My post today is my response to a blog post entitled Battered Women Syndrome and Why Women Stay in Abusive Relationships.
The worse case scenario is death, and those women at risk sense it when there’s no visible evidence of her danger to others. Other women fear the ongoing vindictive behaviors that will be relentless in trying to destroy her in other ways (finances, parenting, family, her workplace). Dependency is a huge issue when it’s happened over time, and removed avenues for the victim to re-establish independence. The victim typically has impaired health as her body was drained by processing the pain of her soul, and the breaking down of her spirit. The body doesn’t lie. Investment? Absolutely true. There is often no way to pretty the details, and there’s not a second chance for many.
Complicated and simple. Yes. Abuse is always about power and control, no matter which face it wears, or how it’s expressed. Physical violence uses overt bullying to produce fear. Emotional violence can be spoken softly, even with a kind of charming false sweetness or humor, but still leave someone diminished. It’s always about shifting the balance of power in favor of the abusive partner that needs to feel in control of the other.
When I first became acquainted with an online community of women that were survivors of relational abuse, I met women from every walk of life. The need to control and have power over someone was used against a dentist, the dean of a university, a veterinarian, a psychologist/therapist, a university professor, an attorney, an I.T. professional, a nurse, a teacher, and a SAHM on a rather equal opportunity basis. You would be hard pressed to find commonalities with the victims of abuse, other than being abused.
Although the women weren’t alike, their stories of how they were abused were similar, and the impact of it on them was also similar. You can read about those warning signs, one of which is that this kind of man typically intensely pursues in the beginning. The women can be love bombed without being aware that it’s not about him really seeing her and loving her, but quickly securing her. From that point, his attention she mistakes for love becomes slowly interchanged with his behaviors that diminish her, destabilize her, isolate her, and weaken her. Although there’s usually a recognizable cycle, the very unpredictable and inconsistent part of his behaviors work to keep her off kilter, isolated, and in a kind of fog.
Typically the men who abuse are well liked by their neighbors, acquaintances, and co-workers. This means their abused partner is constantly receiving messages about what a great guy he is, which works to create a kind of cognitive dissonance that slides her deeper into the fog. When the police officer who might be called is statistically likely to be abusive at home, when needed education and proper training is still lacking among law enforcement, you’ll continue to see horror stories of officers coming on the scene and either leaving the woman and child unprotected (which emboldens the abuser to behave even worse), or arresting the victim for any reactive behaviors when she was trying to defend herself. This is the current reality, and most women in these situations are aware of it, which means their abusers are also aware and operating with a kind of brazen impunity.
Women who find themselves wanting to leave an abusive relationship need understanding, validation, and practical support that will help provide a path to disentangle the enmeshment in the areas of finances, medical needs, and housing etc. For those women who are afraid and know in their gut that their partner would physically harm or even kill them, there needs to be more truly safe houses available, and much more stringent laws that provide restraining orders that are actually useful. The system as it is doesn’t protect women. When you read about women being murdered by a partner that they left, those women usually had tried to utilize every step offered by the current legal system.
If you wish to understand why an abused woman stays, then you have to be willing to see beyond what you wish to see in that great guy who’s abusing her.