For this assignment, I served as a volunteer for the Annual Domestic Violence Awareness event hosted by the Cameron County District Attorneys office. The event focused on highlighting the effects of domestic abuse, and how to report it. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, and nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. However, only a small percentage of these are reported to the authorities. During the event, one of the speakers mentioned that most women who are being abused by their partners do not report it, so why do they stay?
Its easy to just assume that victims of domestic violence can simply just say enough is enough and walk away for good. Yes, that would be the logical thing to do, but that’s not the case. Many victims of abuse will stay with their partners because they have become dependent on them, whether it be financially, or emotionally. Not only that, but as victims habituate oneself to abusive behavior, the verbal or psychological methods can gain a strong foothold in the minds of the victims making it even more difficult over time for them to recognize the severity of the abuse. One speaker gave an example of this. He told a story about a family he met while working as a probation officer in the domestic violence unit.
After serving time for domestic abuse against his wife, the offender was let out on parole. The probation officer in charge of the offenders case carried out a routine home visit where he explained to the offender the conditions of his parole, one being that he would have to find residence elsewhere. Therefore, the offender could no longer reside in the same home as his wife and two children because he was now a threat to their safety. In response to this news the wife, whom was a victim of the husbands abuse, responded with, “but I have not worked since I was 18, how will I do it without him”. Unfortunately, this has become far too common. Without the ability to support themselves, women are often forced to stay in abusive relationships and are therefore not able to be free from the violence. A lot of women also fear that their abusers will harm them if they go to the authorities. In most cases, abusers usually go to extremes to prevent the victim from leaving.
In fact, leaving an abuser just might be the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. One study found in interviews with men who have killed their wives that either threats of leaving by their partner or actual separations were most often what triggered the events that lead to the murder (NCADV). A victim’s reasons for staying with their abusers are usually very complex and, in most cases, are based on the reality that their abuser will go through with whatever threats they have used to keep them trapped. That makes me wonder if that is what led to the death of one of the speaker’s daughters. The victims name was Sarah, and she was married to a seemingly good man who turned out to be extremely violent.
Her mother, who spoke on Sarah’s behalf, told stories about her daughter not wanting to leave despite the reality of their relationship. She would often defend her perpetrator by saying, “he didn’t mean it”, or try to put the blame on herself to justify her husbands actions. Ultimately, this led to her death. Had Sarah finally had enough? If so, was she putting her life on the line by trying to escape? No matter, Sarah will never be able to live the life that she so deserved, and because of this, her perpetrator was sentenced to life without parole.
The event was concluded by offering ways in which we can help those who are in the same situation as Sarah. When in doubt, report it. Victims may often feel invisible and like they have no one to turn to. They may be worried that no one will understand or take them seriously. Leaving a life of abuse takes a lot of strength and courage and one should never have to do it alone. We only get one shot at life, and therefore, it should be lived to the fullest.
- Kaur, R., & Garg, S. (2008). Addressing domestic violence against women: an unfinished agenda. Indian journal of community medicine : official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine, 33(2), 73-6.