Summarized by Kent Larsen
Battered Mormon Women Are Examples In Academic Look At Welfare Reform
(Toward real welfare reform: The voices of battered women)
Affilia pg224 1Jun00 P6
By Ruth A Brandwein, Diana M Filiano
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- An article in the social science journal Affilia
mentions the tragic cases of two anonymous Mormon women in an examination of
the effects of the US welfare law on battered women. The two women were part
of focus groups that the authors organized to probe the issue.
One of the women, called only Rose in the article, came from a polygamous
Mormon household. The mother of six, she told the authors that at first her
husband had wanted her and his other two wives to become more independent.
But then, "as soon as we became independent, he realized he was losing
control." She claimed that his abuse led to a nervous breakdown, but that
the nervous breakdown was never diagnosed or treated because, ""it's
forbidden by my religion." The mental difficulty left her forgetful, prone
to crying uncontrollably and, she says, her "mind is not the same."
Coming from the abusive relationship, Rose says that the welfare system
forced her from caring for her children like she wanted to, "Man and society
need to realize [that] mothers have special roles and special gifts .... It
scares me that women shouldn't have the choice to stay home and take care of
children.... Kids have so many problems after an abusive relationship-then
their mom is forced out of the house into work. What about the emotional
needs of kids? Sometimes they just need mom to hold them."
Rose also says that the welfare system pushed her into employment before the
family was ready, "[Coming from an abusive relationship,] The last thing you
are ready to do is go to school or work .... You feel like you need to
nurture yourself and your kids. The kids have so many problems [that] you
shouldn't need to leave them . . . .You can't be pushed immediately into
everything . . . .You have so much fear when you leave [the relationship];
you have more when you are given time limits and more pressure."
The other Mormon in the focus group, who seems to be a member of the LDS
Church, is called Joan in the article. A high school drop-out who married at
16, she had 3 children by the time she was 20. But in spite of not having
even a High School Diploma, Joan became the main breadwinner in the family,
"because her husband didn't want her to be dependent."
But her husband didn't provide even the support she needed to work. He often
failed to show up to baby sit his children when he was supposed to, forcing
Joan to miss work, and leading to her getting fired repeatedly from a
variety of jobs. "I wouldn't leave the children with him when he was drunk,
so I went through many jobs, I got fired often. I was very embarrassed. . .
. It ate away at my self-esteem."
But unlike many of the women in the study, Joan credits the welfare system
with saving her life, "If welfare hadn't been there, I would have stayed in
the relationship and probably wouldn't be alive." She says that the workers
in the welfare system were supportive and helpful.
The article takes these experiences and those of 22 other battered women and
suggests that the current welfare reform movement in the US hasn't provided
enough support for women in their situations. The system forces them into
the workforce when they have young children at home before they can adjust
from an abusive situation, and doesn't provide the job training and
education that they need, among other things, to successfully enter the
workforce. The article makes several suggestions for changes in the welfare
system to help support these women.