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It is hard to understand why any abused women would stay in that violent situation. What would prevent her from leaving and moving on with her life? A person, who has never walked in the shoes of an abused woman, could not understand why she would stay. When people ask questions like, "Why didn't you run, he didn't have a gun to you head?" or "You could have grabbed the kids while he was at work and ran. Why did you stay?" There are many reasons why battered women stay and every question that you ask can be answered. It is the cycle of violence that must be broken. I often wonder about my children and what they had witnessed, will they be a part of the next cycle?
There are different types of abuse when speaking of domestic violence; physical, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse. These words are usually associated with domestic violence and the hardest words for the abused to speak or admit. What exactly is domestic violence? Why would anyone stay in that type of situation? Why do people abuse? What happens to the children who see the violence? Will the children be a part of the cycle of violence? If the abused try to leave, where do they go and what will they do? Will the abused and their children be safe or end up a statistic on the eleven o'clock news?
Let us begin with a simple definition for domestic violence. First of all domestic violence is violence toward or physical abuse of one's spouse or domestic partner. To feather define domestic violence were will look at the different types.
"Physical Battering is when the abuser's physically attacks and aggressive behavior can range from bruising to murder. Sexual Abuse is when a physical attack by the abuser is often accompanied by sexual violence where the victim is forced to have Sex with the abuser and participate in unwanted sexual activity. Psychological Battering is when the abuser is mentally attacking the victim; this may include verbal abuse, harassment, excessive possessiveness, isolating the women from family and friends, denying her resources, and destruction of property." (Family Violence Law Center: Domestic Violence Agency).
Yet there is one more type of abuse and it is called Economic Abuse. The best way to define this is by example, the abuser refusing to share control of the money and not allowing the victim to work (Victim /Witness Services Guide).
Women are tens times more likely to be victimized than men (Violence against women in the United States). Canadian women are six times more likely to be killed, once they are separated from their abusers. This explains why so many women are scared of leaving their abusive and controlling men (eLibrary; violent men, victimized women). "Up to three quarters of reported domestic violence were inflicted after the women left (http://stopviolence.com (U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1983)). Seventy three percent of victimized women that sought emergency service received the injuries after they left the abuser (http://stopviolence.com (Stark et al., 1981)).
Why do men abuse? Men who abuse want to be in control of their spouse. He wants to control her every feeling and thought she has. He may believe this is how he is suppose to act, learning this behavior from his father and growing up with his own mother being abused. He may be insecure and feels the need for power and control. He could have mental and emotional health problems, left untreated; this can lead to the abuse. If he enjoys drinking and or drugs, this will increase his abusive behavior.
In my case, it started while I was pregnant and continued until I was strong enough to divorce him. He always said that it was my fault he hit me and the famous "I'm so sorry and it will never happen again" line. This man wanted so much control that he, at age twenty-six, dated a fifteen year old female (me). After the divorce, his next wife (another fifteen year old female) was also abused by him. She had four miscarriages and finally her mind snapped. I got a funny call one night from my old abuser; he was so upset because his new wife was cheating on him, he lost the control. After he started in on her on day, she stabbed him; off to the emergency room he went. I told him he could not get any sympathy from me. I told him that "This is your God Smack!"
What about the children? The children learn at an early age and are affected at an even earlier age. Domestic violence can lead to birth defects and illnesses. Babies experienced emotional distress, disrupted sleeping patterns, and anxiety, sometimes this even can lead to aggressive toddlers. As these children get older they are affected differently. The child could feel guilty for not stopping it, have conflicting feeling toward the parents, fear the thoughts of it happening to them, become depressed, feel helpless, and even become embarrassed about what is happening at home (http://stopviolence.com). The basic facts are children learn what they live.
Children from violent homes may see it as their fault and may believe that with that kind of power it is acceptable to hit people in anger to get what he wants. Their behavior will be affected as well, they may refuse to attend school, become very passive or aggressive, wet the bed, sleeplessness, or even become an overachiever or an underachiever. The children may be affected physically; they may have stomachaches or headaches, they can have short attention spans, and this can lead to misdiagnosed ADHD. Yet, another symptom is high risk play.
