Domestic Violence: Would You Leave After The First Strike?
Posted by Cate 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.
“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”.
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