WHY WOMEN STAY IN VIOLENT RELATIONSHIPS
So many times I was asked, “Why would you stay in a violent relationship?” It seems like such a simple solution, you just leave. However this question is often answered by the victim being blamed for the abuse occurring to begin with. Victims of abuse and battering often hear statements like: “you must like it or you would leave.” or “you’re just one of many women who love too much.” or “you must need to be treated badly.” or “you must really have low self-esteem.” But the truth is that no one wants to be or enjoys being abused or battered. Their emotional state or self-image does not cause them to want to be in a violent relationship.
I have actually personally lost numerous relationships with family members, friends and colleagues due to the fact that they had no ability to comprehend what was really happening.
A woman’s reasons for staying in a violent relationship are more far more complex than most people can understand. In some ways it’s like asking an addict why they can’t kick their habit. It’s a vicious cycle of love, trust, lies, abuse, attempt to believe again, and blame that becomes all of who you are. Making statements about the strength of the victims character does not explain why she stays. Outsiders need to remember it can be dangerous for a woman to leave her abuser. More times than not more problems can be caused for the woman if her abuser is in control of all of the economic and social status of their relationship. Leaving her abuser could mean she will have to live in fear for her life, her families safety, the loss of custody of her children or loss of financial support. She may even be afraid of harassment at work and with her family members. I know my abuser used my mother and my grandma behind my back for months because they couldn’t believe such a charming man could be mean or deserve their “troubled” daughter/grand-daughter leaving him. Especially when the women tend not to speak to anyone about the abuse they are suffering. I remember my Mum asking me over and over again, “Are you sure? How could you not say anything?”
There is not a list, or a certain type who will be abused or battered, it just like anything else in this world can happen to anyone and most of the time they are trapped before they even know what has happened. There is documentation on what generally happens once the violence begins. Abused and battered women will experience embarrassment, isolation and shame. She may not leave the violent relationship immediately because of the following reasons:
• She realistically fears that the violence will escalate and may become fatal if she tries to leave.
• She may not have the much-needed support of her family and friends if she leaves.
• She knows how difficult it will be to be a single parent with reduced financial support.
• She may still be experiencing good times, love and hope mixed in with the manipulation, intimidation and fear.
• She may not know where to get help or have access to a safe place and support.
Some women may believe that getting a divorce is not a viable alternative. Many women have been taught and believe that a single parent family is unacceptable and that a violent father is better than no father. Many women have been taught that they are responsible for making their marriage work. Many women believe that a failed marriage means that they have failed as a woman. Many women were taught that their identity and worth is dependent on her getting and keeping a man in her life. I am the first family on my husband’s side to file for divorce, before me no one had ever stood up for themselves. They even brag about how my ex father in law stalked my ex mother in law and she had to be moved five times before they finally eloped.
A lot of the time the abuser will begin to isolate by being jealous or possessive which may cause a woman to lose touch with her family and friends. She may have even isolated herself to hide the signs of being abused or battered from the outside world. Isolation may have contributed to her sense that there is nowhere for her turn. A woman may rationalize the violent behavior by blaming alcohol or drug abuse, problems at work, stress, unemployment or anything else that comes to mind. I wasn’t allowed to go to Target by myself let alone drive to my mothers in the Valley. I had to be supervised at all times, and every moment was accounted for.
A woman is rarely abused or battered all of the time. There may be periods of non-violence, which help create the illusion of hope that there is change, that things will be better. During the non-violent phase her abuser may fulfill her dreams of romantic love, be drawn into believing her abuser is basically a good man who has just had a bad day or even worse she did something so wrong she was the cause of the abuse to begin with. She may believe that she should hold on to her “good man”, reinforcing her decision to stay in the relationship. Something to remember is that until an abused woman is really ready to admit that there needs to be a change, and has the resources mapped out to do it the likely hood is that she will continue living in her cycle of abuse.
Until you as a woman prepare, get smart, make a plan, and realize there is help out there for people going through what you are going through it’s not going to get better. You will have to take the first step, the most terrifying one you will have to make, to move towards change. Believe that your life can be different and that you and your children deserve so much more.