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CHAPTER 12

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					                                              CHAPTER 12


                    EVALUATION, IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSION


           The final chapter presents an integration of the findings and conclusions elucidated thus
           far in the study. It seeks an overview of the phenomenon of         “Coloured” women
           leaving abusive spousal relationships, and a discussion of those issues which suggest
           certain implications of such an experience. The validity of the study is situated within
           the context of the strengths and limitations of the current research. The evaluation is
           followed by certain recommendations for future research possibilities which could
           contribute to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of leaving an abusive spousal
           relationship.


12.1                       OVERVIEW        OF     THE      PHENOMENON            OF
           “COLOURED”          WOMEN        LEAVING        ABUSIVE       SPOUSAL
           RELATIONSHIPS
           There appear to be central or essential structures which characterise the experience of
           “Coloured” women leaving abusive spousal relationships. Such themes have been
           described and discussed in-depth in Chapter 11, and are summerised here within the
           context of the wider study:


       •      The experience of leaving an abusive relationship is a process that takes a
           certain amount of time and time is essential to the process. Each phase of the
           process has unique features. The beginning is marked by confusion, fruitless efforts
           and eventual immobilisation, the middle is alive with internal struggle and the
           passage of time allows for growing recognition, awareness, acceptance and eventual
           celebration of the true self. Both before and after leaving there is a desire to make
           sense of one’s experience.


                      •    Being abused is traumatic, resulting in shock and disbelief. Shock
                           and disbelief give way to puzzlement, strangeness and a sense of
                           confusion.




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•      In an effort to make sense of the confusion there is a tendency to resort to self-
    blame, irrational beliefs and cultural-discourses which primarily holds the woman
       responsible for her abuse as well as the success or failure of her relationship.
               •   The eventual restoration of harmony after an abusive incident may
                   either come about because the woman accepts the abuser’s apology
                   or she believes that she was some how responsible for the act in the
                   first place. Either way, it is an effort towards recovery, safety, trust,
                   order and sense from the side of the victim.


               •   However, despite her husband’s possible apology and despite her
                   efforts not to engage in the behaviors that she suspects, or the abuser
                   or society made her believe, brought on the previous abusive incident
                   or incidents the woman is subsequently subjected to more physical
                   and verbal aggression.


               •   At one stage or another the woman senses that the abuse is not a
                   problem that can be dealt with within the confines of her marital
                   relationship. She approaches outside agencies like extended family,
                   religious authorities and community organisations to try and remedy
                   the abuse.


               •   Her husbands’ lack of co-operation as well as lack of adequate
                   support from potential support networks like the extended family or
                   religeous authorities nullifies her efforts to bring the abuse to an end.


               •   Both religious authorities and the extended family implicitly or
                   explicitly blames the woman for the abuse.


               •   The woman’s initial attempts to leave the abusive relationship is
                   stifled by her tendency to comply with the wishes of extended family
                   and friends who encourage her to stay.


               •   Having been unsuccessful in their previous attempts to leave and
                   feeling severely isolated and confused the women resign themselves
                   to their lot.

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•   The women use their faith to endure the abuse while avoidance
    behaviour is their major coping strategy. In an attempt to stave off
    further abuse women try to appease their husbands, usually in the
    form of restricting their range of activities and interactions with
    others.


•   The desire to provide their children with economic security and a
    family life gives women who are abused a purpose to endure their
    suffering.


•   During the phase of enduring and coping with the abuse a false self is
    constructed to protect the women from the reality of her suffering as
    well as to appease society.


•   The true self      becomes like a vacuum, empty and devoid of
    experience, activity and need.


•   Personal power is surrendered. There is inability to move or change.
    Allowing life to be controlled and directed by others, feeling alone,
    inferior, helpless confused and fearful of change, women who are
    subjected to abuse become immobilised.


•   Facilitated by the increasingly unbearable suffering, significant
    events in their lives and time away from their abusers women who
    eventually leave    abusive relationships embark on a protracted
    process of rigorous inward reflection.


•   In particular, the emotional abuse that they are subjected to make
    women who are abused question their own self-worth but it also
    make them question why they are staying in the abusive
    relationships.


•   In essence the process of inward reflection is a confrontation of the
    condition of the true self. The abused woman turns her attention to

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    her immediate subjective experiences, free form the impositions of
    societal expectations of how she is “suppose” to experience life.


•   The condition of the abused woman’s true self is characterised by
    feelings of loss, pain and lack of control, as well as anger,
    resentment, guilt and shame. A confrontation with such emotions
    thereby also involves a confrontation with one's own identity, self-
    concept, system of meaning within the world, and feelings of
    vulnerability and mortality. Such a confrontation is therefore the
    source of much anxiety and can only take place in a process over
    time.


•   In particular, feelings of anger and hatred that has progressively build
    up over the years is intensified and given expression when the
    women contemplate on the suffering their children endured as a
    result of the abuse.


•   This process of inward reflection does not only include
    contemplation about the present and past conditions. Women who
    leave abusive relationships also contemplate about worse outcomes
    that may result from the abuse. In particular the prospect of leaving
    their children motherless, as a result of them i) being killed by their
    husbands, ii) being imprisoned for killing their husbands or iii) being
    institutionalised as a result of a mental break down make them
    realize that they have to make a change.


