Recognizing and Helping Victims Of Domestic Violence
With the current exposure to domestic violence by the media, questions arise. It is critical to the safety of any victim that we have a better understanding of why they are allowing someone to mistreat them. As family and friends we also are educated enough to recognize the signs. What should we do?
Why do victims stay in or return to abusive relationships?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions about domestic violence, and the answer is complicated. The National Network to End Domestic Violence responds to this question best: “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?” The short answer for victims is the power of fear. Fear of being injured or killed keeps many women in abusive relationships, and their concerns are legitimate. The risk of death or injury to a victim is greatest when leaving an abusive relationship or shortly thereafter. NNEDV reports that “on average, three women die at the hands of a current or former intimate partner every day. “Other reasons victims stay in abusive relationships are related to economic dependence, children, a sense of isolation, shame, past failures of the system to respond, and religious and/or societal pressures. Moreover, batterers work hard to ensure that their victims stay. Abusers can place the blame for the violence on the victim so that many victims believe that if they caused the incidents, they can stop them as well. Remember, many victims want the abuse to end – not the relationship. And if an abuser is promising to change, and the victim loves the abuser, then it is hard to walk away.
If I believe someone I care about is in an abusive relationship, what can I do?
If she tells you she’s in an abusive relationship, believe her. Give her resources she can use to get help, like a number for a domestic violence hotline. Acknowledge her fear and the risk she takes in speaking with you. If she does not wish to acknowledge the relationship, respect her right to privacy and to refuse help. Don’t force her to discuss the relationship with you if she is not ready. Don’t be judgmental, and don’t tell her to simply leave the relationship. Encourage her to get help in developing a safety plan and a safe means of escape. And above all, don’t encourage others to intervene with the abuser unless she asks for that assistance. We Know the signs. We know more about why a person remains in an abusive home.
Next post will outline what to do when you are ready to leave the abuser permanently.
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