Why Women Stay
Children Living with Domestic Violence
Criminal Justice Advocacy for Domestic Violence Victims
A Guide to Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence in intimate relationships
Domestic Violence: What You Should Know & How You Can Help
Why Women Stay
The reasons why women stay in violent relationships are highly complex and occur on many levels. The summary that follows attempts to break down and categorize some of the motives operating to cause a woman to stay. All of these factors are not found in each case, but a combination of some of them is usually enough to keep the woman together with her husband/partner.
Frequency and Severity
1. The battering may occur over a relatively short period of time.
2. He may tell her and she may be convinced that this battering was the last.
3. Generally, the less severe and less frequent the incidents, the more likely she’ll stay.
1. She may have lived in a home where her father beat her mother, and accepts it as natural.
2. The more she was hit by her parents, the more likely she’ll stay; in other words, she learned at an early age that it’s OK to hit someone you love when they’ve done something wrong.
3. She, or one of her siblings, may have been a victim of child abuse or incest.
1. She may be economically dependent on him and see no real alternative. In her eyes, it may be worth putting up with abuse in order to gain economic security.
2. Economic conditions today afford a woman with children few viable options. She often has no marketable skills. Government assistance is very limited and many women dread welfare.
3. Her husband may control all their money and she may have no access to cash, checks or important documents.
1. She believes her husband to be almost omnipotent. She sees no real way to protect herself from him. Many of her fears are justifiable.
2. If she or even a neighbor reports him to the police, he will often take revenge upon her.
3. Often, she is so terrified that she will deny abuse when questioned.
4. Some women are afraid that if they report the crime or tell of the abuse, their husband might lose his job — the only source of income for the family.
5. Some women are afraid of incurring the wrath of the extended family if they break up with him or report him.
1. Often he is her only support system psychologically, he having systematically destroyed her other friendships. Other people feel uncomfortable around violence and withdraw from it.
2. She may have no idea that services are available (if indeed they are) and may feel trapped. Religious counselors, general helping agencies and law enforcement and judicial officials are not social workers or trained in the complexities of battering. Medical personnel often do not identify battering victims.
3. He often threatens to kill her, the children and anyone else if she reports him, thus cutting off communication with potential helpers.
4. Often relatives get tired of helping her out, time after time, giving her a place to stay, etc. They no longer are willing to be resources upon which she can rely.
5. Having no one to talk to, they often don’t even see themselves as battered women. They may realize they have problems, but they don’t identify the battering as being the main problem. Some don’t know they have the right to not be beaten.
6. Some women believe that outsiders should not be involved in the affairs of a family.
1. Learned helplessness often explains a battered woman’s inability to act on her own behalf. She learns that her behavior has no effect on the outcome of a situation, since she is repeatedly abused no matter how hard she tries to be a ‘good’ partner or what she does to prevent the violence. She begins to believe what he says about her being incompetent and unable to function on her own.
2. Severely depressed people cannot take action.
3. Often he is violent only with her and she therefore concludes that it must be something wrong with her. She often accepts his reasoning that she “deserved” the punishment or that he was just too drunk to know what he was doing.
4. Some women believe that if they would improve or stop making mistakes, that the battering would stop. They stay because of guilt.
5. Social stigma . . . because others can’t understand why any self-respecting woman would stay in that situation, she may be embarrassed to admit it.
6. She believes she has no power to change her situation.
Beliefs About Marriage
1. Religious and cultural beliefs, or the eyes of society demand that she maintain the facade of a good marriage.
2. Often she stays for the sake of the “children needing a father.”
3. She may believe that battering is a part of every marriage.
4. Many women are raised to believe in the all-importance of a good relationship with a man, and that good relationships are their responsibility, not his.
Her Beliefs About Men
1. She often still loves him and is emotionally dependent.
2. She believes him to be all-powerful and able to find her anywhere.
3. Many of her fears and beliefs about him are based in reality since some of the violence exhibited by these men is lethal.