•   The narrow confining experience of the self as a personification of
    the feminine role begins to change as abused women allow their
    thinking to surface, to be explored and to guide awareness and
    choice. At first they deny feelings and thoughts that are outside the
    role, viewing them as a threat to life as it is known, regardless of
    uneasiness or discomfort or unhappiness, depression, or pain. It was
    easier to listen to past voices and to remain in the wife-mother role
    by staying in the abusive relationship than to press for a different



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                   future. Turning within, exploring and seeking answers, abused
                   women who leave begin a process of change.


               •   Women who leave abusive relationships recognize that what (the
                   abuse) is happening to them is not a random mishap but an active
                   infringement of their fundamental rights as human beings. This
                   brings about an increased sense of entitlement and a realization that
                   they do not have to accept it. Having the “true self” recognized as
                   legitimate, the women embark on a search for their own preferences
                   and enjoyment.       The women come to view their husbands as
                   consciously or unconsciously inhibiting the striving for an authentic
                   self.


               •   The lengthy and arduous processes associated with the process of
                   inward reflection finally culminates in a decision to leave which is
                   accompanied by rational action and sheer determination.


•      Leaving is experienced as a risk. There is a risk of loosing one’s material
    possessions, including one’s home, and there is also fear for retaliation from the
    abusive spouse.


•      The abusive spouse responds with aggression to the woman’s decision to leave.
    The continues abuse ranges from threads, malicious damage to property and
    physical assault.


•      When they leave permanently abused women remain true to the self even in the
    face of recriminations from their extended families and the community at large.
    They also do not give in to their husbands’ ploys to try and reconcile; instead they
    continues to act in a manner that is true to their immediate experience and genuine
    state of being-in-the-world.


•      The experience of leaving is loaded with meaning. It means the ability to
    experience joy and freedom. Emerging from abused relationships leave women
    feeling empowered and able to finally attain their life aspirations. Life         is
    experienced as 'real' and filled with possibilities.

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•       After leaving abused women continue to remain true to themselves by altering
    the manner in which the relate to others.


•       In their intimate relationships the women wish to relate to another authentic
    being. They therefore take precautions to ensure that their prospective partners are
    who they claim to be. Further more, the women desire, expect, and demand the
    mutuality, which they were deprived of in their abusive marriages, from their
    prospective intimate relationships.


•       After leaving an abusive relationship there is an affirmation of feminine power.
    The woman comes to view her abusive relationship as being characterised by the
    abuse of traditional male power. But the experience of leaving re-affirms her power
    as a woman. She views male supremacy as merely an illusion created by a
    patriarchal society and maintained by both men and women’s blind acceptance of
    this illusion.


•       The experience of leaving an abusive relationship also alters the manner in
    which women relate to their children. Their own values and philosophies of life as
    oppose to those of society guide the women’s parenting practices.


•       After leaving abusive relationships women need to make sense of why they did
    not leave sooner.


•       There is a sense of regret for not leaving the abusive relationship sooner than
    they did. The women are aware that they 'could' have dealt with their experience in a
    different way, and that their decision to stay for so long and avoid pertinent issues
    was not necessarily a productive one. Their decision to stay sacrificed the
    opportunity for development, which created guilt.


•       For the “Coloured” woman locating her experience of leaving an abusive
    spousal relationship within a social-cultural context labeled as “Coloured” may
    facilitate both an acceptance as well as a positive reframing of her experience of not
    leaving the abusive relationships sooner. The acknowledgement that her social-
    cultural history is one that (i) makes her vulnerable for experiencing abuse,

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       especially the devastating effects of verbal abuse and (ii) places her at risk for
       staying in the abusive relationships because of (a) the strength which she derives
       from being a mother and (b) her great sense of pride and reluctance to seek or accept
       help from others.


12.2                  ISSUES FOR DISCUSSION
       Emerging form the above themes are several issues which raise themselves for further
       discussion.


       12.2.1         COMPARING AND DISTINGUISHING FINDINGS
                      WITH      FINDINGS         FROM     THE     LITERATURE
                      REVIEW
       In bringing the study of “Coloured” women leaving abusive spousal relationships to a
       close, it is appropriate to consider the findings in light of what is already known. The
       theoretical approaches that presented themselves as explanatory models for the abused
       women’s stay/leave decision making in Chapter 4 (section 4.2) do hold some value in
       understanding the abused woman’s experience of leaving an abusive relationship.
       However, they tend to oversimplify the process of leaving by reducing it to an act of
       decision making and largely ignoring the context of either what comes before or after
       the decision to leave is made, or both.


       The first of these theories, the theory of learned helplessness has been used by Walker
       (1983) to explain why some women stay in abusive relationships but do not explain
       how it is that some women manage to leave. The theory is conceptualised as cyclical,
       involving three types of deficits: motivational, cognitive, and affective. According to
       the theory an abused woman experiences a motivational deficit when she believes her
       responses do not affect her outcomes, and she has no incentive to emit new responses.
       This motivational deficit leads to a cognitive deficit consisting of the inability to learn
       that outcomes can be contingent on responses in a new situation. This cognitive deficit
       leads to an affective deficit or depressive state that further feeds into the woman's
       motivational deficit, and so on. This state of learned helplessness is similar to the phase
       identified as being immobilised in the current study.


