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Opinion | Jan 27, 2019

Why do women stay? - is the wrong question

Why do women stay? - is the wrong question

Why do men bruise, beat, and batter women? That is the right question. Blaming females for staying is victim-blaming. Why do men denigrate, devastate, and destroy? Why do men misuse their personal power with cruelty and control? Why are men jealous, suspicious, and controlling?

More questions. How do women become trapped in dangerous relationships? And why does society blame them for staying? How can family, friends, and coworkers provide resources?

Batterers, the ill-formed, and ignorant individuals may blame women for staying, “But you won't find a single expert familiar with domestic violence who agrees that victims like being in an abusive relationship,” asserted Craig Malkin, Ph.D., in a 2013 article in Psychology Today.

Often victims are afraid to leave. And here’s why. The abuser has threatened to harm or kill them. More than 70 percent of domestic violence injuries and murders happen after the victim has left the relationship.

Men that threaten to kill the women’s family members if she leaves. Or the abuser threatens to kill the pets or does murder the family pet. Husbands or partners that threaten to take the children in a custody battle if she leaves. Or threatens to kidnap the children and relocate to another country. Some abusers have threatened suicide if the wife “abandons” them.

The abuser sabotages her employment. A spouse that obsessively calls or shows up at the workplace so often, the woman is fired. Or the abuser accuses the wife of having affairs with males at her place of employment. With today’s technology, some abusers use tracing devices.

Abuse may be emotional, mental, physical, financial, spiritual, or sexual. Gaslighting is when the partner intentionally tries to make the woman distrust her own perceptions of reality or that she is mentally incompetent.

Childhood abuse. Girls that grow up in homes where fathers or stepfathers abuse mothers often believe domestic violence is a way of life. When brothers are allowed to abuse sisters, females develop views of inequality.

Emotional abuse. Being told you are worthless (i.e., stupid, fat, ugly) day after day by a partner erodes self-esteem. Abusers blame-shame and heap false guilt upon women. If you did this or if you did that—then I wouldn’t have to beat you. Males need to take responsibility for their own violent reactions.

Financial abuse. A series of 10 – 14 minute videos is designed to raise awareness of the signs of financial abuse for victims. “Financial abuse can have the most devastating and long-lasting impact on the lives of survivors and their families. You’ll hear stories that include abusers who control their partner’s spending habits, preventing a partner from accessing bank accounts and keeping a partner from having a credit card.” www.thehotline.org/women-breaking-free/.

The Institute for Family Studies looked at hundreds of comments from a hashtag on Twitter, #WhyIstayed. Through analysis, they identified eight main reasons these women stayed in abusive relationships:

Distorted Thoughts. “Being controlled and hurt is traumatizing, and this leads to confusion, doubts, and even self-blame.”

Damaged Self-Worth. “Related was the damage to the self that is the result of degrading treatment.”

Fear. “The threat of bodily and emotional harm is powerful, and abusers use this to control and keep women trapped.”

Wanting to be a Savior. “Many described a desire to help, or love their partners with the hopes that they could change them.”

Children. “I was afraid if he wasn’t beating me he would beat his kids. And I valued their lives more than my own.”

Family Expectations and Experiences. “Many posted descriptions of how past experiences with violence distorted their sense of self or of healthy relationships.”

Financial Constraints. “Many referred to financial limitations, and these were often connected to caring for children.”

Isolation. “A common tactic of manipulative partners is to separate their victim from family and friends.” www.ifstudies.org/blog/eight-reasons-women-stay-in-abusive-relationships.

So, instead of asking why women stay—ask why men abuse and batter.

And provide support, encouragement, and resources for abused women.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in

the U.S.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin, © 2019

This author has authored 29 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: MelissaMartin

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