Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

More trapped in abusive marriages

My colleague’s silver- lining scenario sounds like a Hallmark movie. Let’s call it “Recession Romance.”

Our chick flick in a nutshell: Things go from bad to worse for an unhappily married couple when they lose their jobs, lose their house and have to move into a lousy apartment in a bad neighborhood.

All’s well that ends well, as the recession plays cupid, forcing the couple to stay together in their dangerous, dilapidated hovel until they fall back in love.

Lights up, folks. As a child of divorce who is still thrilled after 20 years to find herself in a stable and thriving relationship, I’m all for taking marriage seriously.

Yet I’m pretty sure that rampant job losses, rising medical costs and a housing crisis don’t make a bad marriage better. And I’m more than a little worried about what’s happening in those disharmonious homes.

A small percentage of marriages involve abuse, and those women tend to seek divorce anyway? Hardly.

I recall from my Marriage and Family Therapy training how difficult it is for spousal-abuse victims to jump ship, even in the best of times. And in times like these? The National Domestic Abuse Hotline logged a 21 percent rise in calls for September.

“Our people make notes of what’s said during the calls,” spokeswoman Retha Fielding told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They tell us more women are talking about money problems in relation to the violence.”

Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy for the Family Violence Prevention Fund, confirmed this grim correlation:

“Many women make the decision that being in an abusive relationship is better than homelessness,” she explained. “In times like these, there are many more women having to make that agonizing choice.”

I’m sure Shaunti would agree abused women shouldn’t remain in untenable situations. Yet it’s important to remind ourselves just how bad things can get.

Every day in the U.S., Stewart said, three women are killed by a current or former “intimate partner.” That’s why this year’s rise in domestic violence makes it hard for me to see anything positive in forced domesticity.

Women who can’t afford to flee to safety? They’re the stars of a pretty grim picture, with no happy ending in sight.

Andrea Sarvady (ASarvad@gmail.com), a married mother of three, is a writer and educator specializing in counseling.

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