OCTOBER IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH
During the years of helping victims of domestic violence, I’ve constantly heard “Why does the victim stay?” There are many reasons with one being that leaving may trigger fatal intent and the victim ends up being loved to death. I’m tired of this question so let’s talk about the real issue – the behavior of the abuser.
If we did not have abusers, we would not have victims of any crime against persons. Domestic violence, sexual assault, or child abuse/molestation. So why does everyone focus on the victim? Let’s start asking the right questions.
Domestic violence is assessed on a case-by-case basis, but in general abusers can be mentally and/or physically abusive. Chipping away at the victim’s self-worth is often the first step. This may include comments such as calling the victim fat, stupid, ugly, no one else would have them, they are crazy, they can’t do anything right, a bad parent and the list goes on and on.
So, if all that is true why does the abuser stay with, by his/her own account, such a terrible person? It becomes even more questionable when the abuser is obsessively jealous. If no one else would have the victim, why does the abuser monitor her/his actions? If the victim accidentally makes eye contact with a member of the opposite sex, she/he can be accused of having an affair. If no one else would have the victim, why is the abuser even concerned about the victim’s interactions with other people? Emotional Gaslighting is used by abusers, check it out.
If the victim does leave the abuser will likely say horrible things about her/him to others. The truth is that the abuser needs the victim more then the victim needs the abuser, and if the victim agreed to return, the abuser would take her/him back in a second. Domestic violence may not make sense to observers, but blaming the victim is not the answer.
Abusers abuse because they can, and the focus should be on their behavior. The right questions are why do:
- abusers harm those they are supposed to love?
- not take responsibility for their actions and blame others?
- they do everything they can to make the victim want to leave and then get angry when the victim has had enough?
- they not get help to have a healthy relationship?
They may stay because they:
- Do not feel good about themselves and want someone else to feel worse.
- Don’t want to have to train someone else as to their controlling behaviors.
- Believe they own the victim/family and no one else can have them.
The victims benefit from developing a safety plan, support, counseling and resources. The abusers need consistent consequences for their violent behavior, to take responsibility for his/her actions and by getting help for their behavior.
In fact, everyone in an abusive relationship needs help. The victim, the children and the abuser. I pray for them all.
If you are being abused, you are not alone. Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Please contact a local domestic violence program to develop a safety plan. There are also national agencies:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence ncadv.org