People who are not in abusive relationships often imagine that if their
spouse were abusive they would leave immediately. "I'd never put up with
it for a minute!" they say. They begin to think that women in abusive relationships
must like the abuse or they would have left long ago. Instead of wondering
what's wrong with the abusive man, they start to think something is wrong
with the abused woman.
In fact, for a battered woman the decision to leave is often an agonizing
one. The following are some of the reasons why women find it difficult
After reading this list, it should amaze you that some women do leave and
start new lives, not that women find it so hard to leave. There are obstacles
they must overcome before and after they leave the situation.
Fear For Herself and Others: Many women
fear that the abuse will get worse if they leave. They fear that their
partner will carry out threats he has made, such as hurting the children
or other family members, or ever his committing suicide. In fact, many
women are attacked or terrorized by their ex-husbands and boyfriends.
Hope: Many women still love their partner
and hope that he will change. Their partner may promise to change and the
relationship may in fact improve for a time. Therefore they believe they
have a good reason for hope.
The Children: the majority of batterers
do not abuse their children. Women often feel they would be hurting the
children by depriving them of their father's presence and the benefits
of his income. Women know that bringing up children alone is difficult,
whether there is plenty of money or not.
Lack of Energy: Abused women are drained
by constant stress. They may also be periodically incapacitated by injuries
or live with chronic pain of injuries. As a result they often feel immobilized,
barely able to cope with the day to day demands of children, work, and
household management much less plan ahead and take bold steps.
Low Self-Esteem: Abused women have low
self-esteem and very little self-confidence. They don't think they are
important enough for their safety to matter. they don't believe any man
better than their partner could love them.
Financial Reasons: Some women feel
they won't be able to support themselves or their family. They may not
have skills or the confidence needed to seek and obtain employment. They
may have to leave with nothing more than their clothes if the partner controls
all the finances. For many women there is a stigma associated with social
assistance and they rightly feel the difficulty of supporting their children
on welfare payments.
Advice From Others: Family and friends
often pressure women to stay and make the marriage work. Counselors may
recommend better communication skills, while doctor may prescribe tranquilizers
for the stress. Such friends and helping professionals have failed to perceive
the abuse as a problem that the woman cannot solve. Others may not even
acknowledge that abuse is taking place.
Sanctity of Marriage: Women may stay
in the marriage as a result of strongly held religious and/or cultural
beliefs. They believe it is the woman's responsibility to make the marriage
successful. They see themselves as failures if they leave the marriage.
Fear of the Unknown: Battered women
are afraid of what is "out there". They devil they know is better than
the devil they don't know.
Emotional Dependency: The victim
may feel she can't exist without her partner. He may be the only adult
person with whom she has any emotional relationship at all, so breaking
up would mean total isolation.
Minimization and Denial: Minimization
and denial of the violence are survival tactics. Women have to put the
abuse out of their minds in order to care for the children, go to work,
manage the household, etc. Minimization of the violence helps the woman
continue to function, but it also makes it easier for her to stay because
she is deceiving herself about the seriousness of her situation.
Good Times: Except in a few cases, there
are usually good aspects to the relationship. Women stay for the positive
qualities their partner has and for the "honeymoon" periods when they are
No Place to Go: They may not have friends
or family to turn to, or they may fear that by turning to them they may
be putting them into danger. They may be unaware of women's shelters or
there may be no shelters in their area. They know that decent, low-cost
housing is very hard to find.
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