4. Often, motivated by pity and compassion, she feels she is the only one who can help him overcome his problem.
Children Living with Domestic Violence
When we think of domestic violence, we tend to think of adult women as the victims of their husbands or boyfriends. However, children are frequently present in households in which domestic is taking place, and are aware of what’s going on, even if they don’t witness it directly. Here are some examples of ways that partner abuse can affect children and teenagers:
Accepting violence as a way to deal with problems
Several small children were “playing house.” One little girl, playing “the mommy,” accidentally dropped the toy dishes that she was carrying over to her friends. The other little girl turned to the boy who was playing “the daddy” and said, “you better smack her because now your dinner’s ruined.”
Constant fear that their mother will be killed
One child jumped in between his parents during an episode of domestic violence, intervening on his mother’s behalf. His father pushed him aside to try to keep him out of harm’s way, but the child fractured a bone in the fall. When the social worker interviewed the child at the hospital, he told her that he would do it again and felt that a fractured arm was “worth it,” because he believed that his father would kill his mother if no one intervened.
Self-blame, even if violence is not linked to an argument about issues involving the child(ren)
A mother brought her first-grade son to a therapist to discuss his anxiety and moodiness. As the mother was describing to the therapist the most recent incident of partner violence, the child got up from his coloring, walked over to the mother, and said, “I’m sorry Mama, I didn’t mean to.” It was not even clear what the boy thought he had done, but it was very clear that he felt responsible.
Increased aggressiveness with peers (especially boys)
Boys who witness domestic violence are 26 times more likely to commit sexual assault, and 1000 times more likely to commit domestic violence as adults.
Increased passivity (especially girls)
A teenaged girl was dating another student at her high school. She told one of her friends that her boyfriend had shoved her into a wall and demanded to know why she had been looking at another guy. Although she was scared when this happened, she told her friend that it was “no big deal” and that his “jealousy” was O.K. with her because it shows how much he cares about her.
Nightmares and sleep difficulties
A fourth grader was terribly embarrassed and afraid to confide in anyone, because in addition to nightmares, he had begun wetting the bed. This child’s mother thought that he knew nothing of the domestic violence that she was experiencing, because “it never happened in front of the children.”
Distractibility and difficulty concentrating at school
One teenager was often too busy worrying about parents’ safety to make satisfactory progress in school. She continued to fall behind in school, but had never had any disciplinary problems. However, after one particularly bad incident at home, she was suspended from school following an angry outburst at her teacher. Later she revealed to a counselor that she had intentionally got herself suspended so that she could be at home with her mother.
Anxiety and vigilance
Although he never said anything about it to his mother, one child was always on the lookout for danger, and was always in a state of constant alert. At school he was constantly scanning the environment for signals that trouble was about to begin, and at home he clung to his mother constantly, making it difficult for her even to go to the bathroom alone.
The “Miniature Adult”
A family of three arrived at the abused women’s shelter in the middle of the night. As the shelter staff person was getting them settled, the mother began to cry and shake. The ten-year-old daughter put her arm around her mother and reassured her that everything would be all right. Then the child asked the staff person where the nearest bus stop was, because they had to take the baby to a doctor’s appointment at 9:15 in the morning.
The “Resilient” child
Some children show few signs of trauma on the outside, but may be in a great deal of pain about the situation, and may suffer long term effects that only become clear in adulthood, if nothing is done to end the cycle of violence. Even children who appear “fine” are soaking up what is going on around them. Children are learning all the time, and forming beliefs about the world, adult life, and themselves.
Neither you nor your children deserve to be abused. There is help available. Call a domestic violence crisis line to find out about your community’s resources, such as battered women’s shelters, restraining orders, and other court actions that might be available to you. Tell your children that it is not their fault. Call a supportive friend or relative. Remember that a safe single-parent family is a better place for children than an abusive two-parent family.
Criminal Justice Advocacy for Domestic Violence Victims
It is against the law to assault, harass, or threaten a domestic partner. Proper use of the criminal justice system is a means of making a victim safe.
What is domestic violence under the law?
