|The most common question asked about domestic violence victims is
"Why does she stay?"
The question shows the misunderstanding of the dynamics of domestic violence. It also reveals a tendency to blame the victim. A more appropriate question would be:
"Why does he abuse her?" or "Why can't he be stopped from hurting his family?"
The question--"Why does she stay," --puts the responsibility back on the victim, and is often followed with the statement, "She must like it."
Women stay in abusive relationships for many reasons. They do not stay because they "want to be abused."
A battered woman may believe:
She may tell herself:
- His violence is temporary.
- With loyalty and love, she can make him change.
- His promises that it will "never happen again".
- It's her responsibility to keep the family together.
- There will be more good times.
She may deny or minimize the violence. She may believe her abuser when he tells her that his abuse is "her fault."
- He's had a hard life.
- He needs me.
- All men are violent; it is to be expected.
Many women do not want the relationship to end; they want the violence to end.
Fear is a major factor.
Many women believe their abusers' threats. She believes he will kill her if she leaves him.
The percent of female murder victims killed by their intimate partners has
remained at about 30 percent since 1976.
(Bureau of Justice Special Report:
Intimate Partner Violence, May 2000)
She may fear:
At times, women may leave the relationship. She may return when he begs her to come back, or when she can not find the resources to live on her own. She may return because she loves him.
- More severe abuse.
- Retaliation if he finds her.
- Destruction of her belongings or home.
- Harm to her job or reputation.
- Charging her with a crime.
- Harming children, pets, family or friends.
- His committing suicide
- Court or police involvement.
The average battered woman leaves 7 to 8 times before permanently leaving a relationship.
There are many other reasons women stay in relationships. Some include:
EconomicsNo one deserves to be abused.
Pressure from community of faith/family.
- Few job skills.
- Limited education or work experience.
- Limited cash.
- No access to bank account.
- Fear of poverty.
- Family expectation to stay in marriage "at any cost".
- Family denial of the violence.
- Family blame her for the violence.
- Religion may disapprove of divorce.
- Religious leader may tell her to "stay and pray".
Concern for Children
- Guilt about failure of the relationship.
- Guilt about choosing an abuser.
- Feelings of personal incompetence.
- Concern about independence.
- Abuser may charge her with 'kidnapping' or sue for custody.
- Abuser may abduct or abuse the children.
- Questions whether she can care for and support children on her own.
- Fears losing custody of her children.
- Believes children need a father.
Lack of community support
- Unaware of services available to battered women.
- Lack of adequate child care.
- Few jobs.
- Negative experiences with service providers.
- Lack of affordable housing.
- Isolated from community services.
- No support from family and friends.
Many women in abusive relationships ask these questions:
Will it get better?
Studies show that over time, without intervention, abuse in the home gets more frequent and more violent.
Is it my fault?
No. Abuse is always wrong. In fact, abuse in the home is a crime. In Alabama, domestic violence has been made a separate crime under the criminal code. The victim is never to blame. There is no excuse for domestic violence.
Can I fix it?
No. Only the abuser can stop his violent behavior. Qualified batterer intervention programs may provide knowledge and skills to stop his violent behavior, but only the abuser can decide whether he will use them or not.
Will Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous keep him from hitting me?
No. While your partner may need treatment for alcohol or drug abuse, the abusive behavior can continue even if he becomes sober or stops abusing drugs. It is recommended that an abuser get treated for his violence in a specialized intervention program, as well as for drug and alcohol abuse through substance abuse programs.
What can I do?
Take care of yourself by asking for help. Call Alabama's domestic violence crisis line at 1-800-650-6522 for information on how to be safe. You will be put in touch with the domestic violence shelter program nearest you. We care. We will listen. Remember: