to adequately capture the experiences of most battered women.
By forcing women to simplify their identities into one of two oppositional categories,
their potential for rehabilitation is diminished and delayed. Thus, it is recommended that
women recognize themselves as not simply a victim or a survivor, but an individual
with unique life experiences. When a battered woman learns to think of herself as not
bound by labels, but rather as a whole, evolving human being, she will be better able to
move past her history of abuse.
Just as some of the participants didand all should, society needs to respond
by rejecting the dichotomy as unfair and inadequate. However, to do so requires
50


additional dichotomy subversion. As this research illustrated earlier, the social
constructions of both victim and survivor identities parallel the social constructions of
femininity and masculinity, respectively. In order to dismantle the former, one must first
begin with dismantling the latter. When femininity is no longer synonymous with
helplessness and passivity, women will be allowed a wider range of actions and choices
in self-identification, and men will be allowed to admit weakness. When masculinity is
no longer defined by aggressive, physical behaviors, men will not need to exert power
over others to prove themselves, and women will be able to voice their opinions and
follow their desires without stigma.
For decades, violence against women has been accurately recognized as a
problem stemming from hierarchal gender power relations. Now one sees how gender
stereotypes exacerbate the violence against women problem down to the level of
language. Choosing to refer to battered women as victims or survivors does little to solve
the larger problem of gender inequality. To allow battered women to heal from their
abuse, and to even eventually end violence against women, society must also reject social
constructions of gender, allowing individuals to self-identify in more varied and accurate
ways based on experience rather than socially constructed dichotomies.
Strengths and Weaknesses of this Study
This study is limited as it only examines the experiences of 22 women living in
the same safehouse in one metropolitan area. Similarly, the sample may be biased
because these women have already left their abusive relationship, whether by choice or
by force. Self-identification may have changed dramatically since first entering the
51


safehouse, thereby skewing the results away from victim identification. However,
through use of only one safehouse population the data collector was able to foster strong
relationships with the women before the interviews, resulting in more in-depth
information. This researcher believes the advantages were well worth the disadvantages.
Directions for Future Research
Future research would do well to incorporate the perspective of shelter staff and
advocates into a conversation of battered womens identities. More comparison between
how women self-identify and how staff members interpret their identities could highlight
different or contradictory themes, as well as access a deeper understanding of socially
constructed views of victims and survivors seen in practice. Additionally, future
quantitative research should explore self-concept variables in more depthsuch as
measures of self-esteem and mattering. By understanding why some women identify
more strongly as victims, survivors, both, neither, or transitory, scholars could more
adequately address what social influences are significant factors andmore
importantlyhow to interrupt those patterns. Finally, this area of research would benefit
from in-depth, qualitative studies exploring the influence of demographics on self-
identification and social construction. For instance, social definitions of victimhood are
inherently whitewashed. Ideas about passivity and worthiness of help can vary
immensely among different races, ethnicities, ages, and even geographic areas. More
research on the influence of demographics on the victim-survivor dichotomy would help
in finding solutions to successfully dismantling it.
52


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APPENDIX A
Victim / Survivor Interview Guideline
Thank you for agreeing to talk to me. You have signed an informed consent form and I
hope this form (and our talk as we were going over it) explained some of the important
ethical considerations to you. Let me highlight two things from that form: our interview
is strictly confidential. This means, I will not use any identifying information that you
give me. I will use this information for the purposes of my research only. For my
research, I will change your name and assign a fake name to you. You will not be
harmed in any shape or form as a consequence of this research. I am taping this
interview, but I will turn the tape recorder off during this interview, if you do not want
me to tape a certain part of it. I understand that your participation is strictly voluntary
and you can terminate this interview at any moment, if you so desire. Before we start, do
you have any questions regarding any of these and other information from the informed
consent form?
I would like to start with getting some what I call background information from you.
Age:
Ethnicity:
Marital Status:
Who were you living with prior coming to the Safe house?
How long have you been in this safe house? (is this your first time in a safe house?)
Do you have kids: (if yes, information about kids: age(s), gender, school information,
where are they now?:
Support system: who can you turn to when you need financial support? Who can you
turn to when you need emotional support (including advice)? [If a mother]: Who can you
turn to, if you need help with your child(ren) {babysitting, transportation, financial help,
etc}. In practical, day to day life, is there anyone (or more) who can help you with
making decisions, transportation, etc.
Work? History/current situation/
Welfare?
Tell me about your family (who is in your family) for support?
Tell me about your friend (for support)?
Do you think you have a problem with alcohol or any kind of drug abuse? {if yes, when
did it start, rehab.? Etc)
History of Abuse:
CHILDHOOD: Can you take me back to your childhood? When you were growing up,
have you watched family member(s) being abused? What were their reactions? How did
they deal with it? What do you remember most of about it (how did you feel about their
abuse)? Did you talk to others about it? Have you been abused yourself as a child? By
whom? In what way? What happened as a result of this? Did it come out? How did you
feel about it? What did you do? (what happened at the end?). Would you do anything
different if you could go back? Do you have any advice to abused children?
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ADULT LIFE (BEFORE THIS PARTICULAR RELATIONSHIP): You are here in this
safe house as a result of abuse in your current relationship. Prior to this relationship,
have been in abuse relationships before? Can you tell me what happened? What did you
do, how did you feel? Have you gone back to being with a person who you knew was
abusing you? Why [why not]? Did anyone help you during that time? Would you do
anything different if you could go back? What would you advice to an abused woman?
Current Relationship:
Lets talk about your current relationship? How long have you been with this person?
When did the abuse start (is this the first time you experienced abuse in this
relationship)? {If it is not the first time, what did you do before? Have you kept it to
yourself? Support from others? How did you feel?} If this is not the first time, this
particular person is abusing you, have you gone back to this person before? Why?
When the abuse first started, what made you be aware of it? Did you know immediately
that you have been abused? What were you thinking about all that happening to you?
In this relationship, are you the only one who is being abused? What about your
children? Do you or have you ever retaliated?
How did/do you deal with abuse? Did you or do you blame yourself? Blame your
abuser? Blame other things or people? How do you explain the abuse you have
experienced to yourself? Why do you think it was happening? Why did it start? Why
did it continue? What or who do you think is responsible for the abuse you have
experienced? [[[have your feelings and thoughts change since the abuse has started?]]]
What kind of a person is your abuser? Can you describe him to me?
Since you first experienced abuse -in this particular relationship-how are you coping with
it? Any strategies, any help you rely on, [[[denial, alcohol, drugs, etc?]]]
Do you think your physical health is affected by the abuse? In what ways?
Do you think your mental/emotional health is affected by the abuse? In what ways?
Whats next? Do you have a plan? What do you think are the biggest obstacles
preventing you have for making plans? What would help you the most in focusing on a
plan?
What made you come to the safe house this time? {{Have you ever been to a safe house?
}}
How do you like being in this safe house? How are you being treated? How do the
advocates treat you? Has being in the safe house changed you, your thoughts, and your
feelings in any shape or form?
Has being in a safe house help you making plans? What would you need from the
advocates the most? What do you think in general the most? What is the most frustrating
thing about being in the safe house?
What resources do you see available to you? What resources/information would you
need? Why?
What about your interactions with other women here in this safe house? Are these
interactions important to you? Why, why not?
{{{If children, their experiences in the safe house and their experiences as a family in
the shelter}}}
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Is this last experience any different than other abusive experiences [if other abusive
experiences were mentioned or from any other experience] you have encountered? What
is different about this one if anything?
Do you see yourself in control of things? What makes you be in control [gaining
control], what prevents you from having control? How do you describe yourself? What
do you think are your major strengths and what do you think are your major weaknesses?
Would you consider yourself as a passive or an active individual (give examples)? How
do you think others would characterize you? Why? Do you agree? Does it matter?
In general when things are stressful, how do you deal with them?
Would you consider yourself to be victim of abuse? Why and why not {who is a
victim anyway?}
Some people suggest the term survivor in describing abused women? What do you
think about this term? Does it capture you and your experiences?
How would you deal with things ideally? Ideally what would you do next? In reality,
what do you think you will do next? Why?
Notes:
What did I think about myself during the interview? How did I feel about myself during
the interview?
What did I learn from the interview about myself? What, if anything, would I have liked
to change, about this interview? Why?
What did I think about the respondent? How did I think about the respondent? What did
I think/feel about the place in which the interview took place? Were there interruptions?
Other things to be noted that might have affected the flow of the interview?
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APPENDIX B
Informed Consent Form
Study Title: Victim and Survivor Identities
Principal Investigator: Candan Duran-Aydintug
Institution: University of Colorado Denver
Institutional Review Board Approval Date: May 2011
Safe House Board Approval Date: June 2011
Dear
I am an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Unviersity of Colorado Denver interested
mainly in Family structures and Family dynamics. I am inviting you to participate in a
research study I am conducting that seeks to gain new knowledge and new insights into
some aspects of domestic violence. The main research questions I have center around
how individuals who have experienced physical abuse from an initmate partner come to
make sense out of their experiences, how they identify themselves, and how their
experiences in the safe houses guide them throughout their journeys.
I am expecting to have 25 respondents in this study. If you decide to participate, your
participation is understood not only to be completely voluntary, but you also may leave
the study at any time you desire. If you decide to participate, there will be an interivew
session between you and me during which I will ask you questions regarding your
experiences. The interview will last anywhere from 2 to 3 hours and will take place in a
private room that is designated for this interview. If you agree, the interview will be
taped, however even if you agree to this, during any time of the interview, you m ay ask
me to turn off the tape recorder. Your answers will be kept strictly confidential. Your
name will be removed from your interview and a fake name will be assigned to it. Your
name will not be able to be associated with any information you give me during the
interview.
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If you decide to participate, after our interview, I will transcribe the tapes and start
analyzing the information. If you want me to, I can send you a copy of the results once I
have them all analyzed.
If you decide to participate, I thank you for your time and want you to know that in this
area of research, researchers like me learn a great deal from our respondents and their
experiences.
If you have any questions regarding the study or the interview, please ask me before you
sign this form.
My signature below indicates my willingness to participate in this research study and my
understanding that I can withdraw at any time:
Consent obtained by Candan Duran-Aydintug:
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Full Text

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VICTIM OR SURVIVOR: SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED ROLES AND SELF IDENTIFICATION FOR BATTERED WOMEN by Sarah J. Berg B.S., Boston University, 2011 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Science Humanities and Social Science Program 2013

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ii This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree by Sarah J. Berg has been approved for the Humanities and Social Science Program by Candan Duran Aydintug Chair Omar Swartz Gillian Silverman April 19, 2013

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iii Berg, Sarah J. (M.S.S., Humanities and Social Science ) Victim or Survivor: Factors Influencing Self Identification for Battered Women Thesis directed by Associate Professor Candan Duran Aydintug ABSTRACT Based on data from 22 women living in a sa fe house, this phenomenological, qualitative study seeks to gain an in depth understanding of the factors that influence a battered woman's identifying as either a victim or a survivor and the social i nfluences and implications of those identities In recent battere d women literature, scholars differentiate between victim and survivor id entities. Victims are seen as passive and weak, presented in opposition to survivors, who are seen as empowered agents To explore how battered women identify with these different roles, this study uses framework s of identity theory, role theory, and social constructivism. The e mpirical data show that the majority of women reject the dichotomized identities of victim and survivor, and instead describe themselves as combination s of, rejection s of, or transition s between the two. Implications and directions for future research are discussed. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Candan Duran Aydintug

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iv DEDICATION F o r Billie

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v TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 1 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 2 Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 2 Sample/Sampling ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 2 Instrument ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 3 Role of the Researcher(s) ................................ ................................ ......................... 3 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 3 Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 4 Ethical Issues ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 4 Role of Theory ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 4 II. VICTIM AND SURVIVOR IDENTITIES : A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ...... 6 Victim ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 6 Survivor ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 12 III ROLES AND GENDER ROLES ................................ ................................ ................ 16 Identity Theory ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 16 Role Theory ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 18 Roles (or Role Identities) ................................ ................................ .............................. 19 Roles as Resources ................................ ................................ ................................ 20 Roles as Prescriptive ................................ ................................ .............................. 21 Performing Roles ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 22

