On Domestic Violence And Why Women Stay

abuse10Have you been watching the Jodi Arias trial? It’s a fascinating one that’s for sure.

I haven’t so much as watched it as listened to it whenever I am in the car  and while I have my opinions, I’ll save that for after the trial.

The thing that caught my attention today was the domestic violence expert, who testified yesterday, Alyce LaViolette. LaViolette is a psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence. Although I am not sure if Jodi Arias really was a victim of domestic violence, I do know that what LaViolette said about domestic violence rings true for millions of women.

Both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, but since the majority of domestic violence victims are women, I’ll be referring mostly to women in this post. And I have written about The Cycle of Violence, Power and Control in a previous post if you would like more information.

We Need Never Be Ashamed of Our Tears- Charles Dickens

Women who are abused often don’t tell anyone, even their closes friends and family because they are generally humiliated and ashamed of the abuse. They go through great lengths to hide the fact that they are being abused, even to the point of protecting their abuser and acting out on anyone who says anything bad against him, especially when they don’t want to look like they have made a bad choice in a partner.

On top of that, there is also the halo effect operating. That’s when someone keeps thinking about the one great quality about someone, despite the many bad ones and that keeps them from seeing the total picture. They are living in two different realities and will fight to keep the shame from one reality from entering the other.

Many women are afraid to leave their abuser and rightfully so, as leaving is usually the most dangerous time in the abuse cycle, when the woman is most likely to be severely hurt or killed. Many women also stay in hopes that things will change, despite the evidence that they probably won’t. They will see that their abuser has the potential to be a great mate, only if he wasn’t abusive.

Also, I’ve learned from working with abused women that they actually get brainwashed into believing that no one else will ever love them or want them,  so they stay because they start believing they are so ugly, worthless, fat, stupid, (insert insult here) that they are lucky that their abuser even wants them.

Case Example

I have a teenage client who is dating an older man. She’s over 18 so it’s legal, but this man she is dating has a bad temper problem. He blows up on her unpredictably and has even broken his phone by throwing it against the wall when she didn’t answer one of his phone calls.

He is also extremely controlling. They have only been together for about four months, but already he has isolated her from all of her friends and has her calling him at a particular time everyday or else “he gets really mad”.

He’s even already trying to get her to move away from her family and in with him, another way of isolating her from people who love her and would potentially see her bruises.

He hasn’t hit her, yet, and she doesn’t see anything wrong with their relationship. She loves him and thinks he “just has a temper” and he blames his anger on supplements he is taking which could be true, but I think it’s a cover for his explosive temper. All of her friends are worried about her, but she see’s their concern as unnecessary and even as signs of jealousy.

To me, a professional counselor who has counseled abuse victims and abusers, the writing is all over the walls. She’s already got one foot into a domestic violence relationship without even realizing it. It’s just a short matter of time before he puts his hands on her. He’s even got her thinking about stopping therapy with me because I am a male and he doesn’t like her associating with any males, even if it’s her therapist.

I’ve been working with her on self-esteem issues, but now we are primarily working on this sense she brings it up in therapy all the time, yet doesn’t seem willing or ready to do anything about it. She’s even already thinking of getting pregnant which I am sure he is also pushing on her.

Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave

If you have a few minutes, watch Leslie Morgan Steiner’s personal account of being in an abusive relationship. I’ve inserted the video below. I attempted to show this to the client mentioned above, but after a couple of minutes she refused to listen to any more although everything Steiner was experiencing in the initial stages of her relationship with her abuser, this young lady was experiencing almost exactly.

Steiner talks about the initial stages of abuse which are:

  1. Seduce and charm the victim
  2. Isolate the victim from friends and family
  3. Introduce the threat of violence to gauge their response to potential violence
  4. Actual violence and the continuation of the abuse/power and control cycle

I try not to push clients too hard too fast, after all it’s their lives and their choices, I just try to help them see the signs that say “detour” before they drive off the cliff. However often times we are too blinded by love, our own mess or even other people’s mess to see the signs right in front of us.

9 thoughts on “On Domestic Violence And Why Women Stay

  1. so sad,so true. its a shame this post can’t reach all the women on the verge of or in abusive relationships. I have been in abusive relationships–not all physical abuse. but the most abusive relationship i have ever been in was with my mother. no matter what i did, said, tried, she never stopped and never changed. parents can also be the abuser in a relationship.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I hope that girls and women in a similar situation as your case example are willing to see the signs and know that those that care and love them do not treat a person that way. Fear of being alone, fear of being single keep many in unhealthy relationships. I remember a saying I heard from my own teenage years, “I would rather be alone for the right reason than to be with someone for the wrong reason.”

    1. This is so true. Most young women I knew in these situations already come with their own emotional and mental baggage and sometimes can’t or refuse to see the signs. Another young girl I work with grew up in a DV family where she saw her dad beat and control her mother daily so now that she is in the same type of relationship it’s hard for her to see it and leave because her mother stayed with her father.

  3. I’ve been watching and if anyone was abused, it was Travis Alexander! She drove her ass from California in a rental car with three gas cans in the trunk, colored her hair, and tried to cover her tracks in many ways; to Arizona where he lived and it is obvious he never had a chance with this woman to abuse her. She is a sham and makes REAL DV victims look bad. Her defense will do ;anything to save her. She has admitted to murdering him, and no one else was there but her and him. I think when she drove back from CA to Mesa, AZ, she completely surprised him in his home. She was jealous because he was dating someone else and did not want her any more. Gee, I wonder why not…. she had slashed his tires and his girlfriends tires and lots of other awful stuff. She’s a murderer, and I don’t ;care if she does not get the death penalty. I just don’t want to see another Casey Anthony Travesty…

    1. Yeah, that is one of my biggest concerns, that there is just enough smoke and distraction to make this another Casey Anthony situation which would be a travesty indeed. Thanks for your thoughts, they definitely echo mine!

  4. My daughter was in a not so healthy relationship with a boy and thankfully she is out of it now, but it took a lot for her to see. She very much had the fear no one else would want her and thought as I did for so many years with her father, that she was responsible for setting off her boyfriend’s anger. I used to believe that with my husband and made excuses, till I finally learned there would never be enough I could do to keep him from getting angry.

    1. I’m so glad you and your daughter learned, left and grew from your experiences. Getting involved in domestic violent relationships is largely a function of learning by what we saw or how we were treated. A lot of mother’s I speak with who want me to “save” their daughters from abusive partners were once in abusive relationships themselves. I’m thinking it may be just as important to talk to our kids about abusive relationships and how to recognize and leave them, as we do about drugs and alcohol. Often times parents think “Well she saw what I went through with her father (or whom ever) so she should know better” when in actuality often the other message is sent, that it’s okay and you should stay in abusive relationships. For both you and your daughter I am very happy and proud.

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