Domestic violence can be physical as well as emotional. Slapping, hitting, punching, pushing, shoving, pulling a victim’s hair, biting, beating, kicking, throwing a partner, or throwing something at or near the person are all forms of physical abuse. Emotional abuse can include name-calling, mind games, humiliation, intimidation, or threats of bodily harm. Rape and sexual assault can also occur between domestic partners.
How can the law protect you?
There are two categories of legal options available to domestic violence victims. One is civil relief. A victim can go to the local clerk of court’s office and file a civil complaint and motion for a domestic violence protective order, also know as a 50-B. Another option is to file appropriate criminal charges at the magistrate’s office, such as: assault on a female, threatening phone calls, stalking, communicating threats, domestic criminal trespass, rape, and sexual assault.
How does a victim advocate assist with domestic violence?
Family Service of the Piedmont offers court advocacy as part of their victim services division and has staff stationed in District Court both in High Point and Greensboro. A victim advocate can assist in understanding the judicial process, accompanying victims to court, providing information on filing a 50-B domestic protective order, and linking with community resources. Another aspect of the victim advocate’s role is to serve as court liaison and representative for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. D.V.I.P. is a psycho-educational program for offenders. The victim advocate assists with the intake procedure for the program and monitors program compliance.
Family Service of the Piedmont operates a 24-hour crisis line in High Point (889-7273) and Greensboro (274-7273). The crisis line provides access to two emergency battered women’s shelters in Guilford County. A victim can contact Family Service for assistance in making a safety plan, obtaining information about counseling for women and children who have experienced domestic violence, and receiving victim advocacy. Treatment for offenders is also available.
A Guide To Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence
Remember: You don’t deserveto be hit or threatened!
During An Explosive Incident
- Argue Only in A Safe Place If an argument seems unavoidable, try to have it in a room or area that has access to an exit, and not in the bathroom, kitchen, or anywhere near weapons.
- Practice Your Exit.Practice how to get out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, elevator, or stairwell would be best.
- Prepare a Bag. Have a packed bag ready and keep it in an undisclosed but accessible place in order to leave quickly.
- Alert A Neighbor. Identify a neighbor you can tell about the violence and ask that he/she call law enforcement if he/she hears a disturbance coming from your home.
- Share A Code Word. Devise a code word or signal to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors when you need law enforcement.
- Plan Your Lodging.Decide and plan where you will go if you have to leave home (even if you don’t think you will need to). Call crisis line if you need help.
- Trust Your Instincts.Use your own instincts and judgment. If the situation is very dangerous, consider giving the abuser what he wants to calm him down. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.
Preparing to Leave
Set Up Your Own Account. Open a savings account in your own name to start to establish or increase your independence (have statements mailed to a trusted friend). Think of other ways in which you can increase your independence.
Store Some Necessities. Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important documents (including photos of injuries, medical bills, and other evidence) and extra clothes with someone you trust so you can leave quickly.
Seek Friends’ Help. Determine who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
Be Ready to Call. Keep the shelter phone number close at hand and keep some change or a calling card on you at all times for emergency phone calls. Memorize Your Plan. Review your safety plan as often as possible in order to plan the safest way to leave your batterer.
Things you need to take when you leave:
- Medical records for all family members
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificates (yours and your children’s)
- Social Security card
- Welfare identification
- School records
- Rental Agreement, lease, house deed
- Work permits
- Green card
- Bank books
- Divorce papers
- Insurance papers
- House and car keys
- Children’s small toys
- Address book
- Small saleable objects
- Pictures (including photos of any injuries)
Safety In Your Own Home
Change Your Locks. Change the locks on your doors as soon as possible. Install additional locks and safety devices for your windows.
Plan With Your Children.Discuss a safety plan with your children.
Inform Caregivers. Inform your children’s school, day care, etc. about who has permission to pick up your children.
Let Your Neighbors Know. Inform neighbors and landlord that your partner no longer lives with you and that they should call law enforcement if they see him near your home.
Safety At Work & In Public
Get Help. Decide who at work you will inform of your situation. This should include office or building security (provide a picture of your batterer, if possible).