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vi "False" Roles ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 22 "Playing" the Victim ................................ ................................ .............................. 22 Roles and G e nder ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 24 Performing Gender ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 25 IV. THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER AND IDENTITIES ...................... 26 The Social Construction of Gender ................................ ................................ ............... 26 Difference ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 26 Social Control ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 27 Stereotypes ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 28 The Social Construction s of Femininity and Masculinity ................................ ............. 29 The Social Construction of the Victim ................................ ................................ .......... 33 Advantages of Being a Victim ................................ ................................ ............... 35 Disadvantages of Being a Victim ................................ ................................ ......... 36 The Social Construction of the Survivor ................................ ................................ ....... 37 Advantages of Being a Survivor ................................ ................................ ............ 39 Disadvantages of Being a Survivor ................................ ................................ ....... 39 V. VICTIM OR SURVIVOR? ................................ ................................ .......................... 42 Neither Victim nor Survivor ................................ ................................ ......................... 42 Both Victim and Survivor ................................ ................................ ............................. 43 Transition ing from Victim to Survivor ................................ ................................ ......... 45 V I CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 49 Implications and Possible Solutions ................................ ................................ .............. 50 Strengths and Weaknesses of the Study ................................ ................................ ........ 51

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vii Directions for Future Research ................................ ................................ ..................... 52 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 53 APPENDIX ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ Interview Guideline ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 59 Informed Consent Form ................................ ................................ ................................ 62

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION As many as one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life (NCADV 2007), which includes a variety of types of abuses The United States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as: a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotio nal, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone (USDJ 2 011) Eighty five percent of persons that experience these types of domestic violence are female (NCADV 2007) F or this reason this research will refer to the abused with feminine pronouns, although the author readily acknowledges that males do also experience domestic violence (USDJ 2011) A d ditionally, perpetrators discussed in this literature are exclusively male and t hus may be referred to with masculine pronouns; however, th e author also a cknowledges that women can also be perpetrators (USDJ 20 11) Finally, domestic violence does exist in some same sex relationships, as well, but this research will only focus on heterosexual relationships because of space and time constraints. Recent researc h on domestic violence has focused on a variety of topics, such as discoveri ng a demographic profile of a woman more likely to be abused, factors considered in the decision to leave or stay in an abusive relationship, and what interventions are most likely to be successful in the l ong term among others Within this growing body of literature, however, exists a smaller, more intricate debate: should battered women refer to themselves as victims or survivors?

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2 While the term "victim" len ds itself to sympathy, it also comes with co nnotations of passivity and weakness Seen in opposition to "victim the "survivor" identity empowers the woman, but this agency may also invite implications of responsibility or blame This research seeks to first examine the two terms in all of their intricate and contradictory meanings Next, data from qualit ative intervie ws will be used to examine how victi m and survivor identities are perceived and used in the lived experiences of abused women. W ith a deeper understanding of what it means to be a "victim" or a "survi vor in practice, advocates can better serve populations of battered women and future research can more accurately discuss the s ociet al problem of gendered violence as a whole. Research Questio ns What does it mean to be a "victim" or a "survivor" ? Which factors are most predominant within each identity? How do these factors interact to create or transform an identity? How and why do some women self identify as victims? How and why do some women self identify as survivors? Methods Sample/Sampling This is a qualitative cross sectional study using secondary data previously recorded by a University of Colorado Denver faculty member Data were collected from one domestic violence safe house in the greater Denver metropolitan area; the unit of analysis is the individual The CU Denver faculty member conducted

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3 interviews with 22 women who had recently left abusive relationships and were currently living in the safehouse Th ese wome n had been living in the safehouse for between one and four months Seventeen of the women in the sample were mothers. Their ages ranged between 18 and 57 years. Instrument The data for this study were collected via an interview guideline (s ee Appendix A for full guideline) Because of the in depth nature of any qualitative study, this instrument has high validity but only moderate reliability Role of the R esearcher(s) A University of Colorado Denver faculty member collected all data Four months prior to the interviews, the faculty member began volunteering at the safe house, performing tasks such as organizing intake forms, supervising children, assisting the sick or disabled with chores, and attending bi weekly support group meetin gs with the women During this time she openly expressed her interest in doing research and acted as a participant observer by recording extensive field notes This author, while not involved in the data collection process, also has extensive volunteer experience with the studied population She currently volunteers at a different Denver area domestic violence safe house, and in the past has volunteered at daytime shelters for homeless women in two major U.S cities. Data C ollection During the s ix months of interviews, the CU Denver faculty member continued recording extensive field notes, for a total of ten months worth of field notes Twenty of the interviews took place in a designated private room in the safe house; the remaining two wer e conducted in a nearby coffee shop Women were interviewed once each, with the exception of five women who were interviewed twice

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4 because of unforeseen interruptions to the first interview Interviews lasted from two hours and fifteen minutes to four ho urs and were recorded via electronic audiotape After each interview, additional field notes were recorded The faculty member manually transcribed the data after all interviews were conducted. Analysis This researcher independently code d and analyz e d the data Using phenomenological data analysis steps outlined by John Creswell (2013), the researcher code d and then categorize d the data along the themes of victim and survivor identities, expressions of passivity and empowerment, and expressions of h elplessness and agency. Ethical Issues Before volunteering, the data collector obtained approval from both the University of Colorado Denver Institutional Review Board and the board of the safe house All participation was voluntary women responded to a call for participants posted in the shelter and no personal incentives were offered The researcher secured written informed consent from all interviewees prior to the interviews (see Appendix B) As t he top ic is emotional in nature, safe house counselors were available nearby; thus, it was determined that this study posed minimal risk to participants Lastly, participants were assured of complete confidentiality, including the use of pseudonyms, which were inserted into the data with the analysis. Role of Theory This thesis is strongly guided by feminist theory in both question and methodology As a study about intimate violence against women, the research questions are inherently feminist as they s eek to contribute to conversations about how battered women are seen and treated by society, and how that can be improved Furthermore, as a

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5 qualitative study based on in depth, face to face interviews, the original data collection was also feminist in na ture The interviewer was conscious of power dynamics and was careful to av oid coercion whether in obtaining an interview or during it by cognizant word choice and an emphasis on a comfortable and safe interview environment. Additionally, by using a phenomenological approach to analyzing the data, this project again utilizes a feminist perspective The emphasis behind all aspects of the analysis is the women's own experiences The 22 women interviewed for this project are each treated as experts on their own lives, and their individual experiences contribute valuably to the larger conversation on victimhood and survivordom for battered women Fina lly, this thesis project is feminist because it is "action oriented research that seeks to facilitat e personal and societal change" (Neuman 2001:116) This exploration of women's experiences as victims and survivors was done with the specific intent of improving advocacy services for women Women who experience domestic violence are by no means a unifo rm group: their experiences differ widely, as do their reactions to those experiences Hopefully through a better, more nuanced understanding of what inspires women to identify as victims or survivors, advocacy programs can be better tailored to suit the needs of individuals This thesis will also use identity and role theories to guide the analysis, with an additional discussion of the social construction of gender to bolster the argument. Identity and role theories will provide a foundation for inter preting how victim and survivor identities prescribe or limit women's actions. Next, the theory of the social construction of gender will be used to adequate ly discuss the performative behaviors associated with

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6 ro le identities and gender roles. Each of the se theories will be more thoroughly discussed in the body of the analysis.

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7 CHAPTER II VICTIM AND SURVIVOR IDENTITIES: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE In reference to women who have experienced domestic violence, "victim" and "survivor" are both heavily loaded terms Extensive research exists discussing the connotations of each term Victim In the academic literature on domestic violence, "victim" is used significantly more frequently than is "survivor." As such, it is mo re thoroughly defined, but still quite contradictory in many of its positive and negative connotations Much of the literature presents the term victim with many beneficial and therefore positive connotations However, other literature highlights how the victim is disadvantaged by negative connotations of helplessness and passivity The most popular definition of a victim focuses on an absence of blame or responsi bility for what happened. U nder this premise, the victim must therefore be completely innocen t and pure (Cahn and Mei er 1995; Davies, Lyon and Monti Catania 1 998; Dunn 2005; Lamb 1999; Loseke 1992) To be a victim, in this view, means to take absolutely no action against the perpetrator even in self defense Right away one sees a problem with this definition of victim hood: it leaves no room for any responsibility Particularly, it fails to recognize the realistic ways in which a wo man may have participated in her abuse o r re acted against it (Minnow 1993; Schneider 1993) Of course, assertions of victim responsibility could easily slip in to victim blaming According to Amy Leisenring, Current cultural discourses surrounding violence against

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8 women commonly depict them as blameworthy (2006: 307) The blame may be laid on the victim from a number of directions from the vi ctim herself (Kim and Gray 2008; Leisenring 2006; Williamson 2010; Walker 1979), from the perpetrator ( Lempert 1996; Thapar Bjšrkert and Morgan 2010), or from the patriarchal society in general (Cahn and Meier 1995; Leisenring 2006; hooks 1989) Thus, the literature defines the victim label prima rily in its absence of blame or responsibi lity; the acknowledgement of any contribution to a vi olent episode would nullify the innocence and purity necessary for her to claim the label Similar to being inno cent, a victim is also considered helples s against her abuser (Baly 2010; Kelly 1988; Leisenring 2006; McLeer 1998; T utty, Bidgood, and Rothery 1993; Walker 1979, 2000) Her helplessness stems from her inability to change her situation, or perhaps even th e inability to attempt to change her situation In regard to battered women, Lenore Walker developed the theory of learned helplessness which describes when someone has "lost the ability to predict that what you do will make a particular outcome occur" ( 2000:116) Under this theory a battered woman resigns herself to the belief that external forces namely the perpetrator exert more control over her life than she does and, as such, she "gives up" trying to stop the violence Stemming from helplessnes s, scholars also declare passivity as an expected trait o f a victim (Cahn and Meier 1995; Walker 1979) As Johnson and Ferraro write, "Feeling victimized implies, for most persons, significant passivity in accepting external definitions and statuses" (198 4:128) Again, a resignation of control of one's life results in this passive behavior However, not all researchers consider passivity to be the same as giving up Much literature discusses passivity as a subt le resistance method (Baly

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9 2010; Dunn 2005; Kelly 1988; Lempert 1996; Schneider 1993) Passive resistance which could be expressed through following the perpetrator's orders or simply shutting down and doing nothing at all can be used as a coping mech anis m, a means of self preservation, or even a strategic decision to preserv e her victim status (Kelly 1988; Lempert 1996) E ven in situations where it seem s self destructive, many women practice passive resistance as a means of keeping themselves and their c hildren safe and protecting their identities as innocent victims Another aspect of victimhood relates to the social construction of femininity Victims are presumed to be traditionally feminine in a way that, in turn, reinforces their victim status Liz Kelly writes: "The kind of femininity that is encouraged in girls and young women, through compliance, self denial, suppression of anger, dependence on male approval and submission to male authority, socializes women to accept victimization'" ( 1 9 8 8 : 1 6 3 1 6 4 ) 1 This vulnerable dependency is glorified and therefore reinforced by popular culture's "damsel in distress" pro totype of femininity (Baly 2010; Lamb 1999), which stresses that women are incapable of saving themselves Furthermore, heteronormati ve images of proper victimhood stress the importance of traditional gender roles, marriage, and even motherhood ( Leisenring 2006; Loseke 1992; Martin 1981; Salazar and Casto 2008; Tutty et al 1993; Walker 1979) In maintaining the ideal image of feminini ty that is required for victimhood, scholars argue, the victim's depen dency on men is reinforced. Like the damsel in distress, victims are also presumed to be weak (Baly 2010; Cahn and Meier 1995; Leisenring 2006) Baly writes that "romantic and femininity !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Quoting Gilbert and Webster 1982, out of print.