Why do abused women stay in an abusive relationship? The National Coalition against Domestic Violence says there are three major categories for why women stay in an abusive relationship; lack of resources, institutional responses, and traditional ideology (Family Violence Law Center). Lack of resources could be the fear that their living standards would decline for her
and the children. Another can be fear of being charged with abandoning the spouse and losing the children, as well as the joint assets. Institutional responses can be a police officer treating it as a dispute and not a crime. Also her church may look poorly on her if she didn't try to save the marriage. Traditional ideology can be anything from her not believing in divorce and that their identity and worth are based on her getting a man and keeping him. Women rarely are beat daily and it is the non-violent times that make it seem worth giving it another try.
What if her husband is a police officer, she may stay because he has all the power. This problem is a matter of life or death. He has the power because he is the abuser and he posses a firearm. I can only guess the fear held inside of a victimized police officer's wife, the thoughts of her 911 call being dispatched to his two football buddies. What then, they tell him to calm down and lower the volume on the argument? I'm sure there will be a professional courtesy involved, by not reporting it as domestic violence. Back in April of 2003, a Tacoma police chief shot his wife Crystal and himself in from of their two children. If she tried to seek help before the climax it would be useless, he was a part of the system and he would have manipulated the system. He also was able to shift the blame and say she was abusing him and he was too embarrassed to admit it. The sad part would have been if he did not shoot himself and he could have said it was all her fault, he probably would have got away with it (The New York Times).
Reasons a battered women might stay, from battered women, are; they love him, they fear him, he'll kill me if I leave, cops can't protect me, and the all to classic "I thought it was suppose to be this way, my dad beat my mom all the time." Many women are afraid of change because she may not know how to act or behave in a non abusive relationship. The battered women may stay because she thinks the children need their father. Another great classic is women always believe they can change an abusive man, by loving him more. Some women think therapy will help their batterers to stop being violent. These women who do get their abusers to attend the therapy session get a false hope, if he is cured then we will not have to end the relationship. Women want the abuse to stop; but do not want to see divorce or running as the answer, they want to continue with the relationship.
If mother and child decide to run, where are they going to run to? Shelters are not on every corner and if they did find one, what happens if it's full? Funding for these shelters is in danger. Family oriented groups go after these shelters continuously, saying they are destroying the families and are anti men. What happens when she finds a possible place to rent and he finds out she is a battered women? He may not want to rent to a battered woman because he fears that the abuser may find her and cause property damage.
Asking why some women stay in these abusive relationships is the wrong question. We need to start asking why do these criminals torture and terrorize their partners. We need to ask why the majority of abusers are men and why the majority of survivors are women. The most important question we can ask is, "Why does our community continue to allow battering?" As a community and society we need to stop evaluating the victim. We need to stop asking her what she did to cause him to punch her in the face. We need to ask why these violent abusive men are not in jail yet.
Many don't stay though, many do try to leave or succeed in leaving. Michigan in 1993 there were fifty domestic violence homicides. In almost all fifty of them, the women had left or were about to leave. The point in leaving is to stop the violence, but that is not true. In a Philadelphia and Chicago study almost one fourth of the women killed by there male partners were separated or divorced from the men who killed them. Twenty-eight percent of women attempting to end it were killed. In another study one half of spousal homicide, over half of the male defendants were separated from the victims (Stop the Violence).
Once you know the definition of domestic violence and some of the reasons that could be causing the enraged actions of the batterer, what do you think? Knowledge of the affects, which the cycle of violence could have on your children, can help you make an informed decision if you were ever forced into that position. Domestic violence does not need to be tolerated by anyone; man, women, or child. Domestic Violence needs to be STOPPED! Now that you have some back ground on the subject, "Why do you think some of the battered women stay?" SERVIVAL! Survival is the answer.
eLibrary. (November 1, 2003). American city & country. Murder-suicide raises questions in
Tacoma. Retreived on June 6, 2008, from
eLibrary. (March 7, 2008). Violent men, victimized women. Retrieved May 20, 2008, from
Family violence law center: domestic violence agency. (2003). Learn about domestic violence
(DV). Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www.fvlc.org/gethelp_typesofabuse.html
McGee, S. (n.d.). 20 reasons why they stay. Retrieved May 20, 2008, from
The New York Times. (April 28, 2003). Tacoma police chief shoots wife before killing himself,
authorities say. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C02E4DB133DF93BA15757C0A9659C8B63
States Attorneys Office. (n.d.) Why battered women stay with their batterers. Retrieved May
VAW in the U.S. (n.d.). Violence against women in the U.S. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from
Victim /Witness Services Guide. (n.d.) What is abuse? Victim /witness services guide
Jacksonville sheriff's office (p.11).By Michele Aponte - Live in Jacksonville, Fl. I'm a full-time student in the criminal justice program.
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