Screen Calls. Arrange to have someone screen your telephone calls, if possible.
When You Leave Work.Devise a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car, bus, or train. Use a variety of routes to go home, if possible. Think about what you would do if something happened while going home (i.e., in your car, on the bus, etc.)
Safety With a Protective Order
Keep The Order With You. Keep your protective order on your person at all times.
Call the Police or Sheriff. Call law enforcement if your partner breaks the protective order.
Remember: Leaving your batterer may be the most dangerous time.
Stay Safe While Waiting. Think of ways to be safe if law enforcement does not respond right away.
Inform Others. Inform family, friends, and neighbors that you have a protective order in effect.
Safety and Emotional Health
Seek Medical Help. If injured, see a doctor. If urgent, call 911 or go to an emergency room. Keep pictures of your injuries for evidence.
Going Back. If you are thinking of returning to a potentially abusive situation, discuss an alternative plan with someone you trust.
Communicating With Your Partner. If you have to communicate with your partner, determine the safest way to do so.
Read books, articles, and poems which will help you feel stronger.
Decide whom you can call to talk freely and openly to get the non-judging support you need.
Seek Individual Counseling.
These services can provide support and help you understand more about yourself and the relationship. If necessary, call your local agency for guidance.
Domestic violence in intimate relationships
Domestic violence in intimate relationships exists as a social problem across all racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Immigrant and refugee women represent a population at great risk for domestic violence victimization; they also face challenging barriers when attempting to obtain services from community professionals. As the demographics of North Carolina become increasingly diverse, community organizations can expect more immigrant and refugee clients seeking services. Domestic violence in immigrant and refugee families involves the same dynamics as non-minority families. In all domestic violence relationships assaultive behaviors are rooted in the abuser’s desire to maintain power and control over their partner. During the initial meeting with a client, Victim Services staff reviews handouts that explain and diagram domestic violence in immigrant and refugee families. The chart is in the shape of a wheel with power and control symbolized as the hub. Abusive behaviors such as physical violence, sexual violence, threats, coercion, and stalking are illustrated as tactics to maintain power and control.
In immigant and refugee families abusers may use specific threats that are especially terrifying to their partners. Some examples are: threats to deport the victim, threats to abandon the victim and/or children in an unfamiliar country and culture, forbidding the victim to learn English, and threats to kidnap the children who may be U.S. citizens. Immigrant and refugee women fear ostracism in their community if they take formal action against their abuser, and may believe that if prosecuted her abuser will be deported to their native country and killed.
Additional risk factors for immigrant and refugee families experiencing domestic violence are the probability that they have witnessed violence or atrocities in their native countries. For example, Rwandan families immigrating to the U.S. may have witnessed machete massacres during their country’s civil war. Many Vietnamese immigrants recall the horrors of the Vietnam War, and Cambodian refugees may have witnessed the mass genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Family members may have spent many years in “re-education” or refugee camps, enduring further violence. It is common for family members to have been separated in refugee camps or abandoned during the move to the United States. These examples give some insight into the significant trauma many immigrant and refugee families endured before coming to the United States. These experiences typically lead to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in this population. The presence of PTSD in immigrant and refugee families exacerbates domestic violence, making situations even more dangerous.
Barriers for immigrant and refugee families are numerous and require sensitivity from the different community agencies that assist domestic violence victims. One barrier involves cultural perceptions of the police and their role in U.S. society. In many countries the police are equivalent to the military, a group that often perpetrate large-scale violence. Given this perception, domestic violence victims might be even more reluctant to involve law enforcement. In addition, language and communication differences represent a significant barrier faced by professionals. Knowledge and appreciation for cultural nuances in both verbal and non-verbal communication (i.e. eye contact, seating arrangements, speech tone, etc.) are important in providing competent services to immigrant and refugee clients. Professionals working with the immigrant and refugee population should also prepare themselves for the increased advocacy that families will need to navigate the largely intolerant U.S. legal system.