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10 discourses can lead abused women to view themselves as being weak" (2010:2310) Popular discourses of femininity undermine women's agency, reducing them to necessary weakness in order to qualify for victimhood Similarly, weak victims are also expected to suffer (Cahn and Meier 1995; HydÂŽn 2005) Through her suffering, the victim earns the sympathy of others: "[V] ictimization claims make powerful appeals for sympathy, solidarity, compassion, and attention" (Minnow 1993:1415). Another noted c haracteristic of a victim that may evoke sympathy is her intense fearfulness Much literature insists that a victim should be afraid of her abuser (Davies et al 1998; Martin 1981; McCann, Sakheim, and Abrahamson 1988; Sacket and Saunders 1999) Her fear is expected to be an overwhelming influence on her decisions, or lack thereof: "Fear immobilized them, ruling their actions, their decision, their very lives" (Martin 1981:76) Thus, fear may be interpreted as the cause for a victim's passivity, helpless ness, and subsequent suffering However, other scholars interpret fear as a more complicated emotion In her study of women's narratives about leaving an abus ive partner, HydÂŽn found that "[f] ear, helplessness and resistance are closely inter associated fear is the resistance offered by those who are presumed to be powerless" (2005:172) Using this definition, fear is the onl y resistance available to a proper victim precisely because it does not appear to be resistance at all It allows her to acknowl edge that her situation is problematic without taking any actual action against the perpetrator While many of the above victim characteristics may be considered positive and beneficial in terms of garnering empathy and support victims are also freque ntly pathologized Bell hooks argues that "[p]eople within patriarchal society imagine that women are hit because we are hysterical, because we are beyond reason" (1989:85)

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11 Researchers find victims described as "brainwash ed" (Gondolf and Fisher 1988:14; Loseke 1992:103) or "sick" (Cahn and Meier 1995:344) because they stay in the abusive relationship Most frequently, however, victims' mental health is understood as the consequence of a "loss of self" (Mills 1985; Sackett and Saunders 1999) caused by th e perpetrator's incessant attacks on her person both physical and verbal From here, an overwhelming amount of research connects domestic violence victimizatio n and low self esteem (Aguilar and Nightingale 1994; Cascardi & O'Leary 1992; Hendy, Eggen, Gus titus, McLeod, and Ng 2003; Kim & Gray 2008; Lynch and Graham Bermann 2000; McCann et al 1988; Mitchell and Hodson 1983; Orava, McLeod and Sharpe 1996; Tutty et al 1993; Walker 1979), which in turn reinforces the weakness and suffering of an ideal victim By questioning a vi ctim's mental health, outsiders excuse victims from responsibility for their failure to take action. Within this wide variety of victim characteristics, some are considered beneficial for battered women to adopt particularly in terms of receiving sympathy and help Others offer only negative connotations Minnow (1993) puts it best when she writes: Vi ctimhood is a cramped identity, depending upon and reinforcing the faulty idea that a person can be reduced to a trait The victim is helpless, decimated, pathetic, weak, and ignorant Departing from this script may mean losing whatever entitlements and compassion victim status may afford (1432) T hus, the victim identity is understood to have both good and bad aspects, which must be carefully negotiated by the identity claimer. To be a proper victim opens access to many resources. However, the victim identity is narrowly defined, a nd, as such, the portrayal of it is heavily constrained and policed by society In order to access the benefits of victimhood, one must also accept th e disadvantages too With both positive

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12 and negative connotations in mind, one turns to a discussion of the survivor. How is the survivor different from the victim? Survivor More recent literature on domestic violence leans toward the use of "survivor" when referring to battered women A survivor avoids many of the negative connotations a victim must endure such as helplessness and passivity However, a survivor's perseverance also causes many to qu estion her need for help and can lead to accusations of blame and responsibility more about which will be discussed later For a survivor to be an agent in some contexts leads to questions about her lack of agency in other contexts Thus, m uch like the above conversation on victimhood, notion s of survivordom are comprised of intricate contradictions What is perhaps most defining about a su rvivor is her agency (Dunn 2005; Leisenring 2006) While most scholars argue that the victim is passive in the face of violence, the survivor is seen a cting against it Dunn writes: "Framing victims as survivors' constructs a different, less pathetic and more reasonable battered women embodying the cultural values of strength rather than weakness, and agency instead of passivity" (2005:21) Survivors may demonstrate their strength and agency primarily by resisting violence and seeking help ( Kelly 1988; Thapar Bjšrkert and Morgan 2010 ) Of course, with agency also come question s about responsibility O utsiders often question the innocence of the agentic survivor: what action might she have taken within the violence to which she does not admit? Women exemplifying agency "often are not believed when they say they were beaten, or are blamed for causing the violence or for

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13 failing to leave the abusive situation" (Cahn and Meier 1995:354) If a battered woman is active in any way she risks being blamed for everything that she did not do to prevent or end the abuse A survivor's strength is typically see n in interaction with her agency, as Dunn's quote illustrates Her strength becomes evident when she shows de termination to end the violence ( Bowker 1983) Strength may also be indicated by the survivor's "will to live" despite bad circumstanc es (Gondolf and Fisher 1988:20) and her resounding belief that she has control over what happens to her (Walker 2000) These indicators of strength can be seen in direct opposition to the so called learned helplessness of victims (Walker 2000), further demonstrating how victims and survivors operate at "opposite poles of an agency continuum" (Dunn 2005:2) Hence, agency and strength are two of the defining characteristics from the literature that distinguish a victim from a survivor Similarly survivordom is al so considered synonymous with empowerment (Brosi and Rol ling 2010; Busch and Valentine 2000, Hasenfeld 1987; Lamb 1999; McLeer 1998; Wal ker 2006) Survivors demonstrate empowerment primarily through increased self eff icacy (Busch and Valentine 2000; Orava et al 1996; Walker 2000) and decreased self blame (Busch and Valentine 2000) Of course, like agency and strength, empowerment also comes with an increased sense of personal responsibility (Busch and Valentine 2000), which is difficult to maintain with out inciting accusations of blame, both internal and external ( Cahn and Meier 1995; Kim and Gray 2008; hooks 1989; Leisenring 2006; Lempert 1996 ; Thapar Bjšrkert and Morgan 2010; Williamson 2010; Walker 1979 ) Dunn warns that a survivor's empowerment migh t "dissuade rather than encourage assistance" (2005:23) because she is no longer seen a s needing help from

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14 others For the w omen then being a survivor can be desirable: it implies agency, strength, a nd empowerment However, for an outsider these positive qual ities can discourage help because of an assumed lack of necessity. On a different note, the survivor is not subject to the accusations of m ental illness that often accompany victimhood Instead, survivors are said to have a new, healthy sen se of self particularly as compared to the victim's assumed low self esteem ( Brosi and Rolling 2010; Park et al 2009; Salazar and Casto 2008) Brosi and Rolling discuss the emergence of a new "self story" via survivor identification (2010:247), while S alazar and Casto describe a "secure sense of selfhood" as a necessary step toward survivordom (2008:93) Similarly, the survivor is seen as more "reasonable" (Dunn 2005:21) in contrast to the hysterical victim discussed by hooks (1989) Last, the survi vor's self esteem is reported to recover over time (Aguilar and Nightingal e 1994; Tutty et al 1993; Wa lker 2000), indicating further removal from the victim identity Thus, the survivor identity connotes many more positive traits, such as empowerment and agency, as compared to the victim. However, for the survivor these same positive connotations come at the expense of the sympathy the victim "deserves." So while the co nnotations may seem more desirable, the survivor identity still has drawbacks like the victim identity does Compared to the amount of literature written about victimhood significantly less literature exists defining the survivo r This may simply be t he result of the more recent emergence of the term to the study of domestic violence However, one might also speculate that less has been written about survivors because patriarchal soci ety prefers the victim: passive, feminine and unambiguous Survivordom with its increased level of

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15 interaction on the part of the woman questions the patriarchal system that normalizes violence by "contest[ing] esse ntialist characterizations" of women and "transcend[ing] gendered stereotypes" (Dunn 2005:22) Mo re about the implications of both victimhood and survivordom on patriarchy will be discussed later.

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16 CHAPTER II I ROLES AND GENDER ROLES Identity Theory Perhaps more important than the comparison of the victim and the survivor identities is the question: why does a woman self identify as one instead of the other? Is it possible for her to identify as both? Can she transition from one to the other? An overview of identity theory provides some insight into these inquiries. Through explaining identities within a societal context, identity theorists describe the ways in which shared meanings of identity guide and limit a person's interpersonal relations. According to Peter Burke and Jan Stets, Identity theory seeks to explai n the specific meanings that individuals have for the multiple identities they claim; how these identities relate to one another for any one person; how their identities influence their behavior, thoughts, and feelings or emotions; and how their identities tie them in to society at large (2009:3) The multiple identities Burke and Stets reference are combined to create the self The self exists as an object within a person's own mind, and as such it is malleable as the subject progresses through life (Bur ke and Stets 2009). To achieve different goals at different points of life, a person may slowly alter his or her version of the self. Of course, the self does not exist within a vacuum; an individual needs affirmation from others that reinforces his o r her internal view of self. This process of verification relies upon feedback from others; if the feedback does not match the intended self, he or she will alter his or her behavior to better match the internal standard (Stets and Burke 2005; Swann and R ead 1981). While individuals in general seek positive self verification from others, many scholars have hypothesized that individuals with "negative" (stigmatized) identities may

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17 instead seek positive non verification of themselves (Cast and Burke 2002 ; Swann and Read 1981). However research has found that the opposite is true: individuals with negative identities and low self esteem prefer negative verifying feedback over positive non verifying feedback (Burke 1991; Robinson and Smith Lovin 1992; Swan n and Read 1981). Furthermore, Robinson and Smith Lovin (1992) found that individuals in situations that inspire low self esteem and self worth such as abusive relationships reject feedback that is intended to boost their self worth Instead, those indiv iduals will surround themselves with others that reinforce their negative self image because it verifies what they already believe to be true This phenomenon may explain why battered women frequently stay in relationships, not despite but because of the emotional abuse. Similarly, Stets and Burke (2005) found that individuals accept negative feedback fairly quickly. In an experiment in which participants were given either positive or negative feedback based on simple clerical tasks regardless of actual performance the participants exposed to consistent negative feedback quickly stopped trying. This phenomenon fits neatly within Walker's theory of learned helplessness in battered women (1979, 2000, 2006): over time an abused woman becomes passi ve in the face of persistent violence, accepting the notion that she can do nothing to prevent it. Here the theory of learned helplessness contributes much to understanding why women suffering from low self esteem as a result of abuse would continue to se ek negative feedback, verifying the negative identity to which they have resigned themselves. This phenomenon also demonstrates the overall consistency of identitie s. Burke and Stets summarize: "[t] hrough the verification process, i dentities resist ch ange"

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18 ( 2009:176). Negative identities are particularly resistant (Robinson and Smith Lovin 1992), as demonstrated in the above studies. Resisting change is not the same as not changing, however. Persistent positive non verifying feedback may eventually improve an individual's low self esteem (Cast and Burke 2002), as long term group or individual therapy with battered women has demonstrated ( Bowker 1983; Brosi and Rolling 2010; Busch and Valentine 2000; Haj Yahia and Cohen 2009; Sackett and Saunders 199 9; Tutty et al. 1999; Walker 2006 ). While the process is not easy, many formerly abused women have successfully reconstructed their identities. Role Theory While the above discussion of identity theory show s how identities are difficult although not impossible to change, role identity theory offers a more malleable model of self identification Under role theory, a perso n may activate a certain role identity in a given situation chosen through the salience hierarchy (Burke and Stets 2009; Stryker 1968) The salience hierarchy serves to answer the question what identity would be most beneficial to me in this situation? Stryker defines the salience hierarchy as "the probability, for a given person, of a given identity being invoked in a variety of s ituations" (1968:560) Furthermore, t he more often an identity or role is activated, the higher on the salience hierarchy it exists For example, an abused woman who is seeking help from others may have a more salient victim identity than survivor identity, as the former is more beneficial in garnering assistance (Johnson and Ferraro 1984) In addition to considering the salience hierarchy, individuals also consi der levels of commitment when choosing to identify as a particular role. Commitment is measured

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19 on two levels: the number of relationships based on the identity, and the depths of those relationships (Stryker 1968:561). Research has found that commitment t ends to have a higher influence on a person's choice of role identity than salience does, although both are important (Serpe 1987). For example, under the commitment principle, a woman in the safehouse would consider how many others in her counseling group interact with her as a victim versus how many interact with her as a survivor This consideration, in addition to the salience hierarchy discussed above, would influence her decision to adopt either the victim or the survivor role In discussing identi ty and role theories in reference to victims and survivors of domestic violence, one sees that many factors contribute to the decision to identify as one or the other. So while the victim is considered passive and the survivor active, in identity and role theories they are both seen in terms of strategic activity: "it may be more accurate to view people as active agents who, after fashioning images of themselves, behave in ways that tend to bring their social environments into harmony with these images" ( Swann and Read 1981: 1127 ). Just as the connotations of victim and survivor are socially influenced, so is the decision to enact either of these identities. Roles After choosing to adopt a particular role identity, it is important that one must properly enact that role so it can be verified by others Role s come with shared meanings of acceptable behavior (Burke and Stets 2009; Stryker and Serpe 1982). At best, these shared meanings provide guidance and access to resources; at worst they restrict the person's options.

