Library Index » Social Issues & Debate Topics

The Effects of Abuse—Why Does She Stay? - Reasons To Stay, Multiple Victimization Arguments, A Larger Context, Different Perceptions Of Reality, What Can A Woman Do?

women question leave battered

Why don't battered women leave? This question does not have a single answer but, rather, many answers. Even the question has many connotations. For battered women, the question is not uniformly, "How can I leave him?" but "How can I get the violence to stop?" or "How can I get my relationship to be happy and fulfilling?" For women who want to leave, the question may become "Can I support myself and the children by myself?" "How can I escape?" "Will he kill me if I try?" or "How will my children fare without a father?" For clinicians working with battered women, the question might be "How can she make any decisions when she is so emotionally traumatized?"

—Ola W. Barnett, "Why Battered Women Do Not Leave, Part 1, " Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, vol. 1, no. 4, October 2000

One of the most frequently asked questions about abused women is: Why do they stay? Some authors and advocates argue that the relevant questions for battered women themselves are very different. They believe that the very question implies there is something wrong with the woman for staying, rather than placing the blame where it belongs—on the batterer. Better questions, Barnett argues, might be: "Why does he beat her?" or "Why does society let him get away with it?" or "What can be done to stop him?"

But not all women stay in abusive relationships. Many leave abusive relationships and situations without turning to the police or support organizations. While their number is unknown, most who leave without asking for help usually have strong personal support systems of friends and family or employment and earnings that enable them to live economically independent of their abusive partners. Yet, there can be little question that a large percentage of women remain with their abusers. There are as many reasons why women stay as there are consequences and outcomes of abusive relationships.

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