Last week in part 6 of our 8 part series on ‘Why Women Stay’ I discussed how society and preconceived beliefs can keep abused women in relationships longer. Remember, I’m asking the wrong question. ‘Why would she stay?’ should be any of the following: why does he abuse her, why is this allowed to happen when it’s a crime, how can we help her leave? There are many questions that can be asked instead of putting the burden on the abused woman.
This week I’d like to discuss how difficult and dangerous separating from the abuser can be. I have a very frightening statistic for you: Battered women seek medical attention for injuries sustained as a consequence of domestic violence significantly more often AFTER separation than while still living with the abuser; about 75% of the visits to emergency rooms by battered women occur after separation (Stark and Flitcraft, 1988).
Violence after separation is more prevalent than during the relationship. This is shocking to me. An Order of Protection can be granted, but it is only a piece of paper and doesn’t physically protect the victim. If you have an Order of Protection you must be prepared to call the police if it is violated.
Control is the issue here. When a woman leaves, the abuser is losing control and this drives him to try to gain back the control of the relationship by making her choice to leave one that she will regret.
Many forms of abuse can take place. Just to name a few: harassment when exchanging the children, hanging out in her neighborhood, calling or texting her constantly, not sharing information or cooperating with children’s activities, not allowing her to see children at their events, lying to children and telling them everything is all her fault. He may threaten to take the children away from her, lie to the court, or even threaten to kill the children.
A woman must have a plan to leave—she is often leaving her own home. What does she need to bring with her? Can she take the kids?
Here are two great websites that give information on making a plan to leave: Safety planning and safety during a violent incident.
If you know if a friend or family member who is considering leaving her abuser, it is important to talk to her about a safety plan. Guide her to the local domestic violence organization or shelter. They can help her come up with a plan that is safe for her and her children.
Remember, if we can help just one woman, we’ve done our job.
Please note: If you are in an abusive relationship, please reach out to your local domestic violence organization or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
Men are victims of domestic violence, too. For this series I am focusing on women and why they stay as long as they do.