Battle Cries: Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse

By Hillary Potter | Go to book overview

4
Surviving Childhood

“I Learned to Stand up for Myself”

Medea endured a distressing childhood filled with abandonment and mental abuse by her parents. She did not feel that she fit in anywhere, whether it was in her home among her family or at school with her peers. As a result, Medea acknowledged, “I learned to stand up for myself.” Medea's poor treatment by several of her family members left an indelible mark on her and, in retrospect, helped her understand how she came to be in abusive relationships and her resulting responses to the intimate partner abuse:

Using my relationship with my father as a filter, I could understand why
I made the choices I made. But I also had to understand that I couldn't
continue to make those choices and the only person who could help me
be whole was me. And I could get to that place, but I could not depend
on having a relationship with men to get me to that place. I had to look at
my life and fix what was wrong, the same as if I had a health issue. Ulti-
mately it would be up to me…. You have to co-create the life you want.

Medea was a spirited child in spite of the neglect and isolation she suffered. Even though she found herself in a number of abusive intimate relationships during adulthood, during childhood Medea visualized her life beyond her depraved youth: “I felt like the world was bigger than that small space. I was kind of doing time.”

At the beginning of this project, I expected that, like Medea, many of the women would have childhood experiences riddled with abuse and neglect. This was indeed a sad reality, as most of the women had suffered from an extensive assortment of abusive experiences during their formative years. Taking into account all forms of exposure to abuse and violence, 33 of the 40 women underwent some type of introduction to violence during their

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