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March 20, 2009

The Cycle of Abuse

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Marta B. Pelaez, who runs an agency for women and children who have been victimized by domestic abuse. Moyers asked Pelaez why so many women go back repeatedly to partners that have injured them physically and emotionally.

Pelaez said:

“At the beginning, they don't see very well the level of trauma that they have sustained, and that has been progressive, over a lifetime, in many instances... We are, as human beings, beings of custom. We are accustomed to something. We have made some adjustments to adjust to a certain situation, as awful and as ugly as that may be. So it is difficult for them... If you stay in an abusive situation one year, the likelihood of your staying a second year grows exponentially... Why? Because the progressive nature of domestic violence is one that begins in a very subtle way... It's about isolating the person from the relatives, from friends, so that he can exercise more and more abuse. And then, eventually, it becomes the physical thing. It becomes the dramatic thing that we see on the newspapers. But in order to get to that point, the abuse has been going on for a long time."

What do you think?

  • Does Pelaez’s explanation correspond with your own experiences and/or observations of domestic abuse? How?

  • Pelaez describes a progression of more and more dehumanization over time. Is this dynamic applicable to situations other than domestic abuse, such as business or politics? Explain.

    For more information, please visit our resources page on domestic violence.


  • August 16, 2007

    Recapturing Our "Childness"

    This week on THE JOURNAL, historian Martin E. Marty discusses that sometimes mysterious quality that children possess, that we often often strive to cultivate in ourselves, even in our later years:

    "I think that notion that you spend your life finding ways to change and become like a little child means you will be more open to mystery, more responsive to others, more receptive."

    What do you think?

    • Do children possess certain qualities worth emulating as adults?
    • What do you think is lost in the transition away from childhood, and have you ever tried to recapture it?

      Photo: Robin Holland


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