       Abramson, Garber and Seligman proposed an attributional reformulation of the learned
       helplessness model (Strube, 1988) that may explain how some women do manage to

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leave an abusive relationship. According to these researchers, individuals confronted
with noncontingency make causal attributions that can be conceptualized along three
dimensions: internal versus external, stable versus unstable, and global versus specific.


Classic learned helplessness is presumed to occur when the noncontingency between
responses and outcomes is attributed to internal, stable and global causes. Under these
circumstances, individuals blame themselves for their negative outcomes, expect such
outcomes to persist over time, and expect such negative outcomes to extend into other
domains of their lives. In other words, the helplessness experience is profound, chronic
and general. On the other hand, helplessness will not be accompanied by self-blame if
an external attribution is made, will be only temporary if an unstable attribution is made
and will have only a narrow range of impact if a specific attribution is made.


In light of this attributional reformulation, it becomes clear that the learned helplessness
model could provide an explanation for why some, but not all women remain in abusive
relationships. It could be that women who remain have the attributional style that make
the deficits associated with learned helplessness more severe.           The attributional
reformulation, does not however, account for how it is that women who initially
experience the helplessness as profound, chronic and general move to an external,
unstable and specific attribution. Findings from this study imply this movement is only
possible through a process of vigorous inward reflection.


The theory of psychological entrapment similarly conceptualises an abused woman as
somehow stuck in her relationship. Psychological entrapment is defined as "a decision
process whereby individuals escalate their commitment to a previously chosen, though
failing, course of action in order to justify or 'make good' on prior investments"
(Brockner & Rubin, 1985, p.5). At no stage did any of the participants in the current
study, either implicitly or explicitly sate that they remained in the abusive relationships
because of their previous commitments in terms of time, energy, and emotional
involvement. In fact contemplation on the sacrifices they made in the marriage rather
gave them some impetus to leave (see Section 11.5.2.1.1).


The other two theories are similar to the theory of psychological entrapment in that they
are best understood as explaining one's commitment to a previously chosen course of
action. When applied to the spousal-abuse domain, both the investment model and the

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reasoned action/ planned behaviour approach assume that a woman will (a) subjectively
evaluate how satisfied she is with her current relationship, (b) determine her attitude
toward further maintaining this relationship, and (c) decide whether she thinks she
would be better off is she were to leave the relationship.

The investment model suggests a two-stage process in the decision to leave an abusive
relationship. First, the abused woman decides whether the total benefits of the
relationships are greater than the total costs of the relationship arriving at a subjective
estimate of satisfaction. Second, satisfaction with the current relationship is compared to
the estimated satisfaction with alternatives to the relationship (should she decide to
leave).


Herbert, Silver and Ellard in Choice & Lamke (1997) focused specifically on assessing
the effect of positive aspects of abusive relationships (mutual trust, love, respect,
satisfaction with sex, sharing of household chores and moments of great happiness) on
women's stay/ leave decision. Results indicate that women still involved with their
abusive partner perceived more positive aspects of the relationship than did those who
were no longer involved.
Findings from the current study concur with Strube and Barbour’s (1983, 1984)
interpretation that abused women's claim that they still love their partners is a form of
personal attachment to the relationship. They point out that being a wife and mother are
important roles for a woman and society places the burden of family harmony on her.
Thus being a member of a relationship, especially a relationship that appears trouble-
free to outsiders, may be rewarding to an abused woman and may translate into feelings
of satisfaction with the relationship. As was indicated in Section 11.5.1.31, it was only
when the participants allowed their thinking to surface, to be explored and to guide
awareness and choice that the narrow confining experience of the self as a
personification of the feminine role began to change.


According to the reasoned action/ planned behaviour approach, people consider the
implications of their actions before they decide whether to engage a given behaviour.
The theory predicts that a woman would be more likely to leave her relationship if:
(a) she views leaving as having a positive outcome, (b) she perceives leaving is within
her control, and (c) her significant others want her to leave and she is motivated to




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comply with their wishes. At first glance this theory is plausible and describes the
decision to leave fairly accurately but it does not encapsulate the experience of leaving.


However, findings from the present study suggests that the rational decision to finally
leave is preceded by a period of immobilisation as a result of the devastating effects of
the abuse, failed attempts to remedy the abuse and previous unsuccessful attempts to
leave. Thus the reasoned/ planned action approach may only be describing or explaining
a phase in the experience of leaving. Even if that is the case it is not explaining the
phase adequately. Although the participants in this study viewed leaving as having a
positive outcome, they expected and were subjected to negative outcomes in the form of
aggressive retaliation from their husbands after their decision to leave. Thus the
decision to leave also requires great courage and determination and according to
findings from this study this was made possible because of the women’s strong desire to
remain true to themselves, which came about after a long process of inward reflection. It
was this very same desire to remain true to the self that resulted in the women not
complying with wishes of significant others in their lives.


Crisis theory offers an alternative the to decision making models of why women stay in
or leave abusive relationships. Two concepts from crises theory reveal the continuity
between women's coping with trauma over the years and their final decision to leave:
(1) phases of crisis development; (2) the influence of crisis origins on crisis resolution
(Section 4.2.6).


