November 9, 2014

Why She Stayed: In the Midst of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is officially over for this year, however I will strive to continually bring this issue to the forefront, because until it is a thing of the past, it needs to be a constant conversation. 

After reports of NFL players involved in domestic violence incidents, attention turned to the women in these abusive relationships and questions were then posed, “why do they stay”?  Social media played a big role during these times with Facebook postings as well as Twitter dialogue #whyIstayed.  #WhyIStayed was a great platform for survivors to share about the decisions they made, knowing that they were not alone.  These decisions may be judged as nonsensical to some, but for those who were affected by abuse and involved in the conversation they felt differently.     

So, why are we asking women why they stay instead of asking men why they abuse?  The “why” question comes up when speaking about different types of relationships, whether the male is the abuser or the female.  The best way to have this discussion is to frame it within the parameters of the dynamics of domestic violence and realize it is all about power and control.

One reason is because of finances.  If the abuser is the sole breadwinner, then where would the finances come from to get out of the relationship and make a fresh start?  Where are the skills going to come from if the victim was required to stay at home and not go to school or work?  What if they were never able to look at or balance the checkbook or check the accounts, how would the victim know about the daily routine of running a household and maintaining stability?   

Another reason women stay could be because the welfare of the children comes into play when deciding whether to leave or not.  How would the mother provide for them?  Where are the diapers and food going to come from?  Daycare may become an issue or transportation to and from school or appointments.  Women may decide that a stable financial home life is worth the risk even if the home is volatile, but provides for the children.  However, on the other hand, is the abuser using the children to keep the woman under their thumb?  Do they talk bad about the mother to the children and try to turn them against her?  Do they punish the children harshly or blame the mother for the punishment?  Do they abuse the mother and the children?
Also, the abuser may threaten the victim and intimidate them so much so that it creates such fear in them that they can’t move forward in any way to help themselves.  Some abusers have threatened to kill the victim and then themselves.  Some have said, “if you leave I will kill you”.  Some have used threats to harm children, pets and family members if the victim tried to leave.  These threats can be a very strong deterrent.    

Interestingly, another constant conversation I hear is about “if we love him enough it will stop”.  The hope that our inward and outward actions will somehow deter the abuser’s actions is something to be considered.  This puts the responsibility on the victim to cease the abuse instead of the responsibility being on the abuser.  Again, the victim is taking the focus off of the one who is guilty of the abuse and owning it herself.  I always say, that we have to own our own stuff.  If we don’t put the mirror up to our own face and determine what role we play in life, then we are kidding ourselves into thinking it’s everyone else but us.  This is not to say that the victim is to blame in any of this, she is just hoping beyond hope that she can fix it.  In the end, it is up to the abuser to fix it.     

All of this needs to be taken into consideration, but it can certainly be much too overwhelming.

This discussion is just the tip of the iceberg, so look for more conversation about why she stayed, or why she left.   Why do you think she stayed?

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