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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Why Does She Stay?

Try not to cringe, but I've written a whole post on why women stay in abusive relationships. If you think it's tough to read about, count your lucky ducks you haven't lived it.
It’s common for people to be nonchalant about violence against women, because there’s often this train of thought that whispers, “If she was really being treated that badly, she would just leave.” After all, if you touch a stove, and the stove burns you, you don’t put your hand there next time. But abuse is hardly ever that simple. I could write a whole book on the logic which keeps women intertwined in abusive relationship, but I’ll conserve space. Here’s my condensed version:

1. Safety. At first it seems backward that a woman would stay with a violent guy because they fear for their physical safety. One too many outbursts with the guy and the girl could find herself hospitalized, right? But think for a second, of the alternative. Abusers are at their peak every time a woman tries to leave.(fourth paragraph down of link). If he’s verbally and/or emotionally abusive while you’re still with him, it’s bound to escalate, and quite possibly become physical when you’re trying to get out. Women that live with their abusive partners then, are often left weighing the lesser of two terrifying evils: If you stay he’ll hurt you, if you try to leave, he’ll hurt you badly, or kill you.
2. One Big Mindfuck. I remember entering into my counselor's office for the first time when I was trying to leave my abusive relationship. It was a whole big thing for me, this counseling thing. She started off by asking how he mistreated me. I explained that he had a way of cutting me down and then being nice the next day (or soon after) and acting as if nothing had ever happened. My counselor nodded understandably, asking if he had ever hit me or done anything physically unwanted. “Only a couple times, not really though.” I didn’t want her to think I was looking for attention. And, I didn’t want to make it any bigger or more real than it already felt.
“Not really though,” is key here. Not only does it show the extreme denial of circumstance and intense minimization, but the deep confusion that resulted from a lot of emotional manipulation. Being hit or touched in a way that is unwanted is usually pretty cut-and-dry, and yet I wasn’t sure what I had encountered. As a coping mechanism, many women repress and deny what is happening to them in order not to breakdown, or because they can’t deal with their worst fears being their reality. When they are in such a state of natural denial and perpetual minimization, the concept of leaving is almost unfathomable.
3. Stockholm Syndrome. This is a branch off the Mindfuck tree, but it is big enough to stand on its own. It means that the woman stays not only because she thinks the man needs her, but because the man regularly attempts to persuade her that he can’t live without her. This can be as subtle as a million texts about wanting to blow his own head off while she’s out at the bar (after a breakup), or as overt as showing up unwelcomed, threatening to kill himself if she actually leaves. As with all abuse scenarios, there’s a plethora of different varieties and methods under which this emotional manipulation occurs, but the end goal is the same: power and control.
4. Financial Obligation/ Reliance. Sometimes, amongst all the emotional manipulation, the abuser has gained control of the woman’s finances. This happens most evidently in marriages or unions where children are involved. I’ve heard of girls being given weekly “allowances” in marriages, giving them barely enough to get by and leaving them stranded if they run. The money dangles over their head as a reminder of the ties they have with their partner, making it nearly impossible to leave.
I once had it explained to me that being in an abusive relationship is like standing too close to a painting. You can see all the colors and have taken in many of the details, but it isn’t until you step back that you see what the painting really is. Abuse can be like that. We as women become so used to the patterns and intricacies involved in the mistreatment, that everytime an abusive partner gaslights us or throws an apology our way, we fail to see the bigger picture, and the abuse cycle continues on. On average, a woman in an abusive relationship makes 7 attempts to leave before she gets out for good(see last paragraph of this link). And that doesn't count "breaks" or short-lived break-ups, these are 7 whopping big attempts. As in, moving a suitcase of your stuff in and out 5+2 times before the big good riddance.And maybe now, you know a bit more about why that is.
**Please note that I am in no way an expert and have left a lot out, for the sake of my short-attentioned readers. If you want to add or complain, feel free to comment. If you think you might be in a shitty relationship, here's a good summary of the cycle of abuse.

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