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In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month

October 5, 2012

 

Why do they stay?

 

By Susi Bains

For the Mammoth Times

 

When the going gets tough, the tough can’t always leave. Thus the question: Why doesn’t she just leave?

There are many reasons why a victim of domestic violence chooses to stay, as many reasons as there are victims of domestic violence. Every victim has their own story, every story is unique, and every reason is valid. However, the common thread throughout each victim’s experience of deciding whether to stay or to leave is fear.

Victims often do not have a way to get to safety. Most likely, her abuser has isolated her from everyone she knows or loves, and now she has no one she can trust or rely on for help. She may be afraid that her abuser will follow through with the threats that have been made—that he will harm or kill her if she tries to leave. Women in abusive relationships are far likelier to be killed while attempting to leave their partners.

As a victim, she is embarrassed and doesn’t want anyone to find out about the abuse. She may be financially dependent upon her abuser, or be dependent for other reasons such as transportation or health care. Religious beliefs may be a factor. Having children that she cannot support without her abuser’s income may be a concern.

It is likely that she has never worked because he would not allow it, and therefore, she has no skills to use as a way to work and support herself and her children.

Fear of losing custody of her children is also a reason that victims choose to stay. And without doubt, the memories of the good times will always prevail; she has hope that the person that she fell in love with, and the good times can be recaptured. These are only a few of the reasons why a victim may choose to stay.

Those who are not directly involved in the violence may see these as excuses and might even believe that the victim has done something to deserve the violence, or that she “likes” it … why else would she stay?

Too often, victims are labeled and judged as being weak and pathetic. In fact, victims of domestic violence are some of the toughest and most courageous people that I have ever met.

They may suffer silently for years, enduring abuse that can come at any time, for any reason. They are resilient. Victims of domestic violence manage their daily lives enduring physical and emotional abuse that most of us can’t even imagine, and yet must put forward a “normal” persona in public.

Victims of domestic violence are brave. Imagine what it must be like to reach out for help, to pick up the phone or walk into an agency like Wild Iris, and tell a perfect stranger the most horrific and intimate details of your life.

Why do they stay? Unless we walk in a victim’s shoes, we can never know all of the reasons, but what we do know is that blaming the victim is the wrong approach, no matter how common the belief is. No one deserves to be or enjoys being abused. 

When you hear the reasons behind why she chooses to stay, believe them. Support her. She needs your help.

For more information, visit www.wild-iris.org or call toll free 877-873-7384.

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