Jill and I have led groups in diverse neighbourhoods and with women from diverse social and cultural backgrounds for many years. There are a lot of stereotypes when it comes to abuse. People assume that abuse happens to certain types of women and not too other women. Nothing can be further from the truth. Abuse can happen to any woman, regardless of her social status, race or religion. The When Love Hurts material works really well with all women who have experienced abuse no matter what their cultural, religious or educational background.
I once led a group in a middle class neighbourhood at the same time as leading a group in the downtown eastside (ranked the “poorest” neighbourhood in Canada). I was struck week after week that the flipchart exercises we were working on looked the same for both groups. If I had not remembered the individual stories that sparked the input written on the flip-chart paper, I would not have been able to tell one group’s work from the other.
Another time, with a different WLH’s group, we were discussing the Power and Control Wheel. We began to talk about spiritual abuse and it quickly became clear that we had women in the group from most the major world religions. There was a Sikh woman, a Muslim woman, a Jewish woman, a Hindu woman and a couple Christian women as well as a few women who didn’t describe themselves as belonging to a faith group. All the women of faith had examples of spiritual abuse from their partner and sadly, most of them had examples of poor responses from religious leaders when they disclosed the abuse. It was an amazing moment of realizing how the experience of abuse is a powerful point of connection that reaches beyond what we often think of as significant barriers.