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20 Roles as Resources More positively roles can be seen as a resource that can be utilized by an individual For Baker and Faulkner, a role is a resource because it: defines and signals a person's social identity; it enables others to classify, understand, and anticipate a person; it is an answer to the question, "Who are you?" A role is a resource used to claim citizen ship in a social community, with rights and obligations pertaining thereto; a person without a role is like a person without a country (1991: 283 284) Thus, without roles a person cannot be placed in society and therefore will be rejected by others However, by successfully claiming a particular role, one achieves access to the cultural, social, and material means necessary for pursuing their interests (Baker and Faulkner 19 91), such as access to legal or social support for battered women Understanding roles as resources leads to a phenomenon of situational role adoption Depending on the context and the goal of the situation, one may choose to enact the role they believ e would be most likely to allow them to attain their goal regardless of whether or not it is the role with which they consciously identify In an essay on gender ide ntities, Judith Butler writes: [We] take up identifications in order to facilitate or prohibit our own desires In each case of identification, there is an interpretation at work, a wish and/or a fear as well, the effect of a prohibition, a nd a strategy of resolution ( 1990 a :334) Thus, the use of a role as a resource has potentially huge benefits, especia lly for the women in this study The use of one particular role versus another could mean the differ ence between accessing needed resources or not In an essay on role playing and rol e using, however, Peter Callero problematizes roles as a resource, writing that, "[w]hen roles serve as resources, behavior is limited and constrained through the denial of access to other roles Thus, in much the same way as a

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21 resource facilitates action, it can limit or structure one's options" (1994:231) Under this perspective, one must turn to a discussion of roles as restricting Roles as Prescriptive W hile roles can be positively utilized as resources, theorists like Callero also identif y negative aspects of roles Roles, as socially defined, are often limiting; in order to access the benefits of the role, one must fit the role's definition very closely For example, in the above review on what it means to be a victim, a woman could lose her victim status by not being weak or passive enough. More specifically, roles are e xplicitly prescriptive because, by definition they include what actions do and do not fit the role description "Role relationships are governed by behavioral expectations; the rights and duties of each interactant are normatively prescribed Thus, if one knows who one is (in a social sense), then one knows how to behave Role requirements give purpose, meaning, direction, and guidance to on e' s life (Thoits 1 983: 175) In the above review of victim and survivor identities, these roles are defined in terms of the action of the role taker; for instance, since the victim is defined by her passivity, someone enacting the victim role must be passive While these p rescriptions can be be n e ficial in terms of providing a blueprint for assuming a role, they are also severely limiting In the context of victimhood, straying from the passive role of victim even the s lightest amount can quickly lead to accusations o f blam e and responsibility, thereby negating one's victim status In this way the prescriptiveness of roles can be damaging for battered women

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22 Performing Roles Despite these risks and limitations, i ndividuals may use roles in order to achieve a particular goal within an interaction Sometimes these roles are true components of their identity, simply magnified for the appropriate situation Other times roles are enacted merely as performance for a means to an end "False" Roles While differ ent roles can sometimes both be considered aspects of one's identity, other times one of the roles is internally acknowledged as false, but still utilized strategically in order to maximize benefit One participant in this study clearly enacted false role s as a resource, as she said: I am like what is that animal? You kn ow the one that changes colors? [ Chameleon? ] Yes, that's it, I can be what you want me to be Laura While Laura self identifies as a victim, she admits to activating a survivor role in certain contexts, such as group meetings with shelter staff For Laura, it is more important to receive the maximum benefit from an interaction than to maintain a consistent or accurate role identity Related to the above example, Laura loses access t o the victim role's resources when she utilizes the survivor role instead She seems to recognize this trade off as she describes herself as a "chameleon," playing a different role depending upon the context and the audience "Playing" the Victim Sl ightly different than using a "false" role "playing" the victim is a phenomenon in which women pretend to be helpless in order to garner social support One participant in particular discussed exclusively enacting her identity as a victim rather than exp loring the survivor role :

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23 if a woman is a victim then chances are she will be even more supported So I think, I mean may be not totally consciously, but some women just stay as victims Why bother? It is easier to do and you get everyone's sympathy." Angela Angela is particularly self aware in recognizing the benefits of retaining the victim identity over using other or additional identities Angela is different from Laura in that she does identify as a victim, however she also consciously chooses t o elaborate upon her victim identit y because she recognizes the benefits of being a victim in this situation Thus, the utilization of roles in general can be both positive and negative for the role taker Adopting a role as a resource can allow a batte red woman to get the most out of an interaction with safehouse staff members ; however, that same role also serves to restrict her available actions While Laura gains approval from staff during her enactment of the "false" survivor role, she loses the po ssibility of expressing her actual self identification as a victim Angel a, on the other hand, maintains but exaggerates an aspect of her identity by "playing" the victim However, she also limit s herself from enacting non victim like behaviors which cou ld prove to be more beneficial in the long run One last note on the topic of role enactment revolves around the position of roles in society As discussed, each role can be considered both a resource and a limiting prescription In considering the cost benefit ratio of enacting a particular role, one must first understand how that role is seen in society I n the words of role theory scholar Peter Callero: The greater the level of cultural endorsement of a role, the more likely it is to be employed as a resource in the community A minimum level of cultural

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24 endorsement is necessary if a role is to be employed as a resource: the greater its acceptance, the greater i ts accessibility as a resource ( 1994:236 237) Hence, while the victim role is more l imiting, it is also a better potential resource because society accepts and sympathizes with victimhood The survivor role is less limiting but also much more ambiguously viewed by society Consideration of cultural endorsement might lead a woman to adopt a victim role instead of a survivor role. Roles and Gender In discussing victim and survivor roles specifically, one must also understand the impact of gender on roles Even in contexts in which gender is not explicitly relevant, often the availability of a role as a resource and the prescriptive elements of a particular role are both strongly if not completely influenced by the person's gender. Theorists frequently refer to gender as a b ackground identity because it always exists within an interaction at some level More specific roles and identities cannot be seen without the background information of gender identification, even in contexts in which gender does not explicitly affect the situation "[T] he interactional conduct of gender is always enmeshed in other identities and activities It cannot be observed in a pure, dis entangled form Gender is a background identity that modifies other identities that are often more salient in t he setting than it is" (Ridgeway and Smith Lovin 1999:193) For both the victim and survivor role identities, the individual's identity as a woman is inseparable from the role, prescribing how the role identity should be both performed and interpreted

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25 Performing Gender As discussed above, roles are performed in various social contexts Gender can also be understood to be performative in that individuals "do" gender by acting in ways which are considered socially appropriate for their biological sex : "Doing gender consists of managing such occasions so that, whatever the particulars, the outcome is seen and seeable in context as gender appropriate or, as the cas e may be, gender inappropriate (West and Zimmerman 1987:135). Just as roles are both reso urce and prescriptive, the accuracy of gender performance can ei ther benefit or limit the individual 's social acceptance and access to resources Gender performativity scholar Judith Butler explains: It seems fair to say that certain kinds of acts are us ually interpreted as expressive of a gender core or identity, and that these acts either conform to an expected gender identity or contest that expectation in some way That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the ver y notions of an essential sex, a true or abiding masculinity or femininity, are also constituted as part of the strategy by which the performativ e aspect of gender is concealed ( 1990 b :278 279) Gender performance, much like role performance, is a typically unconscious response to social norms In other words, the performance of a victim or survivor role is inherently gendered in a way that reinforces gender performance expectations in order to be deemed successful Using a previous example, vic timhood rests on an assumption of passivity that is stereotypically feminine Failure to be feminine or passive would both result in a failure to adequately enact the victim role As such, a woman's performance of victimhood serves to reinforce the very gender norm upon which it rests To better understand how gender performativity influences the enactment of both victim and survivor roles, a discussion of gender social construction is necessary

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26 CHAPTER I V THE SO CIAL CONSTRUCTION OF GENDER AND IDENTITIES Before one can successfully perform gender, one must first understand what that gender performance should be Rather than being an innate characteristic as it is commonly misconstrued gender is a system of socially constructed norms and expe ctations in a society These gender specifications correlate to bio logical sex: femininity is for women ; masculinity is for men The Social Construction of Gender Some of the first work on the social construction of gender comes from sociologist Ervi ng Goffman He writes: In all societies, initial sex class placement stands at the beginning of a sustained sorting process whereby members of the two classes are subject to differential socialization From the start, persons who are sorted into the male class and persons who are sorted into the other are given different treatment, acquire different experience, enjoy and suffer different expectations In response there is objectively overlayed on a biological grid extending it, neglecting it, coun tering it a sex class specific way o f appearing, acting, feeling ( 1977:303) While not every society defines gender in only two oppos ing categories, the majority do including American society with in which this research takes place A s described by Goffman this placement serves to socialize individuals into their "appropriate" gender The treatment of young boys serves to instill masculinity in them just as the opposing treatment of young girls serves to teach them femininity Difference More impor tant than simply understanding that individuals are differently socialized is comprehending the mechanisms and effects of the different socialization Years of socializ ation as a certain gender cause one to behave in self

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27 fulfilling ways. These behaviors are traditionally described in essentialist terms: women are more emotional than men, for instance, rather than understanding male socialization to include suppression of emotions The effect of gender socialization is that: [G ender difference] paradigms are woven into individual and collective perceptions and they influence personal choices and evaluations of experience Thus difference is insisted upon, it focuses on and is reinforced by the appa rent "naturalness" of different spheres, different abilities, different moralities, different orientations or d ifferent behavior for the sexes (Epstein 1991:55) Hence, the social construction of gender roles is structured so that it is invisible Differences between the sexes are attributed to natural, biological differences This "naturalness" is difficult to argue against allowing for the development and sustainment of gender norms that are nearly impossible to upset. Social Control Just like the availability of c ertain roles to certain people, socialized gender difference limits one's options for behavior What looks like choice on an individual level is actually tightly constrained by institutionalized gender differences which, in turn, are monitored by both for mal and informal social controls ranging from non verbal expressions of disapproval to social ostracism (Epstein 1988) Of course, social control via gender roles is not arbitrarily construed, but rather designed specifically to reinforce the current sys tem of gender hierarchy As Dobash and Dobash write in their book Violence Against Wives: A Case Against the Patriarchy : Socializa tion into an acceptance of the "rightful" nature of the order and its inequities can, if successful, allow such inequities to go unquestioned and unchallenged or to make challenges seem unnatural or immoral Such a general acceptance of the hierarchal structure means that any challenges to it (f rom those who are not internally controlled by the idea of its rightfulness) will be met by external constraints in the guise of social pressures to conform (from those who do believe in its rightfulness) and by legitimate intervention both to prevent and to punish deviance (1979:44)

