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Why doesn’t she leave? Reasons behind domestic violence are discussed

by Becky Smokey

Domestic violence is about power and control. Stress of financial hardship, inadequate communication skills, insecurities and alcohol and drug abuse can complicate matters, but is not the cause of domestic violence. It is a learned behavior.

National statistics show that 95 percent of batterers are male, with 5 percent being female. The batterer begins and continues his behavior because the violence is an effective method of getting what he wants. He does not suffer the consequences as a result of his behavior if his victim does call the police or file charges against him.

And she won’t if she fears he will carry through with his threats to harm or kill her. She wants to believe him when he begs her forgiveness and promises to change.

Historically, domestic violence was never treated as a “real” crime. His wife was referred to as his “property.” Penalties were not severe when a man beat his wife. He was rarely ostracized, even if he was known to physically harm his wife.

Too often we hear the victim-blaming question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” A woman who chooses to stay is dealing with complex issues and should never be judged on her “strength of character.” She attempts to make the best decision she can while living in fear. Family and friends may not support her leaving.

She must weigh the pros and cons of leaving with retaining custody of her children, losing financial support for her children, taking a father from her children, having no place to go and knowing that leaving a violent relationship is the most dangerous time for a woman. She thinks about the mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation and violence. Making a decision in a world of chaos is not easy. Who are we to judge her when we do not know or understand what she’s going through?

A battered woman experiences shame, embarrassment and isolation. She often feels she is alone. The daily psychological abuse lowers her self-esteem and causes lasting trauma to her and her children.

Women do not stay in a violent relationship because they want to be beaten. They stay in the relationship because they love their partner and they want to keep the family together.

What can you do for a victim of domestic violence? Respect the danger of her situation. Offer her support and encouragement. Remember, the choice must be hers in order for her to follow through. And remember, there is not a “typical” woman to be battered.

More than 50 percent of all women will experience physical violence in an intimate relationship, and for 24-30 percent of those women, the battering will be regular and ongoing.

Every 15 seconds, a woman is battered. If intervention is not sought, our children will become the next generation of victims and perpetrators. Domestic violence crosses every socio-economic class.

Help us stop the violence. Learn more about the dynamics of domestic violence through your local domestic violence agency.

n Becky Smokey is a domestic violence/sexual assault coordinator at the Family Support Council in Gardnerville; 782-8692.