It is sometimes difficult for those outside of the abusive relationship to understand why women stay in these situations. The constant question is “Why doesn’t she just leave?” The answer is much more complicated that it appears.
Domestic violence takes many forms and includes many factors, some of which encourage conditions that keep a woman psychologically insecure, economically dependent and socially isolated. Some of the factors which influence a woman to remain with the batterer are described below (www.edvp.org).
Lack of Financial Resources – The woman who is being victimized may not have access to money or other financial resources. The batterer may have total control over all the family’s financial instruments (checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, credit cards, etc.) The victim may have been prevented from working, been fired from her job because of too many absences as a result of domestic stress or been forced to leave her job because of threats and stalking. If she has a source of income it may be insufficient to care for her and her children, cover their basic needs or give her the ability to secure lodgings, transportation, food, etc.
Threats of Murder – Most domestic violence victims have experienced actual assaults, physical, threats and intimidation at the hands of the abuser. The risk of death by homicide significantly increases when a woman leaves an abusive relationship. An abuser may also threaten suicide or to murder her children. The situation is especially dangerous because the batterer is not concerned with the consequences of his actions.
Social Stigma – Many women in domestic violence situations feel a sense of shame and failure for being in such a negative relationship. They believe that the violence is their fault and society will blame them for it. They are frightened of being further isolated from friends, families and social connections.
Immigration Issues – An abuser may deliberately choose not to file the required documents to legalize his partner’s immigration status; he may withdraw documents which have already been filed, destroy important records or documents and/or threaten to report her to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); If English is not her primary language he may isolate her from relatives and friends who speak her language and sabotage her attempts to learn English. In this situation she is totally dependent on him to communicate with the outside world.
Self Blame – Many victims believe that the abuse is their fault. They feel an obligation to try and change their behavior so as not to stress their partner in the mistaken notion that this will cease the violence.
Desire to Keep the Family Together – Victims often believe that it is in the best interest of their children to maintain a united family, especially if the children are not suffering any physical abuse. They do not understand the emotional pressures being visited upon children as a result of the violence which many of them witness or know about. Women also fear losing custody of their children or not being able to care for or protect them.
Lack of Information – The victim may not know about domestic violence shelters, crisis hotline numbers or other supportive community resources. She may not believe that she can turn to family or friends, or that it would be safe to go to them.
Key factors cited by women who left abusive relationships include:
- Learning about themselves and about the truth of their victimization including the batterer’s
responsibility for the violence helped them to take action against the violence.
- Receipt of strength or support from someone in order to leave
- Interactions with law enforcement
- Use of social networks to disclose the violence, (told neighbors, friends, relatives).
- Self-defense training
- Use of shelters, clergy, women’s groups, community support services
- Recognition of the repetition of the pattern of abuse in their children; this insight was often the impetus for leaving their abusive partner.