If an abusive episode is seen in the context of developmental phases rising toward acute
emotional crisis, then each abusive event may be understood contextually: e.g., coping
resources, personal interpretation of the event, severity of injury, etc. Each event of
abuse has the potential to become an emotional crisis (acute emotional upset
accompanied by failure of unusual coping devices). Two of the participants of this study
were in a state of active crisis (social support and interpersonal strength fail, problem
continues, anxiety rises to an unbearable state, e.g., a suicide or homicide attempts is
made) shortly before they decided to leave the abusive relationship. One suffered a
stroke as a result of a particularly severe assault, while the others daughter tried to
commit suicide as a result of her father’s abuse. To assume however that women leave
abusive relationships when they are faced with their own or their children’s mortality
would be simplistic.

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Crisis theory defines the experience of abuse as a crisis resulting from deviant acts of
others, and in the same category of behaviours which violates accepted social norms:
robbery, rape, and incest. In crisis originating from complex social/cultural or
interrelated sources the implications for interventions are also more complex than in
crisis arising from universal transition states or other unexpected events. Thus in order
for a woman to leave her abusive relationship a woman needs to define her abuse as
originating from social cultural sources. Participants in the study did in fact come to
define their abuse as the abuse of traditional male power. However crisis theory does
not explain how a woman moves from buying into social cultural norm that blame her
for the abuse to this realization.


Several descriptive studies concur with the findings of the present study. These describe
the experience of leaving is a complicated process (Landenberger, 1989; Meritt-Gray &
Wuest, 1995; Mills, 1985, Ulrich, 1991, Davey, 1997) that is associated with a change
in self (Ferraro and Johnson, 1983; Mills, 1985; Landenberger, 1993; Ulrich, 1991;
Davey, 1997).


A recent descriptive study has also indicated that leaving an abusive relationship is a
culturally bound experience (Moss, Pitula, Campbell & Halstead, 1997). Findings from
this study suggest that the experience of African-American women and “Colouerd”
women are quite similar with regards to the impact that their historic social-cultural
context have on their experience of leaving. Like African-American women,
“Coloured” women are postulated to be more vulnerable to the experience of abuse
because of the historical demasculation of their men as the result of the development of
matriarchal family systems which developed alongside the patriarchal societies of their
former slave owners (see Section 4.2.7.5 & Section 5.3).


Both African-American and “Coloured” women are socialized to be resilient and endure
spousal abuse for the sake of preserving their families. Like African-American women
“Coloured” women are more at risk for staying in abusive relationships because they do
not solicit or accept help from agencies outside of their family or religious networks.




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While the previous section sought to position the findings of the study within the
context of prior research the following sections seek a discussion of pertinent issues that
presented themselves within the confines of the current study.


12.2.2         THE EMOTIONAL ASPECT OF SPOUSAL ABUSE
As was evidenced in this study, the emotional component of the abuse is strong and
dominant, leading to shattered confidence, withdrawal, and feelings of being alienated
or disconnected. Relationships with others are seriously impaired and the ability to
relate on an intimate level with friends and family members is blocked.


In particular the participants made special mention of the devastating emotional
consequences of the verbal abuse or mental abuse that they were subjected to. This is
still a great source of pain for the participants but it appears that it also provided them
with a much greater impetus to leave the abusive relationship than the physical abuse
did. It is not quite clear why this is the case although one of the participants postulated
that it is because verbal or mental abuse makes one question one’s sense of self-worth.
One may further postulate that this questioning of the self creates increased inward
reflection which in turn facilitates leaving.


12.2.3         THE ROLE OF CHILDREN AND EMPLOYMENT STATUS IN THE
               EXPERIENCE OF LEAVING
It is both interesting and significant to note that the participants cited their children as
one of the major reasons why they initially stayed in the abusive relationships. Yet their
children also provided them with the impetus to finally leave the relationships.


For two of the participants “staying for the sake of the children” referred to the fact that
they were unemployed and feared that they would not be able to provide their children
with economic security as single parents. For the third participant who was employed it
referred to the fact that she wanted to provide her children with a family life at all cost
because she herself came from a ‘broken’ home.


What is even more significant is that when the two participants finally left the abusive
relationship, their economic condition was exactly the same as before: they were still
unemployed. It appears that there has been a fundamental shift in the way the women
came to view their roles of mothers. Whereas before they were more concerned with

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their children’s physical well being, the devastating impact that the abuse had on their
children’s emotional well being was now of primary concern.


Also, there has been a shift in the thinking that only the traditional nuclear family,
despite its dysfunctional aspects, can provide a child with a healthy, wholesome
environment in which to grow up in. Furthermore, the women have moved away from
stereotypical roles as mothers, to that of devising their own parenting practices based on
their own values and philosophy of life.


Another notable point to mention with regards to the presence of children in the abusive
spousal relationship is the phenomenon that as the children grew older they too were
directly subjected to their father’s abuse, both physically and emotionally and this
provided the women with an important motivation to leave.


Although the women themselves assert that they stayed in the abusive relationship for
the sake of their children, this statement must be viewed with circumspection. Much
earlier on in their abusive relationships, despite their unemployment status or their
traditional views of what a healthy family should be like, the women made definite
attempts to leave but as a result of a lack of adequate support from extended family and
religious authorities they were not able to do so. As a result, at that time, they felt that
they had no other option but to stay and endure the abuse. Their children, it would
appear, gave them a purpose to endure the suffering associated with the abuse. This is
qualitatively different from making a choice to stay in the relationship for the sake of
the children. When their children were eventually subjected to the debilitating effects of
the abuse, either directly or indirectly, the women had no purpose to endure the abuse
themselves anymore.


