When we hear of domestic assault and abuse we rally in horror. No one of us would wish that on any one, We often think to ourselves -‘ Why doesn’t she leave?’ If you have ever wondered why a woman stays with her abusive partner read on.
Sadly one woman a week dies at the hands of an intimate partner in Australia. Shocking statistics as Jimmy Barnes says “…If that was terrorism, we’d have armed guards on every corner’.
From the outside it looks like the easiest way to escape would simply to end the relationship. Research tells us this is one of the most life threatening times in the cycle. Weirdly woman are most at risk when leaving their abuser. Safety planning is essential.
And leaving would be if the woman were in a position of emotional health and strength to leave him. And he was also in a state of emotional health and wellbeing. This type of abuse is insidious and erodes self esteem quicker than a white ant colony. Men are victims too but the numbers go overwhelmingly with the gals sadly.
What has happened is a process often called trauma bonding – we are connected to our captor. This used to be called the Stockholm Syndrome which has been debunked.
In a United States Study of over a 100 female victims, Kathleen Ferraro and John Johnson found that women who stay in violent relationships rationalized their abuse in the following six ways.
- ‘I can fix him’ woman imagine the abuser is deeply troubled and needs a good strong women to help him get better. Its the Florence Nightingale phenomenon – I can nurse him to make him stop.
- ‘Its not really him’ It’s his problem insert the issue here – drinking, drugs, his childhood abuse, his depression, his job loss whatever fits on the list. The mistaken believe is once the problem has resolved he will stop, so the the hope goes. But the abuse continues regardless.
- ‘It’s easier to try to forget‘. This is where cognitive dissonance comes into play. Knowing their partner has intentionally hurt them is inconceivable. They focus on ‘getting back to normal’. With the cycle of violence there does come some sweet times. This overrides the abuse. It’s a form of denial to protect ourselves from the knowledge we are in a dangerous position – our loved one is could kill us.
- ‘Maybe its my fault’ This is where you hear woman say ‘I probably provoke him’. So women will turn themselves inside out as to how to go under the radar, do as he says to avoid the fall out. They are sensitive to their partners needs in a survival response – fawning and hyper-vigilance.
- ‘There’s nowhere to go’ Many women are stuck with no alternatives isolated from family and friends. Financially controlled and held hostage by circumstance.
- ‘Until death do us part’ where traditional belief systems on matrimony and religion hold women captive. Certain religious leaders say they will suffer a terrible fate in the afterlife. As if they are not in a one in this one!
I have worked with women who when they left the husband they were excommunicated from their church community. Exiled. They lost everyone. Don’t underestimate going against a community or long held traditional beliefs that trap a person.
Here is access to the articleabstract https://academic.oup.com/socpro/article-abstract/30/3/325/1644026?redirectedFrom=fulltext
This powerful information came from reading Jess Hills’ book See What You Made Me Do, Power, control and Domestic Abuse. It is a must read for therapists. We all need to be up to speed when it comes to coercive control and family violence. I am recommending it to my clients who have been in or are currently in a domestic abuse relationship. Here is the link to buy the book See What You Made Me Do, Power, control and Domestic Abuse Amazon https://amzn.to/2mUYV1v
Arm yourself with information, compassion and patience.Let me know your thoughts, love to hear of your experience either personally or professionally.