October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, one month seems like too limited of time to help those in need. I want to continue celebrating with this weeks post on “Top 10 Reasons Why Women Stay In Abusive Relationships” Over the past 20 years I have worked as a counselor in the public schools, probation department, an inner city health clinic and homeless shelter. This article is an observation of my experience in counseling women and listening with a grieving heart to many experiences. My thinking is that if I can get the general public to understand this phenomena I am one step closer to solving the problem. If you asked the general man off the street, “Why do women stay in abusive relationship?” I imagine their answer would fall along the lines of, “Because their stupid.” Ahhh, stupid, the women who has memorized the evil look in her partners eye and who can sense danger or calm the moment he walks through the door at night. This is faraway from stupid. Abused women suffer daily in silence then freshen up before picking up the kids at school and put on their “happy stay at home mom face” for other parents passing by. Her acting skills alone make her superior and powerful not stupid. Julia Roberts said “We are all actors and actresses some of us just get paid to do it.” Amen Julia.
1. Women who are in abusive relationships have spent so much time acting like they have the perfect relationship that they have convinced themselves that, “This is a phase everything will be okay when_____________” Fill in the blank with anything; when the house sells, when the kids start sleeping through the night, when football/soccer season is over, when our finances improve.”
2. Usually men who are abusive to their partners are some of the most charming people one could meet. Reason #2: No one will believe my story. Frighteningly this is probably very true be extremely careful whom you confide in. As an abused women revels the bizarre stories of her present life it makes her look crazy because the stories are staggering. It is easier not to believe the abused women than to begin to digest her words.
3. Financial reasons. Women who are in abusive relationships will be hesitant to take on all of the financial responsibility for a family because their abusers have made them feel powerless. They do not feel that they can provide for their family in an adequate way. This keeps them tied to the abuser.
4. Feeling powerless. Powerless is a powerful tool used by abusers to cripple their victim. Where their abuse leaves off self-doubt takes over. Self-doubt becomes the chief problem rather than the initial abuse.
5. Fear. In abusive relationships the time directly after women leaves her abuser is the most dangerous time for her. She is a drug for the abuser and when he can not get his fix, violence will soon follow.
6. The known is better than the unknown. With an abuser there is a pattern to their behavior. It is usually a predictable event that sets them off. The abused women being a genius of human behavior knows what this event is. She works hard to research and correct whatever it is that sets him off. For example a dirty house, too many kids over to play after school, him feeling like he is being disrespected in some way either real or imagined. She can divert many of his outbursts and does so successfully.
7. Afraid the abuser will take the kids. When the courts get involved in custody cases the abuser will many times look more favorable than the abused. Especially if the women never called the police and there is no record of the abuse. What is not documented becomes hearsay unfortunately. If you are thinking of leaving an abusive relationship file at least five police reports if there are situations that warrant police intervention. Abusers are smooth talking, confident, good at making up lies, and even better at making other people out to be weak and incompitent. They would not be abusers if they did not have these strong conniving skills. In a court situation an abused women can appear scared, scattered, anxious, and unfocused. All symptoms of trauma. I do not think the courts research trauma symptoms so the women usually comes off as, less together and less believable.
8. Low self esteem. This reason for staying is massive and should count for two reasons. Since her self-esteem has been chipped away at for years, it is non existent. Women question their decision making and constantly second guess themselves. This does not make for an easy or approachable transition when considering making major life changes. Women tell themselves that they can not make it on their own, and they are not strong enough. This is true they are not strong enough, they will not be strong enough to embrace their new life until they leave. Leaving mysteriously elevates one’s self-esteem, now one can make decisions and think clearly.
9. Low self esteem. Low self esteem speaks to women in a powerful way it says; “You are not worthy of having better, no one will believe you, you better stay or he will take the kids and seek full custody, who would hire me, why am I such a loser that I am in this awful relationship, I don’t make good decisions or I would not be in a abusive relationship, I will never amount to anything. Therefore, I will just stay.
10. Disbelief. Women can still remember the day when they meet the abuser and he had no resemblance to the person they live with at all. He smiled and said, “Hi, I am Luke, Robert, or Armando” or whatever his name was. There were no warning signs. The relationship started out like most other relationships. Women wonder “How did things get this bad?” For one to leave she has to admit that things are in fact bad. This can be crippling. It takes a very strong person to acknowledge reality, especially when reality daily mirrors a 911 call.
Watercolor artists Michal Madison raises awareness of domestic violence and child abuse through her beautiful art work.
#My Justice by Patricia McKnight
Resource network: www.butterflydreamsabuserecovery.com
Children’s book on domestic violence prevention Anger Is OKAY Violence is NOT by Julie Federico