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The battered woman: So why doesn’t she leave?

Actress Megan Fox helped the Avon Foundation launch its new global Facebook campaign, #SeeTheSigns of Domestic Violence, on November 22, 2013, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Avon

One of the myths surrounding domestic violence is, “the woman must enjoy it / have no problem with it, or else she would leave.” If a woman is in an abusive relationship why does she stay?

50% of women in the United States will, at one time, be in an abusive relationship. 25% of those women will marry or move in with the abuser. There is no discrimination: An abused woman can be any race, nationality, religion, economic status, sexual orientation or gender identification, can live in any neighborhood, can work in any job. “Abuse” can be verbal, physical, mental, or religious (using religion as an excuse to abuse).

Women in abusive situations typically come from a home where abuse is prominent. She has learned abuse is “normal.” She has learned abuse is a part of life, and there have been few role models to show her different.

Women who are abused report low self esteem issues. If a person feels they are of little or no worth, then they will gravitate towards partners who take advantage of this situation. They feel they deserve to be belittled, struck, or subservient.

Many times, the abuser controls everything: the money, the car, the social circles, the victim’s time and position. They may not allow the victim to work, or stalk the victim to see where they go and who they talk to.

A woman escaping a violent partner is more likely to be killed after they escape. They have escaped the perpetrator’s power, and that is what domestic violence is ultimately about: Power and control. The perpetrator may feel they have nothing to lose, and feel “if I cannot have you, no one will.” They will also threaten the victim’s life should they leave.

The abuser threatens the safety of the victim’s family, including the children. At this point, the victim will see the abuser as “all powerful” or / and the abuser can and will harm family members.

Legally, there is only so much law enforcement can do to an abuser. This is not a crime that results in a long prison sentence. The abuser can and will bond out. There are not enough officers to “keep an eye” on all abusers. A restraining order is a piece of paper that may scare the perpetrator, but it may also anger them to the point of further violence.

In his book, “The Gift of Fear,” safety expert Gavin DeBecker suggests women become “addicted” in the relationship; meaning, addicted to the good times so the bad times are worth it. The cycle of violence is: honeymoon phase (where the relationship has no problems and all is perfect), walking on eggshells (fear of the abuser erupting) and explosion (abuse). Seeking that honeymoon phase, DeBecker explains, the victim will tolerate the other phases. Think of a heroine addict who will go through withdrawal, cramps, and illness just to obtain that one drop of bliss.

A woman’s place in society is still limited. Women had to fight for the right to vote, the right for equal pay, the right to work the same jobs as men; and, because of religious or certain beliefs, still have limits in life. Consider, the average age for a female to enter prostitution is thirteen. This means the majority of johns (customers) are male adults having sex with young girls with little repercussion. Studies of johns and prostitutes reveal many men liked prostitutes because they “could do what they wanted” to the woman, including abuse.

These are just a few of the reasons why women do not leave.

Note: the reason “woman” is used is because women are more likely to be abused than males. Although abuse of males does occur, the research is difficult due to the low numbers reported.

The photo accompanying this article was Instagrammed by an aspiring model who suffered abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. She shared it in an effort to make others aware of domestic violence. SEE HERE.

Judith A. Yates has been a domestic violence prevention & education expert for over 20 years. She lectures on domestic violence and also teaches classes on self esteem & positive thinking. See more HERE.

If you or someone you love is being abused, please CLICK HERE