Some resources available to domestic violence victims exist through the INS and federal legislation. In 1994 Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that addressed domestic violence in immigrant and refugee families. The two major avenues open through VAWA include the right to petition for a visa without her husband’s sponsorship and the right to seek Cancellation of Removal Proceedings if she faces deportation. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) recognizes domestic violence as a mitigating factor in deportations under the policy entitled, “INS Definition of Battery or Extreme Cruelty”. This policy affords domestic violence victims limited resources when facing deportation or investigation by the INS. Service providers who work with immigrant and refugee women need to remain updated on changing legislation and available referrals to assist clients in creating safety in their lives. Often helping immigrant and refugee families requires extra effort and follow-through to assure those clients are receiving culturally sensitive, competent and comprehensive services. Immigrant and refugee people, like all victims of violence, deserve safety and the same quality of life as all other citizens.
Domestic Violence: What You Should Know & How You Can Help
Domestic violence is estimated to be the most common and least reported crime in the United States. A woman is more likely to be assaulted, raped or murdered by a current or former husband or boyfriend than by all other types of assailants. In 1994, 117 women were murdered by domestic partners in North Carolina.
What makes a relationship an abusive one? Domestic violence isn’t only about physical abuse and visible marks; it’s about power and control. One partner has far more power than the other and uses abuse to keep control over the other person. Abuse can involve keeping her from seeing or talking to friends and family, drilling her about where she goes and who she sees, or preventing her from having activities outside of the home. It often includes emotional abuse, like name-calling, humiliation and mind games. There may also be threats to harm her, the children or him if she doesn’t do what he wants, or if she tries to leave. Control over the money or preventing her from holding a job can keep her financially dependent and unable to afford to leave.
Partner abuse often has a pattern. There is no such thing as a relationship that has violence once in a while, and in between everything is fine. Usually the other types of abuse are happening in between violent episodes. The cycle typically begins with a build-up of tension, what abused women often refer to as the “walking on eggshells time.” The man may make threats. He may start shoving, pushing or name-calling. The woman may try to please him or calm him down. Then the violence breaks out. He may throw things at her, or use a weapon. This is the blow-up. Afterward he is often sorry. He may feel bad and want to make-up, promising never to do it again. This is rarely true. He may promise to do other things, like quit drinking, get help, or go to church. These promises are often empty, and the cycle begins again. In some cases, abuse follows no pattern at all.
Why do women stay in abusive relationships? Many abused women feel trapped. Money can be a problem, and leaving an abuser may mean not having enough to live on. Leaving can be dangerous. The man may threaten to harm or kill the woman if she leaves, and this is the time of highest risk to a domestic violence victim. A family breakup may feel wrong. The woman may love the man. If she has children, she may feel they need a father. She may feel she has to take care of him, and that if she leaves him, he will never get better. Getting away may be hard, but staying can be much worse.
What you can do to help someone who is being abused. If you suspect someone you know is being abused, tell her you are concerned about her safety. Pretending it’s not happening is like keeping a deadly secret. Even if she’s not ready to talk about it, this lets her know that you are open to hearing her story when she is ready. Let her know that she did not cause the abuse, and that she cannot control it. Tell her she does not deserve to be abused, and that she deserves to have a live free from violence. Telling her she’s crazy to stay or to say that she loves him is NOT helpful, and may only reinforce things the abuser has told her. Let her know there are places she can go for help. Don’t blame her or give up if she returns to the abuser. On average, women leave an abusive partner three to seven times before they are able to leave for good.
Above all, empower her with information and support so that she can make her own choices. You can call the 24-hour crisis line at Family Service of the Piedmont (273-7273 in Greensboro or 889-7273 in High Point) to help her make a safety plan and to get more information. The crisis line provides access to emergency shelter throughout Guilford County. Family Service of the Piedmont operates two shelters: Carpenter House in High Point and Clara House in Greensboro. In addition to crisis line and shelter support, the Victim Services division of Family Service of the Piedmont also provides advocacy and information about the criminal justice system, safety planning, and counseling to women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Offender treatment is also available.