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28 The "legitimate intervention" of which they speak is exerted across a spectrum of sexism from benevolent to overt Benevolent sexism, otherwise known as chivalry, reinforces heteronormative gender roles in the context of male paternalism and female purity and domesticity Overt sexism is more obvious, the most pertinent example being violence against women Again, as Dobash and Dobash write: "We propose that the correct interpretation of violence between husbands and wives c onceptualizes such violence as the extension of the domination and control of husbands over their wives This control is historically and socially constructed" (1979:15) Thus, social control or social coercion into socially constructed gender roles serv es to not just reinforce those social constructions, but also provides an opportunity to enact them Stereotypes Another mechanism for social construction of gender is the use of stereotypes Gender stereotypes are incredibly pervasive in society and, as such, highly effective in disguising and reinforcing the social construction of gender Gender stereotypes, like role identities, are prescriptive in that they closely detail how men and women should and should not behave ( Rudman et al 2012 ) As such, these stereotypes are self fulfilling as actors learn ho w to behave through stereotypes albeit reinforcing those sa me stereotypes As discussed above, those who stray from stereotypic al behavior risk being socially sanctioned: Given that agency is high in status, female agency is discrepant with women's low ascribed status, and this status incongruity elicits backlash By exhibiting masculine competencies, agentic women undermine the presumed differences between the genders, and discredit the sy stem in which men have more access to power and resources for ostensibly legitimate reasons That is, agentic women should incur penalties because they threaten the gender hierarchy (Rudman et al 2012:166) Related to social coercion, stereotypes serve as the cognitive basis for decisions about

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29 exerting social controls When a woman exhibits non stereotypically feminine behavior, she risks compromising the gender system and thus must be punished swiftly These punishments, again, can range from mere d isapproval to physical violence The respondents who were above seen assuming "false" roles or "playing" the victim again come to mind within this discussion of social coercion Rather than simply choosing to perform roles that are inaccurate or extreme depictions of their identities, Laura and Angela may instead be seen as responding to social cues Alice Eagly writes, People often conform to gender role norms that are not internalized, because of the considerable power that groups and individu als supportive of these norms have to influence others' behavior through rewards and punishments of both subtle (e.g nonverbal cues) and more obvious (e.g monetary incentives, sexually harass ing behavior) varieties ( 1987:19) In this sense, Laura and Angela both are responding to social cues and chose to enact the role seen as most socially appropriate In doing so, they avoid social punishment and may even benefit from the interaction Thus, the social construction of gender is seen to be incredib ly influential in society Individuals are socialized to reinforce the constructed system via stereotypes or risk being punished As such, the social construction of gender is not only hard to identify, but even harder to challenge The Social Construction s of Femininity and Masculinity Within the theory of social construction of gender, individuals are socially constructed as either feminine or masculine, almost exclusively in opposition to each other

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30 In the famous words of Simone de Beauvoir, "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine" ( 2011:283) Long before it was named, de Beauvoir critiqued the social construction of femininity as just that: socially constructed She goes on to discuss femininity as primarily characterized by passivity and powerlessness both of which notions remain true today. Even earlier than de Beauvoir, John Stuart Mill discussed the artificiality of "the nature of women" as a mixture of "forced repression" and "unnatural stimulation." He writes: The masters of women wanted more than simple obedience, and they turned the whole force of education to effect their purpose All women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men ; not self will, and government by self control, but submission, and yi elding to the control of others (1970:141) This socialization, then, teaches women to be dependent upon men, thereby reinforcing their secondary status (hence the title of de Beauvo ir's book The Second Sex) The s ocial construction of femininity, then, teaches women to be passive, submissive, and dependent in order to attract their presumed gender opposites and potential mates men Furthermore, in The Feminine Mystique Betty Fri edan writes that "[t] he feminine mystique says that the highest value and the only commitment for women is the fulfillment of their own femininity" ( 1963:43) Under this guise, proper femininity becomes more important than independence or competence Many of the women in the

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31 safehouse described themselves in t erms of this typical femininity helpless and lacking control: I am trying to t ake control It is not easy to "take control" when you don't know how to do things I am just a mom I am a nice per son; I am a God fearing person, and I believe in Jesus. Tashina I am not in control of anything I don't think I have ever been in control I am paralyzed. Linda Both Tashina and Linda admit to not being in control or even not knowing how to be in control In doing so, they rely on scripts of femininity in which women are lost without men Furthermore, Tashina emphasizes her femininity when she refers to herself as "just a mom," as if her feminine fulfillment of motherhood further justifies her la ck of direction T he social construction of masculinity offers the complementary side of women's passivity and submissiveness As men are socialized to dominate both women and each other, violence also becomes a socially conditioned component of masculinity Dobash and Dobash write that: "m en who assault their wives are actually living up to cultural prescriptions that are cherished in Western society aggressiveness, male dominance, and female subordination and they are using physical force as a m eans to enforce that dominance" (1979:24) In other words, masculinity is socially constructed to include even value interpersonal violence. As such, enacting violence against women, while not legally condoned is socially endorsed on either a conscious o r unconscious level. One respondent in particular embodied this phenomenon of gender construction as she

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32 excused her abuser as simply fulfilling his masculinity, as she fulfilled her role as a woman: He hit me couple of times like when I came home late fr om the store He is jealous that's all I didn't like it but I am OK with it After all, he is a guy, he works and then he wants you to take care of him like his mom does He just wanted to tell me how his rules are and I am OK with that I was extra nice to him after that Each time and he was like shocked He expected me to make a big fuss, but I was like I know you are the guy and I am fine with that I think he actually liked that Plus, the kids and I need a strict guy, you know He took care of us, he really did Gabi Gabi's acceptance of her abuse stemmed from the logic of gender roles in any given situation Within her relationship, she expected and accepted her partner's dominance as inevitable and appropriate masculinity At the same time, her passive acceptance of the physical and verbal abuse was a behavior appropriated to and reinforcing her femininity At the conclusion of her interview she reasserts her belief in normative gender roles by saying: I need to find someo ne who will take care of me and this new baby. Gabi Gabi's acceptance and enactment of stereotypical gender roles are seen as strongly influencing her actions and identity It comes as no surprise that Gabi also unabashedly identifies as a victim The social construction s of both femininity and masculinity, then, are seen as destructive to women : the social construction of femininity is itself structured to create victims out of women, just as the social construction of masculinity is structured to crea te oppressors out of men

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33 The Social Construction of the Victim As the socialization of women into femininity makes them into ideal victims, many scholars further discuss how the victim role is complementarily tailored to suit women In his book Labelin g Women Deviant: Gender, Stigma and Social Control Edwin Schur writes: "Basic socialization and ongoing patterns of routine interaction have encouraged males to victimize women, and have impo sed on women the victim role" ( 1984:133) Furthermore, the term victim has itself become gendered as the social construction of femininity so closely relates to the definition of victimhood: weakness, passivity, and helplessness (Reich 2002) Many victim identifying interviewees discussed themselves in terms of hel plessness: To me "victim" is the helpless princess. Angela Victim is not in control Doesn't want to be in control or is convinced that she can't be in control I don't know which one But victim is helpless Others are in charge But victim is the on e who is letting others be in charge Does the victim know this? I don't know I have to say she has to, but maybe there are some who don't Victim is defeated That's what I think. Mindi I was your typical victim To me that is someone, who doesn't understand what's going on She is helping the abuse to go on by making excuses an d blaming herself, she has self esteem issues and all that like I don't deserve any better' She is waiting for things to change But th e society sees women like that Helpless, needing help from others She doesn't know any better. Anastasia

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34 These allusions to helplessness allude to the earlier conversation on femininity, especially in its relation to the damsel in distress trope. Angel a goes as far as to call the victim a "princess," further exaggerating her appropriate femininity. Other women responded to questions about victimhood by applying the victim label to everyone in the shelter Both of these women discussed victimization i n terms of a lack of responsibility for abuse: I mean that's all what we are here, right! In a saf e house, hiding because we have been victimized Victims need to learn that they didn't ask for what happened to them But I still sit and ask myself "why me ?" Why do I have "victim of abuse" label on my resume? It makes me sad It makes me sad that I can't stand on my own feet, still That have to have help These thoughts can overwhelm you Then you get immobilized You want the world to know that someo ne turned you into a victim and it can happen to anyone. Denise Yeah, I am a victim What else? Things happened to me that I can't undo I need help and there ain't any? If that's not a victim, what is? Here, I think everybody is a victim. Crystal Crystal also identifies the influence of gender roles on victimization: when it comes to men, women are victims Men are stronger Crystal Although she believes women's victimization to be more a product of physical strength than socialization, she still recognizes the gendered element Looking more closely at men's socialization in a conversation about physicality, Michael Johnson writes: focusing on gender socialization rather than physical differences, individual attitudes toward violence and experience with violence make such threats more likely and more credible from a man than from a woman Put simply, the exercise of violence is more likely to be a part of boys' and men's experience than girls' and women's in sports, fanta sy play, and real life conflict ( 2007:263 264)

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35 As discussed above the social construction of femininity raises women t o be the appropriate victim, and the social construction of masculinity create s men who are capable of interpersonal vio lence Ultimately, fulfillment of the se gender roles comes with advantages and disadvantages for everyone Advantages of Being a Victim As mentioned above, being a victim comes with many advantages for battered women Perhaps the most pervasive adv antage of victimhood is simply likeability The proper woman is nice but incompetent, fitting established gender stereotypes, traditional heterosexual needs, and a ccepting the power relationship," whereas non traditionally feminine women are seen a comp etent but not likable They violate conventional gender expectations, do not meet heterosexual needs, and challenge the societal power relationship" (Glick and Fiske 1999:201) Since victimhood fits neatly with the description of a proper woman, being a victim is an easy path to social acceptance, particularly from men Other obvious benefits of being a victim are access to resources and sympathy from others As one respondent said: If you say you are the victim cops and like social services people they are more helpful to you than if you go around saying I am not a victim and I am a strong woman and wh atever Then you are a bitch. Laura Since being a victim is also the fulfillment of proper femininity, outside help especially help from traditional ly male dominated institutions like law enforcement is more forthcoming to victims Furthermore, with victimhood also comes the excuse of being helpless and needing extra assistance

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36 Another victim identifying interviewee expressed appreciation for a pa rticular staff member who allowed her to utilize the victim role to receive more services: I like Miss June the best She be like OK let's see what you need and how we can help you The others are like "you have to help yourself" kind of thing What d oes this even mean, right? Honey, trust me, if I knew how to do it, I was not gonna ask you. Jasmine Jasmine embodies helplessness, as seen through her rejection of staff members who encourage her to make her own decisions and her pref erence for Miss June, who enable s her victim status. Disadvantages of Being a Victim Of course, being a victim also comes with disadvantages, as women like Jasmine refuse to put effort into rehabilitation because they prefer being dependent on others These victims risk being further victimized by those offering them help through "paternalistic devaluation of them from self managing peopl e to dependent, hapless people" (Bayley 1991:62) When a woman is exclusively helped by others and does not work to improve her situation h erself, she becomes even more of a victim This situation risks the development of resentment from others, like Mary Ann, who says: What I find as the most frustrating thing is some of the other women who come here I try to unders tand where they a re coming from and I get that But some, they expect th ings to be handed out to them Instead of working for t hings or working on themselves They have this attitude which is really funny, on one hand they act so very helpless and they turn around and act like they are entitled to everything and the world owes them because they have been abused. Mary Ann In other words, by being a helpless victim one risks running out of the same sympathy and favors to which being a victim grants access

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37 Similarly, another risk of victimhood is being blamed for doing too little Again, this view of victimhood may c ause the victim to lose the sympathy and support the victim role is designed to garner Just as Mary Ann disclosed frustration with the victim identifying women in the safehouse, Ruby also finds the victim's helplessness to be unattractive and unproductive She says: I am not a victim of abuse, I am not a victim of anything Do I look like a vict im to you? A victim is helpless, a victim whines all the time but is not willing to produce solutions A victim gives up. Ruby, 19 For her, victimhood's definitive helplessnes s and passivity is undesirable because the victim does not contribute to her own improvement The weakness of victimhood that is often seen as an expression of proper femininity is instead seen as exactly that: weakness The Social Construction of the Survivor In contrast to the victim the survivor is defined by empowerment a nd agency As such, it is an inherently masculine term and its application to women is strategic and pointed: "The use of survivor was meant to help draw attention to the abuse of women and girls as an institutionalized practice in our culture, something common, unquestioned, and almost expected" (Lamb 1999:119) Survivordom defies gender stereotypes and, as such, is much less likel y to be adopted by abused women The few unhesitant, self defined survivors from this sample focus on themes of control and determination: I am a survivor I will always be one I survive what life throws at me And life happens and will continue to happen It is all about what you do and how you deal with it. Lachet

