Saturday, October 9, 2010

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Many people know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but are not aware that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness month as well. So this post is to help spread the word.One of the questions I often heard as a DV Victim Advocate when I did shelter work, and something I still hear now when abusive situations are discussed is-- "Why doesn't she leave?" The following is a VERY condensed summary of Susan G.S. McGee's article, "20 Reasons Why She Stays: A guide for those who want to help battered women." You can read the full article HERE, and I encourage you to do so.

1. This is the wrong question; it puts blame on the victim. So many people believe that if a woman really wanted to leave, she would. It's not that easy. We overlook the reasons women can't leave-- how she is trapped by the batterer with no money, no way to get safe housing, insurance, transportation, etc.

2. Incorrect assumptions of why she stays. Many DON'T stay. That's why battered women shelters are often at full capacity. It's important to realize that leaving is often a process, one the victim may go through many times. The more support she gets each time she tries to leave, the more it is likely that she will finally have the courage to leave for good.

Also, its important to note that the most dangerous time for a woman is when she is about to leave, is in the process of leaving or has just left. Up to 3/4 of domestic assaults reported to law enforcement agencies were inflicted after separation of the couples. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1983.)

3. Some battered women are held prisoners in their own homes, victims of psychological terrorism and brainwashing techniques used by their assailant to keep them in the violent relationship.

4. Some stay because they believe that counseling or therapy will help their batterers stop being violent. If the batterer is willing to go to counseling or anger management classes, why leave? Victims believe that these programs will help the batterer change and therefore, there is no need to leave, because he's going to get better.

5. Some stay because they hope that he will change and become non-violent. Everyone want to believe the best of their partners, those people they love. Most batterers are very charming and the relationship goes through a "honeymoon" phase after violence. Victims want the violence to end, but not the relationship.

6. Some women are forced to stay because they can't afford justice. The help of an attorney for a protection order or divorce requires money, and one of the ways batterers control their victims is by controlling their access to money.

7. Battered women stay for their children. Many battered women fear their abuser will get custody of the children if she leaves, and often, they do. Battered women are concerned about taking their children away from their homes, their school, their friends, their family-- which is often what must happen if they leave.

8. Some battered women stay because there is no place else to go. Not every town has a shelter, especially in rural areas. Many times, shelters are full. It is difficult for battered women to find safe and affordable housing.

9. Some women stay because they are not given accurate information about battering. Women are often told, and believe, that drugs or alcohol are the reasons behind battering, it's not their partner's fault. They are told that they are co-dependent that they need to change their behavior for the relationship to improve.

10. Some battered women stay because they believe what most people in our society believe about battered women, such as:
  • battered women imagine, exaggerate, deliberately fabricate or initiate violence
  • they somehow provoke or are to blame for the violence
  • all battered women come from poor, uneducated, or minority backgrounds
  • their partner just has a problem controlling anger, or that stress, alcohol or unemployment problems have caused the battering
11. Some stay for varying lengths of time because their assailants deliberately and systematically isolate them from support. Batterers are experts at driving away family and friends. They may keep their partner isolated by keeping her car keys or taking the phone away.

12. Some battered women stay because they believe in love and they still love their partners. Love is glorified in our society. Women are especially taught that love is the most important thing in life and without it, one has nothing. And batterers will often use the excuse, "I did it because I love you so much" as their reason for jealousy and abusive rages.

13. Some women stay because they believe what their assailant tells them, such as:
  • "You're crazy and stupid. No one will believe you."
  • You're the one who's sick. You need help. You're hysterical."
  • I know the judge, he won't put me in jail."
  • It's not serious. You're not really battered."
  • If you leave, I'll get custody because you abandoned me and the kids."
  • If you leave, I'll find you and kill you. I'll kill your family, your kids and your pets. You'll never escape me."
14. Some women stay because they are addicted and their addiction prevents them from taking action on their own behalf. It is hard to be in an abusive situation and get clean, especially when the addiction helps numb the pain. I had a case where the woman was addicted to crank; her partner was her supplier kept her high so that he could control her, which included pimping her out.

15. Some women are trapped in battering relationships because of sexism (unequal treatment of women). Women do not have economic resources equal to men, minimum wage doesn't pay enough afford health insurance or child care on top of food and safe shelter. Many can't find jobs or keep jobs because of harassment at their work place by the batterer.

16. Some battered women stay because institutions are helpless or unwilling to offer protection or assistance. Assailants are not routinely arrested or the victim is arrested for acting in self-defense. Protection orders are often not enforced. Courts do not make sure women are notified of their court dates, if she misses court, they blame her for not following through with charges. The list goes on and on.

17. They stay because of what women have been taught about both women's and men's roles (gender socialization). Girls are taught to be passive, nice, accommodating to others' needs, nurturing, and self-sacrificing. Most women have not learned to be independent, autonomous and to speak out.

Men are taught entitlement-- they are trained to believe they are entitled to the attention and services of women. Much more in the full article about this subject.

18. Some women stay because in addition to being a women and being battered, they are from another disenfranchised population. Women of color face additional problems with racism. Native American women may live on reservations where there is lack of resources. Rural women may have to travel for hours to find the nearest shelter. Lesbians and gay men may be threatened to be outed by their abuser. Often shelters have policies which do not allow transgender victims to stay there.

19. Some stay because of what the media says about battered women and domestic violence. Language like "love triangle" "domestic squabble" and "crime of passion" trivialize domestic abuse and the does not address the fact that it is about vengeance, power and control, not a "messy relationship."

2o. Some battered women stay because they believe if they try to leave, they or their children will die. And it is true, they might. Which is why they need the support of family, friends, their employer, the community and other professionals so much.

If you've read this far, I thank you. I hope by sharing this information I have helped increase understanding of the devastation, fear and helplessness that surrounds those who are victims of domestic violence.

Don't ask, "Why doesn't she leave?"-- instead ask-- "Why is does our society allow domestic violence to continue?"


Deronda said...

Thank you. It's a very important message.

M said...

Thank You for spreading the word about this. Thank you for the work you did/do. Thank you.

c said...

Thank you for sharing this extremely important message.

Valldawn said...

Thanks for spreading the word about Domestic Abuse! Most people as you said think that the abused are uneducated, but that is not so, my sister was abused & no one knew for several years, then it took us another 3 years to get her to the point of leaving, that was over 18 years ago & she is in a great relationship now, but she felt that she couldn't tell anyone back then because she was ashamed that she had let it get to that point, but sometimes the abuser is so subtle & the behavior so insidious, that by the time they realize they are in this relationship it is to late to escape quickly