Seeing or hearing your mother being abused by her significant other can be disheartening for a girl of any age. This is certainly the case for New Yorker Regina*, 37, and LA native Raveen Battee, 30, whose experiences growing up in a violent household made them vow to never end up like their mothers.
“The reality is any person that is in an intimate relationship can be at risk of domestic violence,” said Courtney Howard, MD, a psychiatry resident at Montefiore Medical Center. “But it is most frequently found in relationships where substance abuse, particularly alcohol and cocaine, are involved or in relationships where a person was abused as a child or witnessed domestic violence growing up.”
The latter explanation is what has caused women like Regina and Raveen to be independent and single — not for lack of dating so much as leaving men at the first signs of controlling, jealous, or angry behavior, heavy drinking, or any other abuse red flags.
“I’m like hawk eyes. If you even look at me funny I’m like ‘no’,” said Raveen who saw her mother physically abused as a teenager. She also turned down an otherwise ideal guy over his drinking. “Although, he’s the sweetest guy I ever met, and I don’t believe he would hit me I just couldn’t take that risk because he drank so much alcohol.” Her mother’s abuser was an alcoholic, and witnessing her abuse changed their relationship and the way she viewed her mom forever.
One evening while sitting in the living room watching television, Raveen heard her mom arguing in the bedroom with her boyfriend. The next thing she heard was a slap, and a loud noise from her mother.
“I will never forget the moment I realized it,” Raveen said. Up until that point she had revered her mother as a strong, independent woman who didn’t take anything from anybody. It had always been the two of them since she was younger, but the abuse caused a huge strain on their relationship, leaving Raveen confused.
“I loved my mother, but [the abuse] quickly got to a [point] where I didn’t understand her and why she would allow it to continue.”
Regina experienced her mother’s abuse at the hands of her father at the young age of six. Her father was an alcoholic with anger issues, and he would always be upset with her mother about what or how she cooked, along with other domestic tasks like cleaning up.
“I remember them fighting a lot,” Regina said. “I never saw it, but I would see her call the cops on him and things like that when I was younger.”
Seeing her dad throw a whole turkey on the floor like a “bowling ball” because it wasn’t seasoned correctly made it clear to Regina that she wanted to be an independent career woman. And she’s become exactly the woman she dreamed of being — independent, working in corporate America, and taking care of herself without relying on a man.
“These women come to understand their self worth and their value in a way that their mothers may not have been fortunate enough to fully understand and appreciate,” Howard explained about what distinguishes women who don’t follow in their mother’s footsteps of abuse from those who do. “This understanding of their value helps propel them to go on and become self-sufficient independent women.”
Still, this self-awareness doesn’t stop such women from attracting men with abusive qualities. Regina has a pattern of attracting men who are angry and jealous, including the father of her son.
During their short-lived romance his anger and jealousy slowly became evident. Two months into their relationship his true colors began to show, he was angry, arguing with his mother, and often playing the victim. Then his jealousy crept in and before she knew it she was newly pregnant and walking away from the relationship.
“When I was pregnant we were arguing and I said I was done because I realized he wasn’t going to change,” said Regina of the moment she decided to be a single parent.
Raveen, on the other hand, finds herself closed off to dating at times after experiencing her own emotionally abusive relationship. She remembers it beginning like a typical romance-turned-thriller. The guy did everything to make her feel special, went out of his way to see her, and made her feel like the only girl in the room until she felt secure in the relationship.
“Once we got into the relationship he turned into this whole other person that I didn’t get into the relationship with,” Raveen said, admitting her self- esteem was low at the time at that’s how the man got his in.
“Many abusers are charming in the beginning and know just what to say to satisfy the longings of women’s hearts,” Howard said. “Believing that they are entering into a relationship with a man that is loving and treats them well, the relationship progresses but the woman slowly but surely starts to recognize very vividly things that are reminiscent of the behaviors she witnessed from her mom’s abuser as a child.”
Both ladies remain hopeful despite their dating challenges and mishaps. They believe in love and that they will have healthy, meaningful relationships with men.
“I need understanding, love, lots of laughter, and spontaneity,” said Regina about her ideal man and relationship.
Raveen has similar needs, “easy on the eyes, intelligent, with a good sense of humor that doesn’t want to hit people.”
Regardless of the details, they’re both clear about one thing when it comes to love: it doesn’t hurt or make you feel bad.