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38 Because you are a survivor, if you process what had happened to you, name the beast like I said and then work on how to get yourself out of it Y ou need to believe that you can do it I know it is not easy and it will take lots of sacrifices But then, you have done something you can be proud of You have survived this situation and moved to a new one You are not allowing the history to repeat itself because you have learned from it I th ink I am certainly a survivor. Sema I have been always a survivor You know why because I never gave up. Mindi For these survivors the identity does not come with negative connotations often applied by outsiders Another woman from the saf ehouse, however, seemed to question the emp owering, counter normative aspect of survivordom by saying : I guess [survivors] are the ones who like kill the guy You know like she has been beaten for years and then she finally takes the gun and bam! She survives it! [ S o she has to kill the abuser to survive abuse?] No, I mean, I am not suggesting that killing is OK I am just saying May be she has family or something that she can go to, stay with May be she has money and can leave, like even leave the state Go start somewhere new These will be surviving too You have to have money and people who will help you. Ruby Ruby seems to miss the point of survivordom and instead dramaticizes the description before returning to a victim like script of dependence on others As such, Ruby shows an adherence to gender norms within which women are either completely deviant and presumably should and would be punished or dependent on ot hers under a guise of survivordom Advantages of Being a Survivor As the above examples illustrate, being a self identified survivor means challenging socially constructed gender norms Being a survi vor is advantageous for women because it allows th em to reject the damsel in distress trope of femininity and instead focus on helping themselves

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3 9 In this positive light, female survivors of a variety of life altering situations are seen as proud of themselves for surviving (Mills 1985) and as having advantages in terms of psychological well being and active involvement" (Park et al 2009:434) As one interviewee stated, Even i f you have to make difficult choices, you can't be wrong in taking control of your life Mindi Thus, the advantages of survivor identification are easy to see However, as being a survivor challenges gender norms it also comes with socially sanctioned disadvantages. Disadvantages of Being a Survivor Battered women who act and identify as survivors are frequently met w ith challenges to their legitimacy of needing help The most document ed of these come from the legal system, a nother historically masculine institution : Ultimately, the problems with these characterizations arise from the fact that current popula r and le gal interpretations of "agency" (labeled the "reasonable man" standard) and of "victimhood" leave battered women in a double bind: the burden of "rationally" proving that the battering relationship was sufficiently coercive or life threatening is placed on their shoulders by asking why they never attempted to leave; and if they fail to fit the archetypal profile of the "true victim" by not being repentant or traumatized enough, or by being angry, then they are judged as not truly victims, and therefor e as n ot meriting legal redress (Picart 2003:99) While empowerment and agency are beneficial for the survivor's mental health and personal progress, these positive qualities take on negative connotations from the outside By surviving too well and therefore rejecting stereotypic al femininity a battered woman may alienate potential resources One of the women in the safehouse recognized this risk, especially as it relates to accessing the safehouse's limited resources:

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40 No I am not What survivor? This is what they want you to say Then, you leave and you are not their problem anymore. Linda Another woman questioned the survivor label because of its anti feminine connotations: So, I am an active person but I don't want to be known as pushy, busy body, i ntrusive, you know I try to pay attention to that because when especially women are active and actively in control that's what others tend to think. Lachet While Lachet does identify as a survivor she is the only survivor to openly acknowledge its implications for gender stereotypes In rejecting feminine stereotypes of passivity, Lachet recogn izes that she must be careful not to stray too far from normative gender scripts Interestingly, one woman from the sample raised the notion of gender scr ipts in her discussion of survivordom, but in an inverted way: Survivor my ass? Who survives what? This ain't some fairy tale You survive when you can leave it all behind and start all new, all fresh Like who is gonna be able t o do that It is all bullshit. Crystal Crystal does not identify as a survivor, but nor does she believe that any battered woman could or should; here she alludes to traditional gender constructions in a non traditional way Typically, in fairy tales the victimized woman awa its rescue from an agentic, handsome male For Crystal, however, the fairy tale is about women rescuing themselves, which she wholeheartedly rejects She seems to recognize how gender roles

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41 are socially constructed, but still ultimately believes ideas about stereotypical femininity and strongly assumes the victim identity made explicit when she says: Yeah, I am a victim. What else? Things happened to me that I can't undo. I need help and there ain't any? If that's not a victim, what is? Here, I th ink everybody is a victim. For Crystal, survivordom is the fairytale, while victimhood is the reality. As such, she accepts and enacts the socially constructed fairy tale of women as damsels in distress. Looking at various safehouse residents, one c an see different levels of intern alization of social constructed roles Some women support normative construct s of femininity and victimhood completely, depending on the safehouse staff for help an d resigning into their prescribed helplessness Other wom en concentrate on determination and taking control, thereby rejecting stereotypes of femininity Yet this socially constructed victim survivor dichotomy fails to describe the majority of women in the sample Just as many women in the sample acknowledge a nd even reject the socially constructed system of gender identities, so too do many women acknowledge and reject the socially constructed dichotomy of victimhood and survivordom.

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42 CHAPTER V VICTIM OR SURVIVOR? Given the sharply defined dichotomy of victims and survivors found both in the literature and in soci ally constructed ideologies, it is surprising to find that less than half of the women in this sample defined themselves absolutely as one or the other Instead, many women saw themselves eithe r failing to conform to either identity, failing to conform to just one identity, or actively moving from one end of the dichotomy to the other Neither Victim nor Survivor When asked questions about self identification, a few women denied identification as either victim or survivor Asked to elaborate, their reasoning revolved around the specificity of each category; the tightly defined victim and survivor labels could not accurately describe their personal experience s: I think here [the staff] expect you to see things black or white There is not much room for gray I see everything gray right now. Theresa If surviving means not going back to him, OK then I am a survivor! I think I can only call myself a survivor when I have a place on my own, a job to take care of my kid and myself and not to worry about what will happen tomorrow So, I said I am not a victim but I am not sure what I have survived either Latisha No, I am no "victim of abuse" [makes quotation marks with her fingers] Those are the ones who are all time abused, beaten, you know Those men don't love em and the men are sick in the head and the women get sick in the head, too They are like beaten down do gs They don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow Nobody wants them They gave up, right? Look at me, told you, it is different f or this one [points to herself].

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43 Survivor what? It is not like these women get to be all powerful and in control and that shit just because they have come here, you know Like what are they gonna do? Not much? What can they do? Not much? Don't ask me I am none of that I have been in a bad situation, that's all Jasmine Th e earlier conversation on identiti es and rol es showed that shared socially constructed meanings employ prescriptions for those who seek to claim those labels In the words of Judith Butler: "Identity categories are never merely descriptive, but always normative, and as such, exclusionary" ( 1992:15 16) The victim and survivor identities are seen here enacting this phenomenon: both identities are narrowly defined and, as such, exclude Theresa, Latisha, and Jasmine from self identifying as either one. As multiple women rejected both sides of the victim survivor dichotomy, one sees how the social construction of both victim and survivor identities is too limiting As society defines them in such sharp contrast to one another, no room is left for the ambiguities of lived experience Both Victim and Survivor On the other hand, as social constructions of victimhood and survivordom are so thoroughly defined as to exclude some, the rich definitions of both identities can also appeal to the same individual in different ways In other words, because the connotations of both the vic tim and the survivor are so substantial the same woman may see aspects of herself in both identities Three women in this sample actively identified as both victim and survivor simultaneously:

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44 I am both I think I have somewhat survived because I have left and I am thinking to try my wings out I act like I am ready to move on and leave this behind and be great role model for my kid But then I feel totally like a victim That I have been betrayed an d nobody cares about that Here they talk about taking responsibility? The only think I can hold myself responsible for is the fact that I rushed things But, the rest is his doing, sick or not! Denise Of course I am a survivor I am not dead now, am I? So, I have s urvived [ S o, in your opinion is an abused woman a victim or a survivor? ] Both, right? You survive it, unless you are dead But you have been made into a victim. Ilan Similar to the adop tion of a false or exaggerated role discussed ea rlier, identifying as both victim and survivor not only adequately describes the true experiences of many battered women, but also if properly executed offers the benefit of access to additional resources In a previous analysis of battered women's identi fication patterns, Nina Reich writes: Therefore, women may be both victims and survivors, victims may be both women and men, victims may need help and simultaneously be strong, and the label victim may mean different things in different contexts and in different moments in time For instance, it may be advantageous to label a woman a victim within the criminal system and refer to that same woman as a survivor when offer ing her face to face counseling ( 2002:308) While neither D enise nor Ilan seem to ma ke a conscious decision to identify as both for strategic reasons, Reich makes an important point connecting dual identities to social rewards Both identities come with advantages and disadvantages, so by identifying as both one could reap strategic bene fits In practice, however, women from this sample tended to see themselves as suffering the consequences of both identities To be a survivor means accepting responsibility in situations you might prefer claiming helplessness To be a victim means reco gnizing the ways in which you have been mistreated by a loved one

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45 Not everyone who identified as both saw the identities so negatively, however Faith, who identifies as both, experiences the survivor identity in a more positive light and, as such, seems to be leaning toward full identification as a survivor: Just like I will call myself a victim or at least having been a victim, I will also call myself a survivor I planned to get out; I planned to find a place for the two of us and to start over Then I did it Did I solve the problem completely? Oh no, I don't need illusions of that I know with whom I am dealing But I am not stopping I am actively working on plans, trying to arrive at the best decision for me and for my son's future toget her So, I am both may be, or maybe I changed from one into the other. Faith Faith's perspective on victimhood and survivordom is perhaps the most pragmatic, as she recognizes her shortcomings but refuses to be stalled by them Her identification as both victim and survivor reads more like a journey than a resignation Claiming identification on both ends of the victim survivor dichotomy open s up additional options, but also additional limitations. Women who see the mselves in both identities can be ea sily overwhelmed by the disadvantages of both particularly feelings of helplessness in spite of being forced to take responsibility Dual identification can be more positive, though, as it is seen as a step towards a transition into the survivor identity Transitioning from Victim to Survivor Identifying as being somewhere between victimhood and survivordom was the most popular position utilized by this sample Previous research on battered women by Johnson and Ferraro found similar results from which they concluded that: "Feeling victimized is for most individuals a temporary, transitory stage" (1984:128). Seven of

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46 the twenty two women spoke of being in a trans itory state whether ambiguously in the middle or more decidedly switching to an identity of survivordom Some respondents did not actively see themselves as transitioning from victims to survivors, but described themselves in victimlike and survivorli ke terms: I took a look at myself and didn't like who I was I wanted to be different, more strong, more in charge of my life I started seeing the light I may still not be there fully I know that What counts is that I am working on things Worki ng on myself. Angela Angela first reflects on h er past self as a victim wishing to be more agentic and determined before describing her current self as currently progr essing to becoming that agent Although she speaks in abstractions, the concepts toward which she strives fit neatly into the survivor description, seen of course in sharp opposition to an implied earlier victim identity Other women were more explicit in describing the process toward survivordom Sherrell, for instance, uses the precise terminology discussed above connoting the survivor identity: Empowerment is a process It needs to be worked slowly and patientl y. I am going through a transformation Remember I said that it is a process; that is e xactly what I am experiencing. Sherrell 45, unmarried, no children. Sherrell sees her identity in terms of a process between victimhood and survivordom, specifically in terms of oppression to empowerment Sherrell's insights are particularly interesting as she comes from a background as a former employee of another Denver area

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47 safehouse Because of this prior knowledge, she is perhaps the most responsive to counseling and group therapy as being steps in recovery However, she also alludes to feelings of increased bl ame and responsibility for being in an abusive relationship in the first place The drawbacks of her knowledge do not outweigh the benefits, however, as Sherrell is the most self aware respondent in terms of victim survivor identification and the transiti onal process Other respondents found themselves on a journey somewhere between victimhood and survivordom in more or less elaborate terms Sema simply says: I have not fully survived yet as I am still here But soon and I mean very soon, I will hav e survived. Sema This implies an understanding of the transitory nature of these identities, without going into great depth However, Sema's word choice reflects a persisting belief in the victim survivor dichotomy, rather than an understanding of a cont inuum like Angela and Sherrell. Rhonna similarly articulates a dichotomous change between being a victim and being a survivor in greater detail: I have been a victim! I am not anymore When you are in an abusive relationships, in an abusive situation and it happens to you and you can't do anything to stop it, you are a victim You have no place to go, you are a victim You have nobody to support you, you are a victim You are scared, you are a victim You believe that it is wrong to break up your marriage, your family, you are a victim You may not even know you are, but you are You are scared and helpless Then, it changes When you decide to stop it, when you look for ways to help yourself, your children, then you stop the cycle and you stop right then and there being a victim. I am a survivor I love this term It gives you a meaning You have done something You have stopped some terrible things after having experienced them and now you are on the other side of the fence This doesn't mean that you can't

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48 relapse; this doesn't mean that you will not make any mistakes on the road, this doesn't mean that everything is going to be great from now on What it means is that you took a huge step! You thought about it and you did whatever was in your power to stop it and you asked for help. Rhonna, 44, married, mother of two boys: nineteen and twenty three. Despite describing it in very different ways, these tw o women share parallel identification processes For Sema and Rhonna both the tra nsition is less of a process and more of a switch, whether slowly or quickly No matter the timeframe of the transition, both women recognize the dichotomized identities as not set in stone Thus, a small majority of the women in this sample reject the perspective of victim and survivor identities as a clear cut uncompromising dichotomy Instead, these identities are used as overlapping, reje cted entirely, or considered changeable What does this mean for the debate over using victim or survivor labels in safehouses or in society in general?

