Mystery Series Takes Place in Battered Womens’ Shelters

My guest blogger today is Christine Duncan, the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series.  Book two of the series, Safe House has just been released by TrebleHeart Books.  Visit Christine at her website or catch her at Rule of Three.

Safehouse2_cvrThe leaves are falling, Christmas lights are starting to appear, and Thanksgiving is only days away, but Kaye Berreano can’t begin to think about the holidays. In this second book of the cozy mystery series, Kaye, a Colorado battered women’s counselor, is just learning to juggle her two teenagers, her all consuming work, and her relationship with police investigator Pete Farrell, when she finds out that her son, RJ, is the main suspect in a murder investigation.

Why Don’t Battered Women Leave?

Worse yet, Why, Having Left do They Go Back?

By Christine Duncan

When people hear that I set my Kaye Berreano mystery series in a battered women’s shelter, they are curious.  The one thing people want to know is why battered women don’t leave. The answers to that question are more complex than one short blog post can cover but let me give it a try.

But the first thing I need to tell you is that I set the books in a shelter to help make the answer to that question obvious.

Battered women’s shelters are wonderful and I support any effort to have more around the country.  We have a great need for them.

But they are often noisy, and crowded.  Sometimes shelters are so crowded, that when a woman calls up with a need for refuge for her and her children that the shelter has no room to take them in.  They try to refer the women to other places, make sure they are safe.  But there is only so much room.

Sometimes women don’t leave because they have nowhere to go.  He has threatened not only them, but their family or their friends.  And the women believe the threats.  So they don’t go.

Sometimes women leave but go back to the guy.  People find that the most baffling but it isn’t when you think about it.  The answers are there.

Shelters have a time limit too.  Most shelters around the country are emergency type shelters.  The women who go there need to be out in anywhere from two weeks to forty five days on average.  There are longer-term shelters but they may have waiting lists.  They are definitely less prevalent.

So women come to the shelters, often with their children and with whatever stuff they could grab in the little time they had to grab it.  Maybe she decided to leave when he was at work.  Maybe she had the cops come out to protect them while she took their stuff.  Whichever it was, it wasn’t much time to remember their prescriptions, the kids’ birth certificates, her contact lenses and their clothes.  She probably forgot something—maybe just deodorant—maybe the kid’s homework.  She probably doesn’t have any pictures.  But she and the kids are safe.

And they get to the shelter and she realizes that it isn’t over.  The guy is going to try to intercept them in the parking lot at her work or at their son’s school.  Maybe the woman realizes she needs to think about changing the school.  Or get a new job. But she has this time limit and she needs a new apartment and furniture and dishes and more clothes.  How will she come up with the deposit and first and last for an apartment?  It begins to feel a little overwhelming.  Okay, a lot overwhelming.

And money is tight. Some women may get into longer-term shelters.  But other women won’t , and they will hear from their men on their cell phones.  “Come home, honey.  I won’t do it again.”

And their children are whining. “Why can’t we go home?  I miss my own room. I want my X-box, my sooper-soaker.  Why didn’t you bring it?  I miss Dad.  This place sucks.”

And the women see the time ticking away, and they still don’t have the safefront_copymoney for an apartment. They really haven’t figured out the school and work thing either.  He keeps showing up at the daycare, trying to get the baby.  So far, the daycare hasn’t let him.  So far.

So she tries to get him into counseling and goes home, hoping maybe this time it will be different.  But she decides to set some money aside, plan a little better in case it isn’t.  And she fields all the questions.  But it’s too tiring, too complicated to explain it all.

Safe Beginnings, the first book in Christine’s series is available at Treble Heart Books.

Thank you, Christine, for sharing your thoughts and insights with us.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a super explanation of the situation of the women in shelters. It made me want to cry as I read it. Thank you.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Bless you, Christine, for placing a spotlight on the miserable conditions women face who are married to abusive men. I hope your books help to solve the problem by making more resources available to them.

  3. What a timely topic. Thank you, Christine for helping the public be more aware. And thank you, Heidi, for featuring it on your blog.

  4. Thanks, Heidi, for letting me guest post today.

  5. Thank you both for talking about this incredibly difficult subject. Women who are in abusive relationships are so misunderstood. Those who are healthy and have never dealt with this kind of thing have a hard time understanding why a woman puts up with someone mis-treating her. But when your spirit is smashed as a child and you have no self-esteem, negative attention can be better than no attention at all. Thanks for shining a light on the plight of these women.

  6. I support battered women’s shelters. I agree there should be better solutions for victimized women, as well as abused men, but as we know, men are much more prone to use physical violence to communicate there unmet needs in a relationship. It is a choice they make and they need to be held accountable for there actions.

    That said I have to add to the stated reason why abused women go back to there abusive men and why they are attracted to them in the first place. There are also deep psychological issues with women who are attracted to these types of men. And yes, to many women in abusive situations the violence is attractive. Perhaps not against themselves, but attracted to the feeling of power associated with controlling the violence within the antisocial personalities they are attracted to. Especially disastrous when children are involved because both parents perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

    Borderline personality disorder manifests in adulthood from people caught in childhood abuse with no escape. It’s a sad and painful narcissistic disorder where a person finds joy in creating chaos. They are attracted to people they can control emotionally, often with disastrous results.

    The remedy for this situation is to restrain both parties from contact, address negative behaviors from both perspectives, encourage positive methods of confrontation, and help manage their decision making process. Therapy is necessary to ease their past history of abuse and to help them feel loved and cared. unfortunately narcissistic personalities are one of the hardest to treat because they usually adamant believing they are justified in any wrongdoing.

    I understand that it is taboo to criticize women with a painful history of abuse. Please do not misunderstand. Men who perpetrate physical abuse are much more dangerous. Nevertheless they both come from similar backgrounds of abuse and struggle with traumatic experiences. Both suffer and perhaps women more so. I’m suggesting the lines of victim and perpetrator are not usually as clear as the public would like to believe and the abuse had begun as they were both innocent children. Love and kindness are the tools needed to bring sanity to both and to protect their children.

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