Why don’t they just get up and leave? On the surface these are simple enough questions. However, the answers are much more complicated.
Often, they stay with an abusive partner generally, due to incorrect thinking. They become trapped by the false notion, that the domestic violence they suffer from is somehow their fault. They come to believe that if they had not done or said certain things, they would not have provoked him! They have often been told they deserve to be abused anyway. Before long, lies and reality become entwined to such an extent, that soon it is impossible for them to make a clear distinction between the two.
Mistakenly they often believe their love is strong enough to change their partner. It is as if they have temporarily forgotten that this same person continues to choose to be aggressive towards them. Things get hazy and they don’t always manage to see that this is wrong and will never be right under any circumstances!
Sometimes it is as simple as them thinking they won’t be believed if they told anybody. At other times they are so gripped by fear, that their abuser will harm and even kill them if they tell anyone. It is so easy for them to come to believe that they are the only one in the world that this could possibly be happening to!
Although the victim often spends majority of their time crippled by fear in the relationship, for them in many ways the ‘fear’ of the unknown is so much worse. The violence has become so normal to them, that they cannot even comprehend leaving the situation. They are just too afraid to take the necessary steps to change things, because of all the uncertainty that change would inevitably bring.
A good example of this is when they have become financially dependent. When they have no money of their own, and have always depended financially on the abuser, it is not so easy for the victim to separate themselves from the relationship and go somewhere else. Sometimes it is the sheer fear of the expense of starting all over, that forces them to stay put. They would have to get a new home, and basically start a whole new life! It is perhaps not easy to even comprehend, the possibility of having their own money, or the knowledge of managing their own money, especially when they have never had to do it before. The truth is, it is not easy to leave! If it was, victims would just get up and leave every single day.
It was also my experience in talking to the women at the refuge, that sometimes a woman would stay in a violent relationship for the sake of her children. If they ever did get the courage to leave, they were often riddled with guilt. They felt bad about uprooting and removing the children from the family home. Over time they had become so worn down, that they felt as if they were the one breaking up the family and taking the kids away from their father. Unfortunately for some, the guilt of this was just too much. It was made more difficult, especially when the kids tearfully continued to ask to see their dad!
Staying in a violent relationship, can be down to a victim feeling paralyzed by pressure from family members. This could be their own family or the abuser’s family. A good example of this is in the Asian culture where families (including in-laws), often all live together in one house. In this kind of scenario, the woman often feels as if she not only married her husband, but in fact married his whole family. Victims can therefore experience violent assault from their husband, as well as from family members. I know of women who literally lived as slaves in the home. When they got married, unfortunately they literally got much more than they bargained for.
Domestic violence never seems to discriminate. It can in fact be seen and experienced across the board. Apparently, it affects every background, culture, age group, religion, race as well as the educated and uneducated.
When I first started to work at the refuge, a few things really shocked me. In the first instance, I could not believe how common it was! Before that I did not realize it was indeed an everyday occurrence, and that so many people experienced it! The refuge I worked at was a very big one, and yet it was always full and operating at maximum capacity! In fact, sometimes sadly we even had no choice but to turn women away, after signposting them to where else they could get alternative help.
There are countless situations in which domestic violence can and often does take place. It can be found within intimate relationships between husbands and wives, (where either can be the abuser), boyfriends and girlfriends, siblings, parents, and children. There does not seem to be any hard and fast rules about when or why it happens. When it does take place, it has long lasting effects, usually successfully devastating the lives of the victims involved.