Magazine article Herizons

Older Women Rise Up to Find Themselves

Magazine article Herizons

Older Women Rise Up to Find Themselves

Article excerpt

It is difficult for older women in abusive relationships to come for help. There are many barriers preventing them from coming to shelters. Older women who are not physically battered may not readily identify with the movement to assist abused women, though they may be suffering terribly in marriages where they are mentally abused. Powerlessness, hopelessness, depression and despair are significant health issues for many of these women.

Imagine you are a woman in your 60s, married 40 years. The marriage has not been a happy one. There is no communication. You feel ignored, stupid, worthless. Your opinions don't matter. Your husband controls all aspects of life and becomes angry when things don't go his way. You are worn out from trying to keep the peace.

You have stopped complaining to your friends. They tell you to count your blessings. "You have a nice home. At least he doesn't run around or beat you." (You remember the time he struck you for ordering encyclopedias from a door-to-door sales representative. Ashamed, you never told a soul.)

You feel guilty, disloyal. You resolve to try harder, to be more loving, forgiving.

But you can't shake the depression. Your doctor prescribes medication; that helps a little, but it doesn't change the climate of the house. Every day, more hurt and resentment accumulate. Leaving isn't an option. Where would you go? He's always told you, if you ever leave, don't expect a penny. What would you live on? What will you do?

I have worked since 1986 in a shelter for battered women and have been running support groups for almost as long. In 1992 I received a request from two women in their 60s to start a group specifically for older women. They felt that, although they had much in common with younger women in abusive relationships, there are issues, concerns and obstacles unique to the latter stages of life. The children are grown. …

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