Last week in part 6 of our 8 part series on Why Women Stay I discussed how culture and family issues can keep abused women in relationships longer.
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.
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.
Other forms of abuse can take place. Just to name a few: harassment when returning 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 it’s 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: http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/get-help-for-violence/safety-planning-for-abusive-situations.html
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.