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Why do some women, who have been abused by their intimate partner, return to these men?


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In one fashion or another, this question is the one we hear most often…why does she stay?...why did she go back?...what’s wrong with her?...and so on and on and on. We are virtually never asked why he does it…why does he stay?...what’s wrong with him?

Although it can be very frustrating to hear the same tired refrain over and over ad nauseam, this refrain sadly remains the prevailing public opinion. The dynamics of men’s domestic and sexual violence against women, children and other men is obviously not an easy concept to grasp.

This question, regardless of how exactly it is asked, holds the victims of men’s violence responsible for these men’s choices. The presumption would seem to be that if a particular woman would just do something different than what she is currently doing/saying/living/hoping/ then…? Blaming children persists in being a wee bit more difficult but not impossible as witnessed by statements such as: a toddler’s alluring behavior enticing him, the child’s mother’s refusal to service his needs, he was attempting to educate the child, and the child started “it”.

We collectively are not comfortable referring to men who choose to be violent toward their intimate partner and children, but, we seem quite comfortable referring to battered women and abused children as if they find themselves in this condition by happenstance. We routinely ignore the active agent (him) without batting an eye. We more often than not accept his hackneyed excuses of:

alcohol and/or drug use
employment problems
anger issues
depression
this is the first time anything like this has ever happened, and
the most popular and well-received of all:
she did,
she didn’t,
she should have,
if she had
if she hadn’t,
she takes “things” too seriously,
you don’t know what it’s like to be married to her, etc.

It’s as if his total refusal to accept any responsibility for his choices and actions were not his to make at all. He magically goes from violent perpetrator to victim without so much as a raised eyebrow.

There are many legitimate reasons why a woman who has been abused by her intimate partner might feel she has no choice other than to return and we will get to those but, first let’s take a look at why he would do it because the active agent always comes first.

He does “it” because the rewards are greater than the punishment.

Rules of Consequences
1. Consequences which give rewards increase a behavior.
2. Consequences which give punishments decrease a behavior.
3. Consequences which give neither rewards nor punishments extinguish a behavior.

Excellent resource:

Some very basic truths:

  1. It takes two people to make a relationship work, but only one to destroy it.
  2. When a situation becomes violent, both partners are not responsible for it; there is always a primary aggressor.
  3. Anger does not cause violence.
  4. It is not natural for a man to strike out physically if his feelings have been hurt.
  5. Anyone can change, including men, if they choose to.
  6. It is not okay for a man to put his fist through a wall, or slash the car tires, or break all the dishes, or throw all the babies supplies off the balcony because it’s his house.
  7. A man’s abuse of his intimate partner has everything to do with the kind of parent he is and none of it is good.
  8. The sole purpose for using violence and intimidation is to gain power and control over another.
  9. Alcohol use does not cause violence.
  10. Drug use does not cause violence with the possible exceptions of extended anabolic steroids or methamphetamine use.
  11. A marriage certificate is not a certificate of ownership.
  12. A birth certificate is not a certificate of ownership.
  13. Women are not just as violent as men. 99% of rapes are committed by heterosexual males upon everyone else and over 90% of chargeable batteries are committed by heterosexual males upon everyone else.
  14. No one deserves or enjoys being abused.
  15. Animal abuse is a screaming red flag of impending people abuse.
  16. Very few abusive men have a legitimate mental disorder which has been accurately diagnosed by a mental health professional.
  17. Attending a house of worship does not guarantee that a man will not be abusive.
  18. Couples or marriage counseling is a very dangerous option for abusive men to be enrolled in.
  19. Extreme jealousy does not mean a man thinks his partner is so fabulous that he feels he must protect her because every man who sees her will be unable to control himself. It means he does not trust her, that he owns her, and that she isn’t going to draw a breath he doesn’t know about.
  20. Abusive men do not snap, they are in total control of what they choose to do and why.
  21. Men who abuse their partners do not believe a single word of the preceding.

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

Words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
The Beatles

Well I'd rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man.
You'd better keep your head little girl, or you won't know where I am.
You'd better run for your life if you can, little girl;
Hide your head in the sand little girl,
Catch you with another man, that's the end, little girl.

Well, you know that I'm a wicked guy, and I was born with a jealous mind.
And I can't spend my whole life tryin' just to make you toe the line.
You'd better run for your life if you can, little girl;
Hide your head in the sand little girl,
Catch you with another man, that's the end, little girl.

Let this be a sermon; I mean everything I said.
Baby, I'm determined and I'd rather see you dead.

You'd better run for your life if you can, little girl;
Hide your head in the sand little girl,
Catch you with another man, that's the end, little girl.

Why might she return to him?