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49 CHAPTER V I CONCLUSION In the face of a vast multitude of research depicting dichotomized understandings of victims and survivors, this research is n ot the first to challenge it Other research especially feminist research has problematized the victim survivor opposition for being oversimplified and exclusionary, like many other socially constructed binaries Dunn and Powell Williams put it nicely when they write: a culture of individualism in the contemporary United States creates a forced dichotomy for understanding victimization; that is, it provides little or no space for understanding and negotiating the complexity of battered women's lives or for concept ualiz ing agency as a continuum (2007:978). Their notion of "agency as a continuum" ac curately defines the phenomenon seen in this study While some women almost half of this sample do identify distinctly as either victim or survivor, in doing so they allude t o socially constructed visions of femininity and masculinity, victimhood and survivordom These women consciously or unconsciously enact the scripts as defined and promoted by a patriarchal society For self identified victi ms, that means being helpless in order to garner the support of others; for self identified survivors, that means being empowered but less supported These neatly d efined identities are either approved through positive verification and commendation or chastised through a wide rang e of social controls To access the benefits of a socially approved identity without the drawbacks that come with challenging gender norms, some women in the sample chose to act more victimlike than they truly identified Other s gave up or decided not to attempt the struggle against gender stereotypes, instead fully identifying as victims Still others chose t o face possible adversity in ex c han ge for the advantages of survivordom empowerment and self help,

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50 to name a couple especially within the context of the safehouse itself Each of t hese identification options is a reasonable, even quite popular, option for battered women However, this researcher argues that better options should exist The other half of this sample claimed nontraditional identities Some strove to access the resources that come from both victim and survivor roles Others focused on avoiding the drawbacks that potentially stem from either identity by declaring themselves to be neither Still others and pe rhaps the most astute of them sought the best of both worlds by identifying transitionally By either falling between the victim and survivor identities or switching from one to the other seven women could access the assistance allo wed to victims, but a lso grant themselves the agency of survivor s All of t hese women acknowledge the dichotomy b ut challenge it to some degree. Implications & Possible Solutions Empirical evidence from these interviews makes clear that a staunch victim survivor dichotomy fails to adequately capture the experiences of most battered women By forcing women to simplify their identities into one of two oppositional categories, their potential for rehabilitation is dim in ished and delayed Thus, it is recommended tha t women recognize themselves as not simply a "victim" or a "survivor," but an individual with unique life experiences. When a battered woman learns to think of herself as not bound by labels, but rather as a whole, evolving human being, she will be better able to move past her history of abuse. Just as some of the participants did and all should society needs to respond by rejecting the dichotomy as unfair and inadequate However, to do so requires

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51 additional dichotomy subversion As this research i llustrated earlier the social construction s of both victim and survivor identities parallel the social construction s of femininity and masculinity, respectively In order to dismantle the former, one must first begin with dismantling the latter When fe mininity is no longer synonymous with helplessness and passivity, women will be allowed a wider range of actions and choices in self identification, and men will be allowed to admit weakness When masculinity is no longer defined by aggressive, physical b ehaviors, men will not need to exert power over others to prove themselves, and women will be able to voice their opinions and follow their desires without stigma For decades, violence against women has been accurately recognized as a problem stemming from hierarchal gender power relations Now one sees how gender stereotypes exacerbate the violence against women problem down to the level of language Choosing to refer to battered women as victims or survivor s does little to solve the larger problem of gender inequality To allow battered women to heal from their abuse, and to even eventually end violence against women, society must also reject social constructions of gender, allowing individuals to self identify in more varied and accurate ways base d on experience rather than socially constructed dichotomies Strengths and Weaknesses of this Study This study is limited as it only examines the experiences of 2 2 women living in the same safe house in one metropolitan area Similarly, the sample ma y be biased because these women have already left their abusive relationship whether by choice or by force Self identification may have changed dramatically since first entering the

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52 safehouse, thereby skewing the results away from victim identification Howeve r, through use of only one safe house population the data collector was able to foster strong relationships with the women before the interviews, resulting in more in depth information. This researcher believes the advantages were well worth the di s advanta ges. Directions for Future Research Future research would do well to incorporate the perspective of shelter staff and advocates into a conversation of battered women's identities More comparison between how women self identify and how staff m embers interpret their identities could highlight different or contradictory themes as well as access a deeper understanding of socially constructed views of victims and survivors seen in practice Additionally, future quantitative research should explor e self concept variables in more depth such as measures of self es teem and mattering. By understanding why some women identify more strongly as victims, survivors, both, neither, or transitory, scholars could more adequately addr ess what social influences are significant factors and more importantly how to interrupt those patterns Finally, this area of research would benefit from in depth, qualitative studies exploring the influence of demographics on self identification and social construction For inst ance, social definitions of victimhood are inherently whitewashed Ideas about passivity and worthiness of help can vary immensely among different races, ethnicities, ages, and even geographic areas More research on the influence of demographics on the victim survivor dichotomy would help in finding solutions to successfully dismantling it

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53 REFERENCES Aguilar, R. J., & Nightingale, N. N. (1994). The Impact of Specific B atter ing Experiences on the Self Esteem of Abused W omen. Journal of Family Violence 9 (1), 35 45. Anderson, M. A., Gillig, P. M., Sitaker, M., McCloskey, K., Malloy, K., & Grigsby, N. (2003). "Why Doesn't She Just Leave?": A Descriptive Study of Victim Reported Impediments to Her Safety. Journal of Family Violence 18 (3), 151 1 55. Bayley, J. E. (1991). The Concept of Victimhood. In D. Sank & D. I. Caplan (Eds.), To Be a Victim: Encounters with Crime and Injustice (pp. 53 62). New York: Plenum Press. Baly, A. R. (2010). Leaving Abusive Relationships: Constructions of Self and Situation by Abused Women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 25 (12), 2297 2315. Brosi, M. W., & Rolling, E. S. (2010). A Narrative Journey for Intimate Partner Violence: From Victim to Survivor. The American Journal of Family Therapy 38 (3), 237 250. Burke, P. J. (1991). Identity Processes and Social Stress. American Sociological Review 56 (6), 83 6 849. Burke, P. J., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity Theory New York: Oxford University Press. Busch, N. B., & Valentine, D. (2000). Empowerment Practice: A Focus on Battered Women. Affilia 15 (1), 82 95. Butler, J. (1990a). Gender Trouble, Feminist Theory, and Psychoanalytic Discourse. In L. J. Nicholson (Ed.), Feminism/Postmodernism (pp. 324 340). New York: Routledge. Butler, J. (1990b). Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory. In S. E. Case (Ed.), Pe rforming Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre (pp. 270 282). Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press. Butler, J. (1999). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity New York: Routledge. Cahn, N., & Meier, J. (1995). Domestic Violence and Feminist Jurisprudence: Towards a New A genda. Boston University Public Interest Law Journal 4 339 361. Callero, P. L. (1994). From Role Playing to Role Using: Understanding Role as Resource. Social Psychology Quarterly 57 (3), 228 243.

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55 Epstein, C. F. (1991). The Difference Model: Enforcement and Reinforcement of Women's Roles in the Law. In J. R. Blau & N. Goodman (E ds.), Social Roles and Social Institutions (pp. 53 71). Boulder: Westview Press, Inc. Ferraro, K. J., & Johnson, J. M. (1983). How Women Experience Battering: The Process of Victimization. Social Problems 30 (3), 325 339. Friedan, B. (1963). The Feminine Mystique New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1999). Sexism and Other "Isms": Interdependence, Status, and the Ambivalent Content of Stereotypes. In W. B. Swann, J. H. Langlois, & L. A. Gilbert (Eds.), Sexism and Stereotypes in Modern Society (pp. 193 221). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Goffman, E. (1977). The Arrangement B etween the Sexes. Theory and Society 4 (3), 301 331. Gondolf, E., & Fisher, E. (1988). Battered Women as Survivors: An Alternative to Treating Learned Helplessness Lexington: Lexington Books. Haj Yahia, M., & Cohen, H. (2009). On the Lived Experience of Battered Women Residing in Shelters. Journal of Family Violence 24 (2), 95 109. Hendy, H. M., Eggen, D., Gustitus, C., McLeod, K C., & Ng, P. (2003). Decision to Leave Scale: Perceived Reasons to Stay in or Leave Violent Relationships. Psychology of Women Quarterly 27 (2), 162 173. hooks, bell. (1989). Violence in I ntimate relation ships: a Feminist P erspective. Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (pp. 84 91). Boston: South End Press. HydÂŽn, M. (2005). "I Must Have Been an Idiot to Let it Go On": Agency and Positioning in Battered Women's Narratives of Leaving. Feminism & Psychology 15 (2), 169 188. Itzhaky, H., & Ben Porat, A. (2005). Battered Women in Shelters: Internal Resources, Well Being, and Integration. Affilia 20 (1), 39 51. Johnson, J. M., & Ferraro, K. J. (1984). The Victimized Self: The Case of Battered Women. In J. Kotarba & A. Fontana (Eds.), The E xistential Self in Society (pp. 119 130). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Johnson, M. P. (2007). Domestic Violence: The Intersection of Gender and Control. In L. L. O'Toole, J. R. Schiffman, & M. L. Kiter Edwards (Eds.), Gender Violence: Interdi sciplinary Perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 257 268). New York: New York University Press.

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56 Kelly, L. (1988). Surviving Sexual Violence Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Kim, J., & Gray, K. A. (2008). Leave or Stay? Journal of Interpersonal Violence 23 (10), 1465 1482. Lamb, S. (1999). Constructing the Victim: Popular Images and Lasting Labels. New Versions of Victims: Feminist Struggle with the Concept (pp. 108 138). New York: New York University Press. Leisenring, A. (2006). Confronting "Victim" Discourses: The Identity Work of Battered Women. Symbolic Interaction 29 (3), 307 330. Lempert, L. (1996). Women's Strategies in Survival: Developing Agency in Abusive Relationships. Journal of Family Violence 11 (3), 269 289. Loseke, D. (1992). The Bat tered Woman and Shelters: the Social Construction of Wife Abuse SUNY Series in Deviance and Social Control. Albany: State University of New York Press. Lynch, S. M., & Graham Bermann, S. A. (2000). Woman Abuse and Self Affirmation. Violence Against Women 6 (2), 178 197. Martin, D. (1981). Battered Wives San Francisco: Volcano Press, Inc. McCann, I. L., Sakheim, D. K., & Abrahamson, D. J. (1988). Trauma and Victimization: A Model of Psychological Adaptation. The Counseling Psychologist 16 (4), 531 594. McDonough, T. A. (2010). A Policy Capturing Investigation of Battered Women's Decisions to Stay in Violent Relationships. Violence and Victims 25 (2), 165 184. McLeer, A. (1998). Saving the Victim: Recuperating the Language of the Victim a nd Reassessing Global Feminism. Hypatia 13 (1), 41 55. Mill, J. S. (1970). The Subjection of Women. In A. Rossi (Ed.), Essays on Sex Equality (pp. 125 242). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mills, T. (1985). The A ssault on the Self: Stages in Coping with Battering H usbands. Qualitative Sociology 8 (2), 103 123. Minnow, M. (1993). Surviving Victim Talk. UCLA Law Review 40 (1411), 1411 1445. Mitchell, R. E., & Hodson, C. A. (1983). Coping with Domestic Violence: Social S upp ort and Psychological Heal th Among Battered W omen. American Journal of Community Psychology 11 (6), 629 654.

