If women didn’t put up with domestic violence, there would be no domestic violence.
I don’t expect this article to be popular, especially with women who have been victims of domestic abuse. My mother used to say something I didn’t understand until I had become a victim myself. She would say, “If a woman stays after being beaten by a man, she is just as responsible as the man beating her. It was those words that reverberated through my brain the day my ex punched me in the face and, it was those words that spurred me into action and getting myself as far away from him as I possibly could. I knew that if I stayed he would punch me again and by staying I would be giving him implied permission to do so.
Domestic Violence comes in many forms. The abuser can be physically aggressive, emotional cruel or verbally sadistic. I once had a therapist tell me that 20% of all marriages are “inflicted” with some form of domestic violence.
What is domestic violence? You would think there would be no need for such a question, that the answer would be obvious. Those subjected to long-term domestic violence have such low self-esteem they don’t trust their own judgment. They need someone else to tell them what most of us can clearly see.
And that is the problem, the fact that those being abused deny it in the beginning and to the point of not even recognizing themselves that they are being abused. That is what gives the abuser his/her power…the willingness of the victim to stay instead of leave at the first sign of abuse.
It is my belief that people who are abused allow themselves to be abused and the only way to break free from an abuser is to take responsibility for staying when they should have left. If people didn’t put up with domestic violence, there would be no domestic violence.
My first marriage lasted nine months. It ended the day he punched me in the face. I had no car, no money but I did have someone willing to drive ten hours, pick me up and get me to safety. I left that marriage with the clothes on my back and what I could get in a suitcase. When I left I was running toward nothing. But that nothing looked better than what I would have had to accept from my husband and about myself if I had chosen to stay.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse you have choices. You can:
- Point out to your spouse when you feel he/she is being abusive.
- Set firm boundaries about how you will be treated and stand your ground.
- Leave if your spouse is not willing to admit to a problem and seek help.
You may find it easier to stay and try to break the cycle of violence. You may believe that reason and logic will change the abuser. You may feel it only fair that you give the abuser a second chance. You may believe that deep down the abuser’s intentions are good, that he/she doesn’t mean to hurt you.
Or, you may not be quite ready to emotionally accept something so incomprehensible as the person you love wants to do you physical and emotional harm.
Whatever your reason for staying you may feel it worth making the effort to save your marriage. There are times when an abuser recognizes that his/her abusive behavior no longer gets the reaction he/she wishes. That can spur the abuser to change. But, it’s very unlikely!
Please be aware though, if you stay and the abuse continues not only does the abuser have issues, you do also. An abuser will not have to deal with his/her “issues” until you no longer allow yourself to be abused.
If you do choose to stay and “fix” the problems I suggest you try the following:
- Talk in specific detail about the abuse with the abuser.
- Set boundaries for what is and isn’t appropriate treatment of you by the abuser.
- Give the abuser a time limit to change. Tell the abuser you expect him/her to enter treatment within a certain time frame and if there are no changes in the abusive behavior you will leave.
- Abusers use words to try and win their victims back. Pay attention to behaviors, not words. Be aware at all times of how the abuser is acting toward you, not to the sweet words they are saying to you.
- If the abuse doesn’t stop, leave.
In my case, one punch in the nose was enough of a reality adjustment for me to say to myself, “I won’t give him the opportunity to do that to me again.” If I had not left I would have become as responsible as him and I wasn’t willing to take on that responsibility.