Generally, a woman will return to an abuser 7 to 10 times before she leaves him for good. The most common question associated with Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is: "Why does she stay?" It is a question that will do more harm than good because it is accusatory and belittling to an abused woman who has already been accused and belittled enough. The better question about intimate partner violence is "What can I do to help?"
Here are 22 reasons that a woman stays with her abuser:
1. He has threatened to kill her or she has reason to believe that he would kill her if he finds out that she is leaving him (e.g. he has access to guns). Saying to an abuser "I'm leaving you", serving him with divorce papers, or getting an order for protection are huge triggers for increased violence and put the woman at a staggeringly high risk for being murdered.
-17 IPV deaths in 2006. 8 of them were trying to leave. 11 of them were gun related deaths.
2. He has obtained economic control throughout the course of the relationship. The abuser could be the main source of income for the family, leaving the abused with no financial means to leave. He may have access to her accounts or he may have credit cards in her name leaving her in financial ruin in the event that she would try and leave him.
3. She may not be able to hold a job. Abusers often stalk their partners at their places of employment. Making frequent phone calls and visits could jeopardize her job and thus give her a long track record of being fired which ultimately makes her an undesirable candidate for a job position. It is also common to hear things like "you would rather spend more time at work" or "you're having an affair with your coworker" which would cause her to quit to avoid any harmful consequences. Ex: A woman waitresses and her husband comes to her job, frightens off her customers, takes her time away from her job, and compiles a bar tab that she has to deduct from her wages/tips.
4. She has children. The children could be young and in need of day care/child support. Leaving him would give her insufficient funds to take care of them. They could be under his health care plan and he could be in possession of all documents regarding the children. Her children could side with him because they love him. He could threaten to kill the kids if she leaves them. He could obtain partial physical custody and abuse the children as a means of getting at her. He may make false claims against her and she fears losing her kids.
5. He does not have a stable career. The chances of being killed by an abuser increase by 4 times if the abuser is unemployed, underemployed, or seasonally employed.
6. He is a police officer/law enforcement worker. Surprisingly his co-workers/connections will side with him (ex: "I know Tom and he would never do that") and she would find it difficult to get any support or protection. YOU CAN ASSUME THAT THERE IS ALWAYS A GUN IN THE HOUSE. There are significant barriers to enforcement and conviction when police officers are the abusers.
7. Minimizing, Denying, Blaming. He has convinced her that she is either crazy or that she is at fault. 'Stop crying, I didn't hit you that hard.' 'Why did you make me do that to you?' 'You're crazy, I didn't take your cell phone.' He breaks her down so much and so often that she feels that she does deserve to be abused because she is the flawed one and he is not.
8. Isolation. He has isolated her from her friends, family, and coworkers to the point that she has no support and feels helpless. It is easier to leave if the woman has outlets, for example, a boss who documents the abuse (days Sally comes in crying, days she comes in with bruises/injuries, how many phone calls she takes). It also helps to have friends with which you can leave important documents (birth certificates, medical records, copies of OFP) and money.
9. Battered Women's Syndrome.
-The woman believes that the abuse is her fault
-She has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere
-The woman fears for her life and the life of her children
-She holds irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent
10. Substance Abuse. She can blame his abuse on either drugs or alcohol use or he blames his behaviors on drugs and alcohol and promises her that he will go to treatment.
11. False Honeymoon phase. After a violent incident he apologizes, begs for forgiveness, promises to get help, takes her out to eat, sends her flowers, etc. And she takes him back.
12. She is nostalgic of the person he used to be. Although she never experiences the same man again, she fondly loves him as the man she once knew and loved before he started abusing her.
13. She does not have or know of resources available. She does not know who to call for services, what kind of services are available, how to get an Order for Protection (OFP), where there are shelters. She may not have internet access, or he is monitoring the internet use and history. He could be recording the milage on her car so that she is unable to go to library, attorney, city hall.
14. She was exposed to abuse in her family as a child. If she was subjected to seeing the abuse of her mother she is likely to stay with an abuser because it was the way she was brought up and she doesn't know an other way. Also, if she is aware that her abuser had IPV in his family she could blame his actions on the things he saw in his past.
15. She was involved with dating violence as a teen. One in five high school girls from a 2001 study were victims of physical or sexual abuse from their partners. Often these behaviors carry over into adult relationships.
16. She has had negative law enforcement experiences in the past, or has heard of similar instances from within the community. The candor of a police officer is very important. They have to be respectful and honest (removing their hat, saying things like 'I'm fearful for your safety', checking the kids, fully completing a report) even though a domestic call is not as exciting as a police chase. It is important to have the trust of an abused woman or she will NOT call 911 in future instances.
17. Her religion or culture condemns divorce. A woman who goes to her church leader for advice may be told to go home to her husband and be a good wife. Her community may shun her if she leaves her husband. They most likely will work to save the family rather than stop the violence.
18. She does not want him to be prosecuted. Most women just want the violence to end.
19. His name may be on all important documents (i.e. lease, house, car, insurance)
20. The system has failed her before. The court system has not always been designed to protect the victim. In the past, they may have failed to arrest her abuser after an incident, they may not have notified her of his release from jail, legal expenses, lack of help from women's centers, a police officer who failed to make a complete report... etc.
21. Stockholm Syndrome. Survival in extreme situations where the abused allies with the abuser. The victim recieves small acts of kindness from the abuser and focuses on them. The most common example of stockholm syndrome is in hostage situations, but can be applied to battered women as well.
22. Learned Helplessness. Women who are repeatedly battered experience similar psychological responses to dogs who suffer from repeated electric shocks without being able to escape, and eventually do not attempt to escape even if the opportunity is given to them.
Here are some things that I believe are important for you to know...
-In Minnesota police may arrest a person anywhere without a warrant if they have probable cause that the person has committed actions of domestic violence within the last 24 hours even if the acts did not take place in the presence of a police officer. Ex: If the abuser offends and then disappears, the police have a 24 hour time frame within which they can make an arrest.
-Burglary and Domestic Assault- burglary is defined as a person entering a home without consent with the intent to commit a crime. This includes and abuser who enters a home that he is legally banned from with the intent to harm his partner.
-In Minnesota interference with an emergency call is a gross misdemeanor.
-Victims rights include: The right to financial assistance, notification, protection from harm, and a speedy prosecution.
-1800-799-SAFE (7233) is the Domestic Violence Hotline
-Orders for Protection and DANCO (restraining orders) are enforceable everywhere, they last for 2 to 50 years, they are FREE, and a police officer is mandated to arrest an offender if there is probable cause that the OFP has been violated. Police officers can serve OFPs at any time.
-Go to vinelink.com for information about an offender if he is in the system. You can register to be notified when there is a change in the offenders status. This service is available 24 hours a day.
-You can request that a police officer take temporary inventory on an abusers firearms.
-Go to http://www.mcbw.org/help to search for services available in Minnesota.