Domestic Violence and Adult Learners

- Possible Adverse Consequences

Education is Power and the Gateway to Independence

Marsha Wise, Director of Community Services, the Women's Center of Rhode Island, from a discussion held on November 19, 1998

  • Abusive partner/caregiver forbids the victim from enrolling in an educational program and uses physical or emotional abuse to enforce their edict.

  • Abusive partner may sabotage child care arrangements by failing to help prepare the children for day care, by not dropping off or picking up the children, or refusing to pay for child care, etc.

  • The abusive partner may provoke a fight with the victim before class, while the victim is preparing for a test, or during study time.

  • Victims who have been in long-term, abusive relationships may suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and may have difficulty with concentration, attention to detail, or suffer short-term memory lapses.

  • The abusive partner may discourage the victim from talking about her/his schooling, or even belittle the victim's academic achievements.

  • The abusive partner may become jealous and resentful of the victim's peers at school and discourage contact with others outside of the classroom.

  • Refusing to help the victim with transportation to and from school as a form of sabotage.

  • The abusive partner may stalk the victim on the way to school or at the end of the school day.

  • The abusive partner may place unreasonable demands on the victim in terms of household chores, child care, etc. with little regard for the victim's new status as a student.

  • The abusive partner may undermine the victim's self-esteem in a variety of ways (i.e. "Since you started school, you're not a good mother, partner, etc.").

  • - How educators can help abuse victims

  • Let your students know that you care about their lives and well being outside of the classroom. (For example, you might encourage students to write 'feeling words' to describe their lives at home in their personal journals. Arrange a private meeting with any student who decribes a harsh or problematic home life in their journals.)

  • Realize that you may be the victim's only supporter or "cheerleader" for her/his educational pursuits.

  • Initiate a conversation with your students about the challenges of managing their school work along with their other responsibilities. Talk about the negative feedback some students have received from loved ones about their educational pursuits (i.e. "I guess you think you're better than me now that you are in school.").

  • If you have assigned a group project or have encouraged students to participate in study groups, let your students know that they can speak with you privately about these arrangements if necessary.

  • Try to accommodate abuse victims who need to arrive early for class or to stay after class to have quiet time for study.

  • If someone discloses abuse

    Acknowledge the students' courage in disclosing abuse.

    Express concern for their safety.

    State that the abuse usually only gets worse over time.

    Let them know there are community resources available to help.

    (Women's Center 24-hour confidential Helpline: [401] 861-2760)

    Find out if it will be safe for the victim to have hotline cards or other materials on domestic violence in their possession.

    Realize that the victim must decide when the time is right to seek help.

    Marsha Wise worked at the Women's Center of Rhode Island

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