Contributed by: Jessica Brumbaugh, LMSW, SPCC Evaluation & Program Director
With recent headline news involving domestic violence, SPCC thought we might add some of our thoughts, as a group of professionals who work with women* and children facing similar and horrifying life circumstances. For many people, the question “Why doesn’t she leave?” immediately pops up in our minds, similar to “why wouldn’t someone swerve to the side when they see an oncoming car?” Unfortunately, relationships riddled with domestic violence are not as simple to navigate, and usually do not begin violent. They often begin in all too common ways…two people, attracted to each other’s best sides, expressing their love, care and commitment to each other. And then, things change. For some the change happens overnight. For others the change is slow – an almost imperceptible shift from health to abuse. And what used to be a positive, life-giving relationship begins to appear differently. Tone of voice changes. Behaviors change. Rules and expectations begin to surface. And suddenly, one person is in control. One person sets the tone. And one person delivers the consequences.
To complicate matters, we know that domestic violence in the home increases the risk of child maltreatment and that children are also more likely to intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent – placing them at great risk for injury or even death. (NCADV.org)
So Why Doesn’t She Leave?
Some facts to consider:
- Only 20% of intimate partner violence (IPV) victims who seek orders of protection in court actually obtain them.
- Of those who do obtain protection orders, 50% report that the perpetrator has violated the order.
- 1/3 of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
- A victim of IPV is at the greatest risk of being killed at the time they leave and during the two weeks that follow. (Studies show that the victim is 77 times more likely to be killed during this time frame.)
Sources: National Center Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org), Safe Horizon (safehorizon.org)
Common Barriers & Thoughts for women considering leaving:
- Lack of resources
I have no money or job
I have no friends or contacts (isolation)
- Family Responsibilities & Values
I don’t want to lose my children
My children need a father
Leaving goes against my faith
- Feelings & Beliefs
I’m sure he will change. He’s good inside.
He loves me. No one else will love me. (low self-esteem)
- Fears about leaving
He said he’ll kill me
He said he will take the children
I have nowhere to go
He threatens to kill himself
The police & court will never believe me
We hope that by reading through some of these tough realities for women and their children who are experiencing domestic violence, you will be equipped with facts and a deeper level of understanding. And that in doing so, you will also be able to stand up in any way possible for the silent victims of domestic violence that are often unheard, unseen and yet exist in every community in this country and beyond.
For more information, and to learn how you can help support victims of domestic violence, please visit the following sites:
*85% of domestic violence victims are women. (NCADV.org)