The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Domestic Violence: Would You Leave After The First Strike?

Posted by mscate on September 1, 2008

Are you in a relationship? Maybe you’ve been going out with your partner for some time. The sex is great and you love spending time together. He’s really attentive and likes to SMS and call you at work to see what you’re up to. He’s been a bit moody lately and tends to snap at you for no reason. But that’s ok, you’ve had bouts of depression in the past and sometimes feel really down. One time he shouted at you. It’s ok though, he has been working split shifts in IT and is preparing for a performance review. He starts worrying about money and checking the bills when they come in, including the ones of your personal credit card. He threatens to cut it up. You get in an argument and he hits you. Would you end the relationship?

I read in the news today that Katie Milligan has vowed to stand by her man Greg Bird, despite the Cronulla Sharks star being charged with glassing her in the face.

Katie states,

“I want people to know that Greg and I are still very much together,” she said.

“Yes, I still love him.”

There are many reasons why women stay in abusive relationships including:

* They fear their abusers will become more violent—perhaps fatal—stalking them if they leave. Violence often escalates when a woman attempts to end the relationship.

*Their partner threatens to kill her or himself.

* Friends and family may not support their decision to leave.

* They fear being a single parent with little money.

* Many abused women don’t have property that is solely theirs.

* Abused women fear a lower standard of living for themselves and their children.

* Many abused women feel isolated from their families and from society. Isolation is either the result of the abuser’s possessiveness or jealousy, or it may be an attempt on the part of the victim to hide signs of abuse from the outside world. Either way, such isolation leads many victims to feel they have nowhere to turn.

* Many victims externalize or rationalize the reasons for their abuser’s behavior, casting blame of circumstances such as stress, financial hardship, job stress, chemical dependency, etc.

(sourced from here)

What about your pets? According to research recently quoted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies 48% of women entering a refuge said that worry over the fate of their pet was a significant factor in delaying them taking up a refuge place (sourced from here).

In my experience talking to women in violent relationships, the reasons for staying are many and varied but love is one of the complex reasons why women continue to stay in abusive relationships. If you start by pulling apart people’s opinions and values about violence in relationships, the issue is more complex than you may first believe. Many women are conditioned to believe they are responsible for making their marriage or relationship work; that if the relationship fails, they have failed as women. Society has often taught these women that their worth is measured by their ability to get and keep a man.

Further, violence in relationships is generally not typified by chronic episodes. There are many good times and experiences and the abuser promises not to do it again and attend counseling and take responsibility for this behaviour. Plus you most likely still love your partner, even if you don’t love his behaviour.

I’m not making any speculation about the interpersonal aspects of the relationship between Katie Milligan and Greg Bird (I’ve never met them and never watched football), but rather, I’m interested in the impact of the issues in the public sphere.

So what if it happened to you? I’ve occasionally asked a few female mates what they’d do and they’ve replied

“Hit the !@@#@W back”.

Other comments:

How the hell would I find a new rental place with a bruise on my face?

What you mean drop everything and leave? It’s half my stuff, why should I leave?

I’d make us go to counseling first. I’m sure I could convince him.

Well, once is hardly a violent relationship! Geez Cate!

Are we as progressive as I’d like to think in talking about this uncomfortable issue? I had a look at some research recently by the Violence Against Women CommunityAttitudes Project. Whilst it details a lot of genuine changes in attitudes around violence and sexual assault I was disturbed to find that nearly one in four respondents surveyed believed that domestic violence can be excused if the perpetrator genuinely regrets what they have done afterward or if the violence results from a temporary loss of control. Further, nearly two in every five respondents believed that ‘rape results from men not being able to control their need for sex’. While support for attitudes attributing blame to the victim was limited, it was still of concern. For example, one in six people agreed that ‘women often say no to sex when they really mean yes’. (p26)

When you put it all together, there’s still people that endorse excusing men’s violent behaviour and a multitude of reasons why violence relationships continue.

PS – I would encourage all Dawn Chorus Readers to check out the Lort Smith Animal Hospital fund raising for pets in domestic violence situations. Some of the things they do:

  • Provide veterinarian care for abused and traumatised animals
  • Look after pets until a time when they can be safely reunited with their families
  • Establish a transport service that will remove animals from violent situations
  • Or find a new home for the pet if return to the family is not possible
  • 8 Responses to “Domestic Violence: Would You Leave After The First Strike?”

    1. tina_sparkle said

      I make no judgement about other women’s decisions. the feminist approach to DV (from my research and professional experience) is that as long as a woman is supported and provided with information to empower herself to be able to make decisions about her personal safety, if she decides to stay with an abusive partner, it is still her choice and should be respected. part of the cycle of DV is that the perpetrator makes the victim believe she is entirely dependent on him and socially isolates her from any potential support networks.

      personally, there is no way I would stay with a partner who hit me, whether it be once or ten times. I am lucky enough to have girlfriends who would take me in and support me from the first instance.

      there is no excuse.

    2. mscate said

      Very true, the impact of social isolation can be profound.

    3. TJ said

      If a person hits you, leave. If you don’t then the next time you are hit you are to bleame.

      This may sound harsh, but when a person has shown you that they are a hitter and you do not listen, then you have no one to blame but yourself if it happens again.

      We have a problem in this society of not listening to ourselves(our intuition) or even more amazingly to other people. When someone tells you they are not nice, listen to them. When someone tells you they are selfish, believe them. When someone tells you they have a temper and can loose it, heed their warning.

    4. sassy said

      I love my football … but watching it doesn’t add anything to this issue I don’t think. like a lot of instances of violent relationships or domestic violence, knowing something about one part of someone’s life doesn’t make it any easier to know if or to what extent someone is capable of violence towards their partner.

      I really feel for kate milligan – there are so many pressures in dealing with dv without ever considering the pressures of having your scars splashed on the front of the tele or even being in a strange country.

    5. Kiki said

      i dont really see why you never having watched football has anything do with an discussion about domestic violence. the fact greg bird is a footy player is irrelevant.

    6. Leah said

      TJ, I disagree with your point that it is the victim’s fault they are hit if they stay in an abusive relationship.

      The responsibility for a blow is always with the aggressor – I don’t buy the provocation defense. We teach children not to answer teasing or other provocation with blows so we should expect the same of adults.

      Personally I’m not sure if I would definitely leave after one incident…I say this because if I ever hit someone in anger (be it a partner, friend, family member or stranger) I would want to be forgiven once, but wouldn’t expect to be forgiven if I did it again…I probably would leave as even if I could forgive the first blow, I doubt I could continue loving someone who would do that to me, but either way I would definitely leave after the second.

      tina_sparkle is right, there’s no point judging a woman if she stays, it’s her choice. And I don’t think it’s right to then say, ‘Well, she stayed so the next time she’s hit, it’s her fault.’

    7. sandrar said

      Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

    8. Tanu said

      I thought I would leave after the first strike. But here I am surfing the web to see if I am, in fact, a victim of domestic violence. Do I really need anonymous online peronality to tell me that I was kicked by my husband yesterday after an argument escalated.

      Will I stay? Looks like it. Even with a four-month-old daughter. or should I say in spite of.

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