Why Women Stay In Domestic Violence Relationships:
I want to uncover why women stay in domestic violence situations. I think this is a great question. I think every woman who has lived with violence has asked themselves this question many times. “Why am I staying? What am I doing here? Why is none of this making sense to me?” So you are asking this question, women living with abuse are also asking this question. Once one begins to ask questions change is possible. I like questions. Email me any of your domestic violence questions.
In a counseling training I heard this story. It is powerful. One day a frog was put in boiling hot water and he immediately died. Another frog was put in a cold pan of water and the heat was slowly turned up on his pan until he was at the same boiling point that the other frog was when he died. However, the second frog didn’t die immediately because the heat in his pan was turned up slowly. He had time to adjust to the heat with each increasing temperature spike. This describes domestic violence the heat in domestic violence relationships is turned up slowly, women develop a tolerance for their abusers behavior, women begin to accept the abusers behavior and then it goes up another level, they adjust, and then it goes up another level. In domestic violence relationships no one is typically beaten up and abused the first time they go out to dinner with the perpetrator. This would be too easy.
The victim acclimates and is slowly being taken into a burning pan of water over time. You did not immediately one day walk into a relationship where someone was beating your head against the wall. It starts slowly with a shovel or push and then there’s much remorse and a valley of regret. Many conversations and convincing sentences that this is never going to happen again. This is a trap, it will not end. Abuse just doesn’t end one day. One shining day women gather a great deal of courage and leave. This is the beginning of healing not waiting for the abuser to change.
Secondly women stay for financial reasons. I don’t know if you’ve tried to finance an apartment with security deposit, and the first and last month’s rent on a salary that might be minimum wage. The math on this doesn’t work unless you’re earning a fairly decent salary. Women cannot afford to leave their abuser unless they want to live on the streets with their children. Women have nowhere else to go, many times families side with the abuser not the victim. Families will not understand your reality and that you are in danger. They will frequently side with the abuser as someone who is; outgoing, fun-loving, a nice guy who would do anything for you. He is always happy, smiling, and goes out of his way to help you. So when you show up at your mother’s door you are not welcomed or are welcomed but judged for your harsh treatment and critique of the abuser. Extended family at times do not support the women because they don’t see the inside of the abuser. The woman and her children only see his behavior. This is calculated, the abuser does this to make sure that her friends/family know he’s prince charming. So that she doesn’t have a leg to stand on when she goes to ask for help. This is done to make the victim stay with the abuser because no one will really believe her. After so many years of living with someone who is abusive to you you don’t believe that you deserve to be happy. You believe you are the author of my own life, this is what I signed up for. So now I will just stay. There is a lot of self-talk that women need to do to talk themselves out of this. And it takes many years sometimes to understand that you deserve to be happy, you deserve not to walk on eggshells, you deserve to have your birthday celebrated and your Mother’s Day honored. After you’ve lived for so long with chaos you tell yourself it just doesn’t matter. Then you learn to maintain and you learn to put up with it. As the heat is turned up in your pan to almost a boiling point you don’t even notice the extreme heat. At this point you can pretty much withstand anything. I think women who have lived in domestic violence situations are the strongest people out there and they should be given awards. I don’t know what type of award you should give someone for staying in domestic violence but I think they need to be honored. I work with Speaker Match and I see a lot of postings for breakfasts honoring survivors and I think that’s a wonderful idea to have a breakfast for the survivors and start the dialogue around domestic violence. A lot of times people stay in domestic violence situations because they can’t dialogue with their friends. Additionally, family does not understand your situation. And they don’t understand your situation because your abuser has made your private life such a nightmare it is difficult to describe. The abuser has created their public life to be so squeaky clean that no one can believe the truths women are telling. Left without a lot of resources they will frequently just stay and maintain. Or they will leave without the support of their extended family and friends. Their financial resources will be cut in half if not more than what they’re currently living on and I’m not even going to talk about what happens in court with a domestic violence situation. This is a post for a whole different day. I can give you a snapshots on why women will not leave domestic violence. Another reason is emotional abuse creates the false belief that you can’t do anything right, that you’re not strong enough to be on your own, that you’re not worth anything, you’re not valued, your thoughts are not valued, your needs are not valued, you’re not valued at all. This does not make it easy to gather the self-esteem to go out and create a fabulous new life for themselves. No one ever tells an abused woman she’s right, they are so used to hearing “You’re wrong, you’re doing it wrong, this is wrong, I need this from you and you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that, you’re not doing the other.” No one ever tells them they do anything right and if you hear that negative language for so long you will start to believe it. I can’t do anything right, I can’t go and support myself, I can’t pull my family out of this, again this is another method the abuser uses to keep you from leaving. Make no mistake, this is all calculated none of this is by chance. So just keep that in the back of your mind, everything they’re doing is calculated for you to stay and maintain the dysfunction. The time that you leave an abuser is the most dangerous time in your relationship. Which I find shocking to hear that you are safer at your house getting the crap beat out of you every night then when you are finally leaving. This doesn’t seem fair, but this is what the statistics and research says. Keep yourself safe, know that you matter, know that you’re important, know that you will have many future birthdays away from the abuser. Please just start to think about leaving today. By now the pan of water you are sitting in is boiling. Reach your hand up and turn down the burner. You deserve this!
Julie Federico www.juliefederico.com
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