With all the recent media coverage of domestic violence, I have once again found myself shocked and disappointed by the victim blaming. This demonstrates how uneducated we are on the topic. I think our society lacks an understanding of both the depth and breadth of domestic abuse in our culture and its’ insidious nature.
I was raised in a middle class home and while my parents had their disagreements, I had no exposure until I started college. I was a tutor and had two non-traditional students I was working with and became surprised to find out they were both victims of violence within the home. I was touched enough by their stories and the fact they were using education to start a new life, I decided to change my career path. As with many people, I had no framework to assimilate their situation and I too asked myself why did they stay? How could they allow themselves to be treated with such disregard, to be seen as a non-valued object as opposed to a person? At some point in the future I was shocked to find myself in a situation where fear and intimidation were used a means of manipulation within my relationship. I was surprised at the stealth nature of domestic abuse.
Domestic violence has its roots in the need for power and domination. It affects relationships at all socio-economic levels, spanning all racial backgrounds, all sexual orientations and while women are more likely to be victims, it does not discriminate based on gender. We typically consider abuse as the clear physical violence but the abuse can also be psychological/emotional. The use of fear, shame, guilt and intimidation is typical by the abuser to gain and maintain control. While it may occur early in the relationship, it is quite typical to have this occur slowly in subtle ways at which point one realizes what is occurring it is difficult to leave. An abuser will not begin a relationship at his/her pinnacle performance; typically, they do not hit or shame on the first date. Domestic abusers are sly and artful in their manipulations and once they receive perceived complicity, they begin the commission of the most dreadful acts.
While I was never overtly beaten, the covert abuse has left its damage. There were many times I would have loved to leave and could not while there were other times in the relationship where I thought if I just tried harder, if I loved more, if I was patient….. more ifs than I could ever fulfill. We stay for our own personal reasons, we stay because we know not where to go, we stay because we may perceive it as being safer than to flee, we stay because we can make it better, we stay because we hope, we stay because love, we stay…
I recognize that some of the questions are coming from a need to understand but we need to reframe our inquiries, to ask if they want to share their stories and have faith that no one ever wants to be a victim. The victim has a large enough burden to bear without additional weight of blaming questions.
“Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos.”
Below are two sites that provide great insight to Domestic Abuse
Leslie Morgan Steiner has some great insight on why victims do not leave. Jackson Katz also adds prospective on how this is everyone’s issue.
Below is an UpWorthy story of the tweets women have shared.