12.2.4         THE ROLE OF CULTURE, FAMILY AND RELIGION
               IN THE EXPERIENCE OF LEAVING
Cultural and religious factors played a significant role in the interpretation and response
to a phenomenon such as spousal abuse. Family interaction patterns, flexibility of roles,
coping resources and support systems, family expectations, values and ethics are
determined and moderated by the wider cultural context.




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By their own account the participants in this study came to view their social-cultural
context as one which made them vulnerable to being in as well as staying in abusive
spousal relationships but they were only able to realize this after the fact. The process of
socialization therefore appears to be deviously subtle yet dangerously pervasive.


Although all the participants used their faith and prayer to endure the abuse, only two of
them emerged from the abusive relationship with a fortified sense of faith, while all of
them were failed by their respective religious authorities. At no stage was the abuse
condemned by religious authorities, in fact in one participant’s case the abuse was said
to be the result of both her and her abusive husband’s neglect of their religious duties. In
all the cases interventions from religious authorities were centred on restoring and
maintaining the marital relationships. No special consideration was given to the
suffering the women endured as a result of the abuse let alone the possibility of leaving.


12.2.5         WOMEN’S LACK OF A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
               It is striking the degree to which the participants in this study lacked a
               sense of entitlement while they were still in the abusive relationship. The
               length to which they went to deny their own suffering to appease their
               abusive spouses and to comply with the wishes of religious authorities
               and extended family is phenomenal.


               Although the women reported feelings of anger and hatred as
               progressively building up throughout the years, they were only able to
               give expression to these feeling when the abuse started affecting their
               children. Only then were they able to progress from a situation of
               internalised anger (in the form of self-blame and depression) to a
               situation of externalized anger where they directed their feelings towards
               their husbands who were primarily responsible for the suffering that both
               they and their children had endured.


               Even when the women contemplated possible worse outcomes of the
               continues abuse it was how these would affect their, children more than
               anything else, that prompted the women to make a change. In particular
               the prospect of leaving their children motherless, as a result of them i)
               being killed by their husbands, ii) being imprisoned for killing their

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                         husbands or iii) being institutionalised as a result of a mental break down
                         made them realize that they had to leave.


                         A sense of entitlement only came about when the “true self” was
                         recognized as legitimate. For two of the participants this came about as
                         the result of outside agencies defining their husbands’ behaviours as
                         abusive. The third participant consciously embarked on a search to find
                         out what her rights were as a woman within her particular religion. In
                         both cases the results were that the women came to view their abuse as a
                         violation of their basic human rights and as consequently something they
                         did not have to accept.


                         It is disturbing that these women had to endure years of suffering before
                         they came to realize that they were equal to everyone else in society
                         (including their children), that they were entitled to be treated fairly, and
                         that they did not have to accept anyone, including their husbands,
                         violating their basic rights.


12.3                     EVALUATION OF THE STUDY
           The strengths and limitations of the current study are presented within the framework of
           the phenomenological approach to the research. This discussion serves to provide a
           context within which the research findings should be understood, interpreted and
           applied.




           12.3.1        Strengths of the Study
           The following strengths suggest the value, validity and applicability of the current
           research:


       •      This study has reviewed the existing literature as a means of positioning the
           research and of validating the existence of a need. Having completed a
           comprehensive search and scrutiny of the information relevant to this topic and
           having compared the findings of the present investigation to those in the literature
           review, I believe that the comprehensive textural and structural descriptions of the



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•      Specifically this study differs from others in its methods and procedures,
    allowing the researcher to come to an understanding of meanings, values, and
    essences that describe the experience of “Coloured” women leaving abusive spousal
    relationships. Additionally this study addresses the wholeness of the experience,
    encompassing psychological, sociological, biological, as well as spiritual
    dimensions.


•      This study, unlike others did not seek to offer advice or prescribe behaviour, but
    rather to suggest openings and possibilities for awareness, insight and action that are
    inherent in the self-search and self-report of the participants.


•      Further, while certain themes and issues regarding the experience of leaving an
    abusive spousal relationship can be gleaned from existing literature, no previous
    study brings together the situational with the experiential, and synthesizes the
    experience in a way that reflects the totality and wholeness of a critical human
    experience.


    A single South African study in the prior research stands out as a qualitative
    investigation of the experience of leaving an abusive spousal relationships (Davey,
    1997). While this study was found to be the closest manifestation of a descriptive
    depiction of the experience of leaving, it nevertheless fails to provide an integration
    of the core themes, or a unity of past, present and future. It is believed that the
    current study extends the descriptive analysis of the experience of leaving an
    abusive relationship, explicates the wholeness of the experience, is grounded in a
    philosophy that is consistent with its purposes and value and is appropriate to the
    question that it seeks to clarify and explicate.