“Keep your friends close; hold your enemies closer” Arabian Proverb
  1. A lack of financial resources is the number one reason why women who have been abused return to the man who abused them.
  2. Fear for her safety and the safety of her children. Where is he…when will he pop up…what is he planning to do? Sadly, it may be safer to stay so it’s possible for her to keep an eye and ear on him. Victims are up to 75% more likely to be murdered when they flee. Leaving/fleeing is the most deadly time in an abusive relationship.
  3. Contrary to popular belief, most fathers who attempt to gain custody of their children do so successfully and abusive men are much more likely to attempt to gain custody then non-abusive men.
  4. Abusive men often use nonpayment of child support as a means of harassing the victim and forcing her to return. She had been a wife and mother for years, so her education is frequently either incomplete or obsolete. She may have no job prospects or job training and is looking at a life in poverty.
  5. She and the children are homeless. Since they're homeless, she risks losing custody of her children to her husband. And if he gets physical custody she won't be able to defend them.
  6. Fear that her children will be taken from her. Abusive men nearly always threaten that they will take the children from the victim either legally or illegally if she dares to leave the relationship.
  7. One of her children has a fairly serious medical condition, like asthma or allergies, both of which are very common ailments in children with an abusive father. But the insurance is in her husband's name, so medical care is not available or extremely difficult to access.
  8. They're hungry, and she has no idea where she will get their next meal.
  9. No transportation. Women who have been abused by a man often cannot leave their home because of lack of transportation. She may not have access to a vehicle, or a driver’s license. Even if she does have a vehicle, she may be reluctant to drive to appointments with service providers for fear the abuser will check mileage.
  10. Security. Many women have never lived anywhere else, and leaving the security of a family and friends is a giant step into the unknown.
  11. Children are begging to return. It is difficult to ignore the pleas of children to return to their homes, even when a woman who has been abused by a man knows that the situation is unsafe.
  12. No childcare. There is a severe shortage of childcare, particularly in rural areas. Mothers who work outside the home often have to piece together childcare arrangements that includes friends and relatives, or they must transport their children to another community where childcare is available. Mothers are often worried about the emotional and physical well-being of their young children or that their abusive mate will take the children while she is at work.
  13. Religious reasons. Churches are often the backbone of the social fabric in small towns and rural communities in particular. Many rural women are deeply religious, and deeply opposed to breaking up the family. Additionally, many religious leaders are strongly opposed to divorce regardless of the reason…till death do us part.
  14. Extended Family. Family plays a huge role in the lives of women who have been abused by a man. Family provides comfort and security, and sometimes is the only social outlet. Homes, businesses, and farms are often intertwined among extended family members. Preserving the relationship is vital to the emotional and financial health of each individual. Divorce wreaks havoc on this intricate structure. Women who have been abused by a man are often pressured to stay with these abusive men for the sake of the family.
  15. Abusive men deliberately create these situations. They coerce their victims to stay by systematically destroying all other options.

And now we have the answer:

Because… EVERYTHING is stacked against her.

Myth: Victims of domestic violence never leave their abusers, or if they do, they just get involved in other abusive relationships.

Fact: Most victims of domestic violence leave their abusers, often several times. It may take a number of attempts to permanently separate because abusers use violence, financial control, or threats about the children, to compel victims to return. Additionally, a lack of support from friends, family members, or professionals, such as court personnel, law enforcement officers, counselors, or clergy members, may cause victims to return. Since the risk of further violence often increases after victims separate from their abusers, it can be even harder for victims to leave if they cannot obtain effective legal relief. Victims who receive appropriate legal assistance at an early stage increase their chances of obtaining the protection and financial security they need to leave their abusers permanently. While some victims may become involved with other partners who later begin to abuse them, there is no evidence that the majority of victims have this experience.

And if all of the above were not reason enough to return, consider the following likely problems:

Reactions to abuse:

Victims of abuse are often full of intense and often conflicting emotions. People that have not been in an abusive relationship cannot understand how you can still love or care about someone that abuses you: she did not become involved with a monster and even now he isn’t always cruel, he is still extremely kind between his ugliness and attacks. Emotions cannot be turned on or off like a light. You can feel quite torn between loving the person and being afraid of them. You may experience all feelings listed or just a few. Sometimes feelings may flow from one to another and back again. Holding on to (and not be allowed to escape) negative emotions slowly kills the spirit.

alienation
anxiety
chronic fear
depression
despair
failure
feeling incompetent
grief
involuntary fear
irritability
low self-esteem
mistrust or dislike of opposite gender
numb
self-blame
self-doubt
self hatred
suppressed anger
vulnerability
worthlessness

Abuse can affect a person’s health. Stress has detrimental effect on a person's health. Illnesses already present may worsen with the stress. Otherwise healthy people may have physical reactions to stress, in addition to injuries inflicted during his attacks.

Stress reactions & physical injuries commonly seen with women who have been abused by their partner:

Alcoholism
Allergic skin reactions
Anorexia
Bulimia
Chronic Fatigue
Concentration difficulties that result in situations such as decreased job performance
Drug abuse (prescription and street)
Headaches
Heart palpitations
High blood pressure
Insomnia
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Memory loss
Overeating
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Premature labor and/or low birth-weight infant
Stomach ailments, ulcers
Burns (particularly those the size and shape of a cigarette)
Finger, hand, foot (heal and/or toe of boot or shoe) shaped bruising
Bruising in various stages of healing
Bite marks
Unusual bruising such as long and equally spaced or in areas not likely to be accidentally injured
Back trauma (being kicked, drug, slammed, and punched)
“Rug” burns from being drug
Puncture wounds
Broken jaw
Evidence of nails having been dug into skin
Hair pulled out
Outer ear injury, ex. “cauliflower ear”, earring torn out, etc.
Arm dislocated
Throat striations (strangling)
Petechiea
Digits broken or sprained from being bent backward
Jaw injury
Teeth loose or knocked out
Split lip
Eye injury
Concussions and skull factures
STD’s
Breast, vaginal and/or anal injury
“Mounting” injuries (bruising on upper, inner thigh region)
Menstrual problems
Urinary tract infections
Ligature marks
Pre-existing condition not being properly cared for, particularly if condition requires medication (abuser may refuse to pay for medication and/or hide/destroy/use her medication)

Any one or two of the preceding can be debilitating; tragically, many women who are being abused by their partner exhibit numerous of these reactions and injuries.


New Brunswick Police Department

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