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57 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2007). Domestic Violence Facts. NCADV. Retrieved from http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf Ora va, T., McLeod, P., & Sharpe, D. (1996). Perceptions of Control, Depressive Symptomatology, and Self Esteem of Women in T ransition from Abusive R elationships. Journal of Family Violence 11 (2), 167 186. Park, C., Zlateva, I., & Blank, T. (2009). Self identity After Cancer: "Survivor", "Victim", "Patient", and "Person with Cancer." Journal of General Internal Medicine 24 (0), 430 435. Picart, C. J. S. (2003). Rhetorically Reconfiguring Victimhood and Agency: The Violence Agains t Women Act's Civil Rights Clause. Rhetoric & Public Affairs 6 (1), 97 125. Reich, N. M. (2002). Towards a Rearticulation of W omen as Victims: A Thematic A nalysis of the Construction of Women's Identities Surrounding Gendered V iolence. Communication Quarterly 50 (3 4), 292 311. Ridgeway, C. L., & Smith Lovin, L. (1999). The Gender System and Interaction. Annual Review of Sociology 25 191 216. Robinson, D. T., & Smith Lovin, L. (1992). Selective Interaction as a Strategy for Identity Maintenance: An Affect Control Model. Social Psychology Quarterly 55 (1), 12 28. Rudman, L. A., & Fairchild, K. (2004). Reactions to Counterstereotypic Behavior: The Role of Backla sh in Cultural Stereotype Maintenance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87 (2), 157 176. Rudman, L. A., Moss Racusin, C. A., Phelan, J. E., & Nauts, S. (2012). Status Incongruity and Backlash Effects: Defending the Gender Hierarchy Motivates Prejudice Against Female L eaders. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48 (1), 165 179. Sackett, L. A., & Saunders, D. G. (1999). The Impact of Different Forms of Psychological Abuse on Battered Women. Violence and Victims 14 (1), 105 117. Salazar, C. F., & Casto, C. (2008). Moving From Victim to Survivor of Cultural Violence: A Conceptual Model. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development 47 (1), 82 98. Schneider, E. (1993). Feminism and the False Dichotomy of Victimization and Agency. New York Law School Law Review 38 (387).

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58 Schur, E. (1984). Labeling Women Deviant: Gender, Stigma, and Social Control New York: Random House, Inc. Serpe, R. T. (1987). Stability and Change in Self: A Structural Symbolic Interactionist Explanation. Social Psychology Quarterly 50 (1), 44 55. Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J. (2005). Identity Verification, Control, and Aggression in Marriage. Social Psychology Quarterly 68 (2), 160 178. Stryker, S. (1968). Identity Salience and Role Performance: The Relevance of Symbolic Interaction Theory for Family Research. Journal of Marriage and Family 30 (4), 558 564. Stryker, S., & Serpe, R. (1982). Commitme nt, Identity Salience, and Role Behavior: Theory and Research Example. In W. Ickes & E. Knowles (eds.), Personality, Roles, and Social Behavior (pp 199 218). Springer New York. Swann, W. B., & Read, S. J. (1981). Acquiring Self Knowledge: The search for feedback that fits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 41 (6), 1119 1128. Thapar Bjšrkert, S., & Morgan, K. J. (2010). "But Sometimes I Think . They Put Themselves in the Situation": Exploring Blame and Responsibility in Interpersonal Viol ence. Violence Against Women 16 (1), 32 59. The United States Department of Justice. (2011). Domestic Violence. USDJ. Retrieved from http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/domviolence.htm Thoits, P. A. (1983). Multiple Identities and Psychological Well Being: A Refor mulation and Test of the Social Isolation Hypothesis. American Sociological Review 48 (2), 174 187. Tutty, L. M., Bidgood, B. A., & Rothery, M. A. (1993). Support Groups for Battered Women: Research on their E fficacy. Journal of Family Violence 8 (4), 325 343. Walker, L. (2000). The Battered Woman Syndrome New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc. Walker, L. (2006). Battered Woman Syndrome. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1087 (1), 142 157. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing Gender. Gender and Society 1 (2), 125 151. Williamson, E. (2010). Living in the World of the Domestic Violence Perpetrator: Negotiating the Unreality of Coercive Control. Violence Against Women 16 (12), 1412 14.

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59 APPENDIX A Victim / Survivor Interview Guideline Thank you for agreeing to talk to me. You have signed an informed consent form and I hope this form (and our talk as we were going over it) explained some of the important ethical considerations to you. Let me highlight two things from that form: our int erview is strictly confidential. This means, I will not use any identifying information that you give me. I will use this information for the purposes of my research only. For my research, I will change your name and assign a fake name to you. You will not be harmed in any shape or form as a consequence of this research. I am taping this interview, but I will turn the tape recorder off during this interview, if you do not want me to tape a certain part of it. I understand that your participation is st rictly voluntary and you can terminate this interview at any moment, if you so desire. Before we start, do you have any questions regarding any of these and other information from the informed consent form? I would like to start with getting some what I call "background information" from you. Age: Ethnicity: Marital Status: Who were you living with prior coming to the Safe house? How long have you been in this safe house? (is this your first time in a safe house?) Do you have kids: (if yes, informa tion about kids: age(s), gender, school information, where are they now?: Support system: who can you turn to when you need financial support? Who can you turn to when you need emotional support (including advice)? [If a mother]: Who can you turn to, if you need help with your child(ren) {babysitting, transportation, financia l help, etc}. In practical, day to day life, is there anyone (or more) who can help you with making decisions, transportation, etc. Work? History/current situation/ Welfare? Tell me about your family (who is in your family) for support? Tell me about your friend (for support)? Do you think you have a problem with alcohol or any kind of drug abuse? {if yes, when did it start, rehab.? Etc) History of Abuse: CHILDHOOD: Can you take me back to your childhood? When you were growing up, have you watche d family member(s) being abused? What were their reactions? How did they deal with it? What do you remember most of about it (how did you feel about their abuse)? Did you talk to others about it? Have you been abused yourself as a child? By whom? In what way? What happened as a result of this? Did it come out? How did you feel about it? What did you do? (what happened at the end?). Would you do anything different if you could go back? Do you have any advice to abused children?

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60 ADULT LIFE (BEFOR E THIS PARTICULAR RELATIONSHIP): You are here in this safe house as a result of abuse in your current relationship. Prior to this relationship, have been in abuse relationships before? Can you tell me what happened? What did you do, how did you feel? H ave you gone back to being with a person who you knew was abusing you? Why [why not]? Did anyone help you during that time? Would you do anything different if you could go back? What would you advice to an abused woman? Current Relationship: Let's ta lk about your current relationship? How long have you been with this person? When did the abuse start (is this the first time you experienced abuse in this relationship)? {If it is not the first time, what did you do before? Have you kept it to yoursel f? Support from others? How did you feel?} If this is not the first time, this particular person is abusing you, have you gone back to this person before? Why? When the abuse first started, what made you be aware of it? Did you know immediately that you have been abused? What were you thinking about all that happening to you? In this relationship, are you the only one who is being abused? What about your children? Do you or have you ever retaliated? How did/do you deal with abuse? Did you or d o you blame yourself? Blame your abuser? Blame other things or people? How do you explain the abuse you have experienced to yourself? Why do you think it was happening? Why did it start? Why did it continue? What or who do you think is responsible for the abuse you have experienced? [[[have your feelings and thoughts change since the abuse has started?]]] What kind of a person is your abuser? Can you describe him to me? Since you first experienced abuse in this particular relationship how are you coping with it? Any strategies, any help you rely on, [[[denial, alcohol, drugs, etc?]]] Do you think your physical health is affected by the abuse? In what ways? Do you think your mental/emotional health is affected by the abuse? In what ways? What's nex t? Do you have a plan? What do you think are the biggest obstacles preventing you have for making plans? What would help you the most in focusing on a plan? What made you come to the safe house this time? {{Have you ever been to a safe house? }} How do you like being in this safe house? How are you being treated? How do the advocates treat you? Has being in the safe house changed you, your thoughts, and your feelings in any shape or form? Has being in a safe house help you making plans? What woul d you need from the advocates the most? What do you think in general the most? What is the most frustrating thing about being in the safe house? What resources do you see available to you? What resources/information would you need? Why? What about you r interactions with other women here in this safe house? Are these interactions important to you? Why, why not? {{{If children, their experiences in the safe house and their experiences as a family' in the shelter}}}

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61 Is this last experience any different than other abusive experiences [if other abusive experiences were mentioned or from any other experience] you have encountered? What is different about this one if anything? Do you see yourself in control of things? What makes you be in control [gaining control], what prevents you from having control? How do you describe yourself? What do you think are your major strengths and what do you think are your major weaknesses? Would you consider yourself as a passive o r an active individual (give examples)? How do you think others would characterize you? Why? Do you agree? Does it matter? In general when things are stressful, how do you deal with them? Would you consider yourself to be "victim of abuse"? Why and why not {who is a victim anyway?} Some people suggest the term "survivor" in describing abused women? What do you think about this term? Does it capture you and your experiences? How would you deal with things ideally? Ideally what would you do next? In reality, what do you think you will do next? Why? Notes: What did I think about myself during the interview? How did I feel about myself during the interview? What did I learn from the interview about myself? What, if anything, would I have l iked to change, about this interview? Why? What did I think about the respondent? How did I think about the respondent? What did I think/feel about the place in which the interview took place? Were there interruptions? Other things to be noted that m ight have affected the flow of the interview?

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62 APPENDIX B Informed Consent Form Study Title: Victim and Survivor Identities Principal Investigator: Candan Duran Aydintug Institution: University of Colorado Denver Institutional Review Board Approval Da te: May 2011 Safe House Board Approval Date: June 2011 Dear I am an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Unviersity of Colorado Denver interested mainly in Family structures and Family dynamics. I am inviting you to participate in a research study I am conducting that seeks to gain new knowledge and new insights into some aspects of domestic violence. The main research questions I have center around how individuals who have experienced physical abuse from an initmate partner come to make sense out of their experiences, how they identify themselves, and how their experiences in the safe houses guide them throughout their journeys. I am expecting to have 25 respondents in this study. If you decide to participate, your participation is understood not only to be completely voluntary, but you also may leave the study at any time you desire. If you decide to participate, there will be an interivew session between you and me during which I will ask you questions regarding your experiences. The interview will last anywhere from 2 to 3 hours and will take place in a priva te room that is designated for this interview. If you agree, the interview will be taped, however even if you agree to this, during any time of the interview, you m ay ask me to turn off the tape recorder. Your answers will be kept strictly confidential. Y our name will be removed from your interview and a fake name will be assigned to it. Your name will not be able to be associated with any information you give me during the interview.

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63 If you decide to participate, after our interview, I will transcribe the tapes and start analyzing the information. If you want me to, I can send you a copy of the results once I have them all analyzed. If you decide to participate, I thank you for your time and want you to know that in this area of research, researchers like me learn a great deal from our respondents and their experiences. If you have any questions regarding the study or the interview, please ask me before you sign this form. My si gnature below indicates my willingness to participate in this research study and my understanding that I can withdraw at any time: _______________________________________ Consent obtained by Candan Duran Aydintug: ____________________________________