•      The present study presented a descriptive process, depicting the dynamics of
    each phase, and chronicling the movements from being in to leaving an abusive
    spousal relationship

•      A significant feature of the study is its focus on women who have left the

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    abusive relationship permanently. Participation in the study was restricted to
    “Coloured” women who left their abusive relationships at least two years prior to
    the inception of the study. Research has consistently shown that many women leave
    abusive spousal relationships only to return after some time (Rousaville (1978),
    Lawrence, 1984; Hoff, 1990). Yet most, if not all, of the prior findings on women
    leaving spousal abusive relationships have been derived from research conducted in
    shelters (Pfouts, 1978; Ferraro and Johnson, 1983; Mills, 1985; Davey, 1997). The
    length of time since leaving could thus vary from a few hours to a few moths at the
    most, since most shelters can only accommodate women for up to six moths. In
    addition, it has been found that most women return to their husbands after a shelter
    stay.


•       Another notable feature of the design of this study is that I, the researcher, am a
    “Coloured” woman. Participants regarded this as an asset as they felt free to express
    themselves in a particular type of lingo, which is so characteristic of many
    “Coloured” communities, without having to explain its meanings and nuances. It is
    believed that this naturalness in communication facilitated the richness and depth of
    the data that was derived from the participants’ extensive descriptions of their
    experiences.


•       In order to understand the phenomenon of Coloured women leaving abusive
    spousal relationships clearly as possible I attempted to suspend my preconceptions
    through a process called bracketing. In order to bracket my preexisting "common
    sense", scientific foreknowledge and assumptions regarding the experience of
    Coloured women leaving abusive spousal relationships I made my bias explicit.


        I made it known that the current study was partly motivated by my own exposure to
        spousal abuse in the Coloured community in which I was raised. My experience of
        Coloured women (including my own family) is that they are strong and resilient and
        I therefore guarded against positive bias in the analysis of the women's description
        of their experience of leaving.


        I also disclosed my ambivalence with regards to feminist theory as an explanatory
        model for the dynamics of spousal abuse. I mentioned that of all the theoretical
        models I find this theory to be the most comprehensive in understanding the

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       phenomenon but that I am also conflicted with regards to integrating some of the
       core tenants of feminist theory with my basic beliefs as a Muslim. I was therefore
       careful not to prejudicially infer concepts of feminist theory in the participants'
       account of their experience of leaving but also not to ignore them when they
       obviously presented themselves but were in conflict with my religious beliefs.


•      Coherence validity was attempted by the researcher's deliberation with her two
    study supervisors over the quality and consistency of interpretations. The social-
    cultural backgrounds of the study supervisors differ from that of the researcher and
    the participants and the consideration of their points of view could therefore
    counterbalance the possibility of cultural bias in the collection and analysis of data.
    In addition, one of the supervisors is a man and his perspective minimised possible
    gender bias in the analysis and interpretation of data.


•      Testimonial validity was also employed by sending copies of the synthesised
    structural description of the experience to the research participants. Each participant
    was requested to carefully examine the unified description of the phenomenon of
    leaving abusive relationships (see Appendix V). All the participants confirmed that
    the composite structural description captured their experience of leaving an abusive
    spousal relationship. Two of the participants added further descriptions of their
    experience, but these did not alter the composite structural description of the essence
    of their experience arrived at through the initial process of data analysis.


•      As part of its provisions for validity, this study invited transparency by
    providing clear descriptions as to its motivations, aims and the methods employed.
    It described the process of data collection, how participants came to be part of the
    study, and the method through which data was analyzed, transformed and
    synthesized to elicit themes and essences. The transcripts are presented in the
    original form for scrutiny by the reader, thereby inviting personal judgement on the
    credibility of the study (see Appendix IV).


•      The sample of participants was selected for its richness of data and variety of
    description. Two of the research participants were Christian while the third was
    Muslim. One of the participants were predominantly Afrikaans speaking while the
    other two were predominantly English speaking. Two of the participants were

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    unemployed before leaving the abusive relationship and were working as volunteer
    community workers after leaving. The third participant was employed for most her
    married life and was in fact the sole breadwinner for lengthy periods of time in her
    abusive marriage. This diversity not only reflects the heterogeneity that exists in
    “Coloured” communities but it also suggests that a range of responses was attained,
    which allows for greater generalisability of research findings.


    12.3.2         Limitations of the Study
    The following possible limitations were identified:


•      Although the sample provides a diversity of description, its relative homogeneity
    with regards to issues of race, culture, length of stay, and the presence of children in
    the abusive marriage may affect the generalisability of its findings. It is unclear to
    what extend the conclusions drawn are applicable to women from other races and
    cultures and those who do not have children with the abusive spouse. The
    participants’ length of stay in the abusive marriage ranged from twelve to eighteen
    years, it is therefore uncertain whether the findings of the study and its implications
    are relevant for those women who disengage from the abusive relationship at a
    much earlier stage.


•      The issue of generalisability is exacerbated by the modest sample size. The
    study probably provides a small subset of multiple experiences rather than the
    ‘typical’ experience of women leaving abusive spousal relationships. Although this
    is in accordance with the phenomenological aim of the study, the applicability of the
    findings must be interpreted within this (possibly limited) context.


