During the years I was researching my book, Home Should Be Safe: Hope and Help for Domestic Violence Victims, one of the questions asked most frequently was, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
So many people were incredulous that women in an abusive relationship didn’t simple leave the relationship. Some thought these women actually liked to be mistreated. Others felt they had “made their bed and should be forced to lie in it.” Regardless of their opinions few people understood what held a woman in an abusive relationship.
My research provided several reasons why women stay, none of them simple or black and white. But, one of them was very simple. They were terrified of the consequences of leaving and there are multiple consequences. But, one sticks out more than all the others and it is this.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 75% of women who are killed by their abusers are killed when they try to leave or are in the process of leaving.
Think about for a minute. Regardless of how you came to be in an abusive relationship how quickly would you try to escape, especially if you had children, if your abuser had threatened to kill you if you left and you him to be violent to follow through on that threat. Who would you be willing to put in danger for you to escape? Or would you be so panicked and frozen by your fear that you could do nothing?
So, before you come to a quick opinion on what a woman in an abusive relationship should do think about what options are available to her and think about if you would be willing to help her get to safety.
Ever since I began writing about domestic violence some readers asked why I didn’t include male victims of domestic violence in my information. Frankly, the reason was that I didn’t find much information about that side of it except as it related to male children and I included that information in my book. There is now more information available about male victims of domestic violence such as husbands and boyfriends so I will be researching that topic and write about it here. So, if you have questions related to domestic violence in any way please post them here and I will research and answer your questions and provide referrals when available.
If you are a male who has been a victim of domestic violence and would be open to an interview please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will contact you. Also, please know that even though domestic violence shelters are for women and children, there is help available for male victims. Call the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-7233 for assistance.
Myth: Abusers behave as they do as a result of alcohol or drug abuse or possibly mental illness, all of which are not the fault of the abusers. We must understand them and treat the illness. Reality: Domestic violence is a learned behavior, proven by the fact that it exists where alcohol, drugs, and mental illness do not exist. That’s one reason why it repeats itself from one generation to another.
The reality is that drugs and alcohol serve to break down the self-control and the behavioral barriers we establish. If a person becomes abusive after taking alcohol or drugs then the behavior was there all the time but under control. And, as previously stated there are more than enough stories of abusers who did not take drugs or alcohol. Therefore, even though the two may co-exist it does not mean they are automatically joined. One thing shown to exist in most abusers is a belief that they can treat other people however they please in order to get what they want.
Mental illness has been used to discount abusive behavior as well. One victim said that her husband’s doctor told her he was manic depressant and could not help himself so she shouldn’t blame him. In an interview with a director of a domestic violence shelter, she told me, “Mina, being mentally ill and being abusive is like having a broken arm and a broken leg. They are both broken but you don’t treat them the same way.”
Domestic Violence is a violent crime committed by people whose belief system gives them permission to treat others however they please to get what they want. Until society treats it as a violent crime and makes the abuser accountable, abuse will continue.
Myth: Women stay and tolerate abuse because they like it.
Reality: No woman likes being hit, insulted, manipulated, and betrayed. There are many complex reasons they stay which I discuss in my book, Home Should Be Safe: Hope and Help for Domestic Violence, in Chapter 6, “Why Don’t They Just Leave?”
Many times over the years I have heard the question asked, “If the violence is so bad and she is in such danger, why doesn’t she just leave?” There are many reasons why a woman will not or can not leave her abuser. There are economic reasons, social reasons, personal reasons, family reasons and a variety of other reasons. When people use to ask me this question I responded a bit antagonistically. I would respond by asking them questions. “Are you going to help her leave? Are you going to help her find a place to live? Are you going to help her find a job? Are you going help her connect with Social Services or legal assistance?” I had many more questions for any who would listen. I felt that unless someone was willing to help a victim of domestic violence in some way they had no right to judge or criticize her.
But, in a training session with Choices Domestic Violence Shelter, I watched a video where a survivor of abuse answered that very question. Her response was much more telling and effective. She said, “Why should I have to leave? It’s my home too and he’s the one who broke the law.”
The use of physical abuse to injure, kill or coerce a person is never acceptable. If it happened in public by a stranger it would be called assault and battery but for centuries society considered abuse in the home a “family affair” and no one interfered with what happened behind closed doors. As a society we need to take a stand against family abuse. We need to ensure that abusers, regardless of gender or age, know that if they injure someone they will face legal consequences just as if they had injured a stranger in public. Abuse is a crime and we must treat it as such.
Myth: Domestic violence only happens in lower class families.
Reality: Domestic violence happens in every social class, economic bracket, nationality, ethnic background, culture, lifestyle and religion.
The myth of poverty and abuse is common. People see abuse existing in a family in poverty and make the assumption that the abuse is there because the people are uneducated and lacking in education, morals and values. They believe that education, social standing and financial increase are the solution to the problem of abuse.
The reality is that domestic violence or family abuse happens in wealthy families and poor families, in upper class families as well as middle class and lower class families, and it happens in every nationality, every ethnic group, every lifestyle, culture and religion known to man.
Domestic violence, just like any violence, is not about status in society but rather it is a mindset. The abusive person believes they have the right to treat other people however they please through manipulation, coercion, and physical control in order to achieve their goals.
Home should be safe. Home should be the safest place you can exist, a haven of rest from the world around us. When I come home from a day of work, shopping or any activity at all, I step into my home, take off my shoes, hang up my coat and breathe a sigh of relief. I am home; I am safe; and I can relax and do whatever I choose without fear of retribution. I hope that your home has the same atmosphere.
There are many people who do not have this safe haven. These people want to be any place but at home because home is where they are the most afraid. Home is where they are in danger of being torn down emotionally, deprived of any comfort and injured physically at any time in any room. They are not in danger because they live in a bad neighborhood. They are in danger because someone in the home abuses them. It’s called domestic violence or family violence. It is insult and injury not at the hands of a stranger but at the hands of an intimate.
It could be the husband or it could be the wife, the father or the mother, or it could an adult child who abuses an elderly parent. Regardless of who it is, the abuser believes they have the right to treat or mistreat others as they see fit for whatever reason they see fit. They have only one goal, to manipulate and exercise control over others.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 50% of adult women in the United States will experience abuse at the hands of an intimate. Domestic violence is known to cross all societal divides. Abuse is as old and mankind and happens regardless of social class, political party, religion, ancestry, geographic region, occupation or hobby.
For those who have experienced abuse, for those who know someone who has experienced abuse, for those who think they have all the answers and those who don’t have a clue, this blog will provide answers regarding abuse.
The information in this blog are pulled from the pages of my book, Home Should be Safe: Hope and Help for Domestic Violence Victims which you can purchase from my website.
I challenge you to read this blog, consider what you read, comment upon what you read, ask questions if you like. I promise you will not come away from this blog unchanged where the subject of abuse is concerned.