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,
- How educators can help abuse
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:  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
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