•       It must be acknowledged that the researcher as a human instrument and as-
    being-in-the-world exerted an influence on the collection and analysis of data. The
    researchers perceptions prior to undertaking the research or conducting interviews
    in all probability shaped the manner in which descriptions were recorded,
    interpreted and analysed. An attempt was made to minimise researcher bias through
    the process of bracketing discussed under the section referring to the strengths of
    the study (Section 12.2.1). Furthermore an attempt was made to minimise
    interviewer and researcher bias by:



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       -            Recording and presenting the actual words, gestures and body language
           of all participants;
       -            By justifying and validating the extensive analysis process using raw
           data to qualify statements;
       -            By describing the interpersonal dynamics between the participant and
           the researcher as it was perceived by the latter.


       •       It is important to note that the views presented in the study constitute merely one
           perspective in the possible interpretation of the data. The conclusions formulated are
           a product of the researcher’s interpretation rather than a complete or exhaustive
           view of the phenomenon of “ Coloured” women leaving abusive spousal
           relationships.


12.4                        IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS OF THE
           RESEARCH
           The insights and understandings that emerge as result of this study have tremendous
           potential value for utilisation on a societal as well as professional level.


           12.4.1           SOCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL IMPLICATIONS
           It is apparent that spousal abuse has a profound impact on the life of the victim and her
           relationship with others. The results of the abuse are far-reaching and chronic.
           Prevention of course is the primary challenge, requiring much more social concern and
           attention.


           The socialization experience of women teachers us to become expert in being relational,
           supportive and cooperative. Somewhere in this socialisation process our sense of
           entitlement and personal power is obscured. A sense of entitlement and personal power
           enables one to make choices, initiate and implement change and to take charge of one’s
           own life. Facilitating self-entitlement and personal power among female children
           becomes the task of society, especially its parents, teachers, religious and cultural
           leaders. Women and girls need to experience their personal power more often. They
           need to make choices, risk making mistakes and live life more fully. Their relational,
           supportive and cooperative talents, in combination with the more instrumental qualities
           such as competency, independence, and decision making are needed for individual
           worth and for effective family and social interactions.

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There is a need for society to explore options that support women’s search for authentic
expression in a variety of ways as well a greater opportunities for men and boys to
experiment with non-aggressive conflict resolution strategies and to share in the
responsibility of relationship maintenance. In fact it is our moral responsibility to work
towards creating an environment which facilitates the synthesis of opposites,
responsible decision-making, taking charge of one’s life, and an environment which
respects and values individual experience. It is however the responsibility and necessity
of each individual to actualize her personal power.


Implications for society also point to the continuation of social activism and advocacy
to heighten public awareness, raise public conscience, and generate greater
understanding of the plight of women who struggle to free themselves from the grip of
spousal abuse. These need to translate into practical support and interventions from
family, religious authorities, social welfare departments, the criminal justice system and
all other parties concerned. Knowledge is power and understanding opens up the
possibility for change.


Crisis intervention is particularly appropriate after an acute abusive incident, when
women seek shelter, for it allows a focus on a specific critical incident, assessing the
potential for lethality. In addition plans can be made for future and present safety while
information is provided about legal options and community resources.


As was evidenced in this study, the emotional component of spousal abuse is strong and
dominant. Individual psychotherapy can be useful in alleviating emotional and
behavioral distress and preventing further emotional complications. Psychotherapy is a
means to weather the emotional storm, reconnect with others, and re-establish
confidence and a strong sense of personal identity. The victim’s efforts to minimise or
deny the abuse and the tendency to withdraw are two major factors that may work
against therapy and should be addressed.


Individual psychotherapy that has increased independence as its goal could proof
effective. Therapy must be action orientated and include a career or vocational
component. If changes are to be permanent therapy must involve a cognitive
restructuring component.

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    Group therapy consisting of other abused women is highly recommended. A group can
    reduce the sense of isolation felt by the abused women. She can lean new cognitions
    from others in the group an she can benefit from group norms that support positive
    behavioural change. Groups could roughly be divided into two stages. The first stage
    would be for abused women in crisis or trying to get free form the relationship. The
    second stage would be for women who have been successful at getting out of the
    relationship and are now facing other developmental life issues, such as embarking on a
    career or establishing new intimate relationships.


    Finally the findings and the process of the current investigation has social and
    professional implications in terms of methods that are utilised to conduct scientific
    research and the regard that science has for the truth of self-search and self-disclosure of
    the constituents of experience. This investigation and those similar to it demonstrated
    the possibility of gaining knowledge and understanding through a process that is
    congruent with the inherent dignity of the experiencing person, and the right of the
    person to be heard and believed.


    12.4.2         IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTURE
                   RESEARCH
    The phenomenological approach offers a description of subjective experience, however
    every phenomenon is multi-layered in its make-up and therefore open to continual
    discovery. This study offered a description of, but not necessarily a complete or total
    one of the experience of “Coloured” women leaving abusive relationships. Additional
    investigations of the experience of leaving abusive spousal relationships would reveal
    additional aspects and understandings of the phenomenon


    Several research areas arose in the course of the study that are of particular significance
    in understanding this phenomenon.


•      In this study cultural, family and religious factors played a significant role in the
    interpretation and response to the phenomenon of spousal abuse. Considering the
    diverse mix of race, ethnicity, culture and religion in contemporary South Africa, it
    is certain that further investigation of the relative influences of these factors within
    the varying contexts that constitute South African society will provide a much

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    broader, deeper and relevant understanding of the phenomenon of leaving an
    abusive spousal relationship. However, because a major finding of this study is that
    the women’s experience of leaving an abusive spousal relationship is intimately and
    integrally related to their beings, a repetition of this format or a similar one may
    provide insights into the experience of the phenomenon in various social-cultural
    contexts.


