Battering happens to all classes of women at every level of society.
■ BY TOBY MYERS AND BURNET OLIVEROS -
An interview with Lenore Walker by
Toby Myers and Burnet Oliveros.
Lenore Walker is associate professor
of psychology at Colorado Women's
College, director of the Domestic Violence Institute in Denver, author of
The Battered Woman, and mother of a
son and a daughter.
Toby Myers is associate professor
of child development and family living
at Texas Woman's University Houston
Center. Her interest in family violence
stems from personal experience. She is
one of the founders of the Houston .
Area Women's Center Shelter and of the
Texas Council on Family Violence. She
is the mother of a daughter and two sons.
Burnet Oliveros was a battered wife
from the age of 19 until she was 29. She
has been free for seven years. She is a
mathematician and a geophysicist, p
mother of three daughters, and a member
of the board of directors of the Houston
Area Women's Center. She has been
working with their Shelter for Battered
Women since its founding two years
Lenore Walker, author of The Battered Woman.
Burnet Oliveros: You've been doing research
on battered women; I'd like to hear about
Lenore Walker: We've collected information
on 435 women over the last year and a half.
Most of the women are from the Denver
area. They are self-identified as battered
women, but they have to meet certain criteria,
(such as) they have to have been abused at
least twice. When we're finished, we're going
to be able to talk about characteristics-sociological, demographic and psychological characteristics of the women.
Toby Myers: How did these women come to
Walker: Many of the women are self-referred
(which means they did the calling in); many
are referred from other sources. In addition
to newspapers, television shows and mental
health centers, we put up notices in the bathrooms of companies and in the airport.
Oliveros: Were these women still in a battering situation?
Walker: No, as a matter of fact, only about a
quarter of our women were still in at the time
of the interview.
Oliveros: What kinds of things are you learning?
Walker: I can only tell you our preliminary
findings-that battering occurs across all socioeconomic levels, all educational levels. We had
a high percentage of professional women in
Oliveros: Is there a particular type of person
who is likely to be a battered woman? Intellectually, I reject the idea, and yet when I meet
other women who have been battered, I feel an
immediate closeness. I don't know if it's the
same kind of thing fellow survivors of a
hurricane feel or what it is.
Walker: That's a question that's really hard to
answer. I have to answer that question through
my clinical impressions and not through the
research data. Clinically, battered women
change so quickly once they begin to regain a
support system-once they begin to move back
into the world and become free of the batterer-
that it doesn't make clinical sense to say they
have some kind of preexisting condition that
made them more likely to get into a battering
relationship. I'm not willing to say that totally,
because there may be a vulnerability, a kind
of conditioning that occurs in childhood for
some women so that when they meet up with
a batterer, probably accidently, they, then, are
more vulnerable to the maintenance of the
One thing battered women have that
nobody's given them sufficient credit for, is
the skill to stay alive. The more interviews I do,
the more I wonder, how come they haven't
died. I think that the woman recognized the
fact that, yes, she's still getting beaten, and,
yes, she can't control that, but she's not getting
killed. Every battered woman always says:
"Thank God, it's over. It could have been
worse." No matter how bad it is, she always
THE BOOKSTORE r
1^28 Bissonnet • Houston 77005 •
Fine feminist books and magazines including
Heresies, Chrysalis, Woman Spirit and Women Artists News