•       Key to the experience of abuse women leaving abusive spousal relationships is
    their relationship with others. For this reason, as well as for gaining an
    understanding of what the experience is like, a study focusing on the experience of
    friends and family members would add an important understanding and perhaps
    point to ways of facilitating and maintaining positive communication between
    friends and family members and the woman who contemplates leaving the abusive
    relationship. A more complete understanding of the impact on the family is also
    needed if effective intervention is to be employed. How is it to be related to an
    individual who contemplates ending an abusive relationships but who is conflicted,
    confused, withdrawn and lacks a sense of entitlement? Also: What are the factors
    that lead family and friends to encourage the woman to remain in an abusive
    relationship? A phenomenological study of the experience of parents, adult siblings
    and friends of women who contemplate leaving or have left abusive spousal
    relationships is suggested. It is important to consider the experience of family and
    friends not only because of the possible barrier that they may present but also for the
    support and resources they may offer the abused woman seeking to leave the
    relationship.


•      As was evidenced in this study, the emotional component of the abuse is strong
    and dominant. The effects of the different types of abuse on the woman’s experience
    of leaving require further research and can be invaluable in understanding the
    phenomenon of leaving. Do other women, like the “Coloured” women in this study
    also experience the effects of verbal or mental abuse as being worse then those of
    physical abuse and does it also provide a greater impetus to leave then the physical
    abuse does; or is this a culturally bound phenomenon.


•      As was indicated influence of children on the woman’s experience of leaving an
    abusive relationship is not clear-cut. If women who have children with the abusive

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           spouse were given adequate support from family and societal agencies are they more
           likely to leave then those women who also have children but lack this support? Also
           a study comparing the experience of women who leave abusive relationships but do
           not have children with women who do would provide valuable insight on the
           phenomenon of leaving an abusive relationships.


       •       A study that compares the experience of women who leave the abusive
           relationship earlier to those who leave much later could possibly help identify more
           clearly the internal and external conditions that facilitate leaving.


12.3                      CONCLUSION
           This study has reviewed the existing literature as a means of positioning the research
           and of validating the existence of a need. Having completed a comprehensive search
           and scrutiny of the information relevant to this topic and having compared the findings
           of the present investigation to those in the literature review, I believe that the
           comprehensive textural and structural descriptions of the experience of “Coloured”
           women leaving abusive spousal relationships that were derived from the data add
           unique and significant portrayals to existing knowledge.


           It is apparent that spousal abuse has a profound impact on the life of the woman and her
           relationship with others. The results of the abuse are far-reaching and chronic. The
           emotional component of the abuse is strong and dominant, leading to shattered
           confidence, withdrawal, and feelings of being alienated or disconnected. Relationships
           with others are seriously impaired and the ability to relate on an intimate level with
           family members is blocked.


           The experience of leaving an abusive relationship is a process that the women have been
           thrust into. It takes a certain amount of time and time is essential to the process. Each
           phase of the process has unique features. The beginning is marked by shock, disbelief
           and confusion; fruitless efforts to make sense of the confusion; stifled attempts to leave
           or bring the abuse to an end; and an eventual immobilisation. The middle is alive with
           internal struggle. There is a painful, protracted confrontation with overwhelming
           feelings of loss, pain and lack of control, as well as anger, resentment, guilt and shame,
           which characterise the condition of the true self, which has long been denied for the
           sake of complying with the wishes of others. The passage of time allows for growing

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recognition, awareness, acceptance and eventual celebration of the true self and genuine
inner experience.


In a continues struggle to honour the true self, a sense of entitlement emerges which
necessitates the separation from an abusive spouse. It is in this struggle that the courage
and determinations is found to face the risk, uncertainty, and danger associated with
leaving an abusive relationship. But leaving offers challenge, growth, the realisation of
future possibilities and the achievement of a more authentic self. At times still shaking
off the shackles of the past, the women have embarked on a new experience, living life
through the desire and decisions of the own self.


Emerging from the abusive relationship involves not only the disappearance of the
abuse but the reappearance, reinvention or rediscovery of a self with a past and a future.
The women in this study made sense of their present life which leads from the past into
the future by placing themselves in an integral part of a historical unfolding. It is in this
historical past that the women made sense and positively reformulated their experience
of not leaving the abusive relationship sooner.


This study offered a description of, but not necessarily a complete or total one of the
experience of “Coloured” women leaving abusive relationships. Every phenomenon is
multi-layered in its make-up and therefore open to continual discovery. I feel privileged
to have participated in a never-ending process.


While this particular investigation has come to its conclusion in the conventional sense,
the insights and understandings I have gained will influence my way of being and will
remain with me forever. The lessons I have learned in this process is primarily about the
process of life itself, and about the possibilities for change when persons adhere to
perspectives based on the experience of the inner, true self.


Having had the privilege of listening to and communicating with women as they share
their experience of leaving an abusive spousal relationship has given me a sense of
affirmation and validation for what I have already intuited, as well as support and
courage to move forward towards an exiting future filled with possibilities.




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