Family violence is any form of violence, force, intimidation and threats within intimate and family relationships. It is characterized by use of force by one partner or family member over another. Family violence is intentional and systematic, and at times it increases in severity and frequency as time does by. Family violence is one of the most common forms of crime in the society today. Physical Violence in American Families states that just over 16 percent or one out of six, couples in the United States experienced an occurrence involving physical attack during 1985 (Hage, 2006).
There are many reasons behind family violence, as are adverse effects of the crime. The family constitutes a system in society. This means that violence in any part of the system amounts to violence in every part. This means that abuse towards the mother equals to abuse towards the children. The center of family violence is the need for the abuser to be in power and gain control over the victim. Abuse against the victim can be physical, emotional or sexual. There are various ways through which the abuser affects the sense of power and security of the victim.
They include: isolation; threats; verbal abuse; and intimidation. Family violence takes place in all social and cultural groups (Felson, Ackerman and Yeon, 2003). The victim in family violence can be the woman, man or a child. This paper looks at the case where the victim is the woman and the reasons why they stay in an abusive marriage. There are very many women who are stuck in abusive relationships and marriages without leaving. They put up with different forms of abuse from their male partners. It is common to hear people wondering why these women continue staying in abusive relationships.
This kind of question tends to put blame on the victim and suggesting that they enjoy staying in the abusive relationship (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000). They concentrate on blaming the victim without looking at the factors that hinder them from making the decision to leave. Some people within the society view leaving the relationship as the easy way out for the victim. People outside the relationship have the general believe that if a woman wants to leave an abusive relationship, she can easily leave. There are different attitudes towards the victims of family violence.
Some see them as having low-self esteem and lack of independence. These are some of the common myths about the victims of family violence. The fact is that the reasons why they choose to stay are more complex than a general notion about the character and will power of the victim. Family violence is not the fault of the victim and there are many factors that affect the victim and their ability to move out of an abusive relationship (Lawless, 2008). Phases in a violence cycle In the violence cycle there are three phases: tensions building; abusive; and honeymoon phase. There various reasons why the victim stays through these three phases.
When a woman is in a family where the husband is abusive, she experiences various emotions. In the violence phase, the woman is usually afraid of the husband. She is afraid of what the man is likely to do to her and her children if she tries to leave. The husband does not want the relationship to be over since he still wants to be in power and control (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000). Fear in this phase is what makes the victim to stay. Once the violence is finished and the partners are in the honeymoon phase, the wife may experience renewed love towards the husband or partner.
During this phase, the husband gets in his best behavior and the wife is reminded of all the best qualities she loves in him (Amato, 2007). The wife believes that the person she fell in love with is still there. In this phase the abuser might feel remorseful and apologetic. The woman falls for this and opts to stay. In the tension building phase, the wife holds on to a sense of hope; more than anything the wife wants the relationship to work. She wants to believe everything the partner says at this moment and also wants him to mean everything he says.
Together with the fear, love and hope, the woman experiences shame, embarrassment and isolation and cannot leave the abuser (Felson, Ackerman and Yeon, 2003). Other reasons There are various categories of reasons as to why women hold on to abusive relationships. Discussed below are four of them: lack of resources; institutional responses; traditional ideology; and character of the abuser (Peled and Sacks, 2008). Lack of resources Most women have children who depend on them. Children are the most common reason why women remain in abusive relationships.
In case a woman cannot provide for her child or children once she is out of the relationship, she will feel obliged to put up with the abusive father rather than leave and have the child or children suffer. Again women feel afraid of leaving their children under the care of an abusive spouse. As earlier mentioned the family is a system and abuse to one part of the system equals to abuse in other parts. Where a mother experiences abuse within the family, the children also suffer, even if not in the same magnitude (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000).
A mother will opt to stay in the relationship rather than leave with the children whom she cannot adequately provide for, or leave then behind with an abusive father. This means that some of the victims of family violence stay for the sake of their children, so that their fathers will not get custody, which is likely where the mother cannot adequately provide for them or is blamed of abandoning her family. Some of the victims argue that they need to stay so that their children can have a father, quality education, secure neighborhood or financial security.
These are some of the things most of them cannot provide for the children once they are out of the relationship. To some women, leaving will mean a decline in living standards for her and her children. Some fear this and will therefore choose to stay on rather than leave and settle for a low life. Some of them live comfortably through financial resources provided by their partners. This kind of life is threatened by their leaving their home (Oths and Robertson, 2007). Some women stay in abusive relationships due to sexism.
An abused woman will leave the relationship where she has adequate resources to enable her and probably her children to survive without him. In most cases, women lack financial resources equivalent or approaching men. Nearly half of the female headed households live in poverty. This is as compared to only 8 percent male headed families. Most of the African American and Latino feminine headed families live below the poverty level. Many of the women who leave their partners find it hard to get employed because their partners can spoil their employment record by following and bothering her at work.
Moving out of the relationship will mean failure to offer the family the kind of life it was used to. This thought will make a victim stay in an abusive relationship for fear of facing the likely blink future (Lawless, 2008). Many women are homemakers and unemployed outside the home. These women totally rely on their partners to provide for the family and their basic needs. Such women are uncertain over their finances and ability to cater for their needs once they are out of the relationship. Some women have been forbidden by their husband from working, leaving them as sole breadwinners for the family.
Since getting into the relationship the woman has never held any form of formal employment. Such women will be afraid of leaving since they are not sure of their financial situation once they have left their provider. This category of victims stays in an abusive relationship not only for their children, but also for themselves. Getting employed after leaving is not easy as the partner may make things hard for her (Felson, Ackerman and Yeon, 2003). Some women do not own property that is exclusively theirs. Most people after marriage put together their resources and purchase others as a family.
This is where they own joint assets. This means that the woman does not have any property under her name. Some of them will stay in an abusive relationship because they do not have a place to go or have their own resources to benefit from. Sometimes the only way to separate resources or properties that belong to the family or the partner is to undertake a legal battle with the partner. The woman might be uncertain about the process or lack the financial resources to compete with him. It might seem easier for the victim to stay rather that going through this process, whose outcome she is not sure about.
Sometimes the man might threaten to keep everything once she leaves him. There is not sure way of getting justice, therefore the sure way for her will only be staying (Oths and Robertson, 2007). Related to property is lack of access to finances or cash accounts. Some families have joint accounts where they cannot access alone. This means that they cannot get any money to enable them leave their partners. Without money, they are tied to their partners for financial help. Others are afraid that once they move out of the relationship, their finances will be lost for ever.
They cannot go because the only way they can access the money is straying with their partners. As mentioned, abusers do so to exert power and control over their victims. Some of the abusers take financial documents from their victims such that they cannot access their accounts, this way they are assured that their partners cannot move out of the relationship. This mostly happens where the abuser suspects that the victim is contemplating leaving them. They will do everything in the power to keep them including hiding their credits cards and other means of accessing finances (Lawless, 2008). Institutional responses
In most cases, marriage counselors are trained to look from the perspective of saving the marriage at all costs rather than stopping the violence. Once the victim goes for counseling, she will be made to find the ways of making the marriage work. Doctors, counselors and clergymen do not take abuse seriously and will most of the time send the woman back home to her husband. They will never be advised on ending the marriage. Particularly clergy counselors will never advocate for divorce as it is against God’s will for married couples. Faith in God advocates for marriage and the teaching that God hates divorce (Moyo, 2004).
Listening to such counsels means that the woman will stay in the marriage contemplating all the possible ways of saving it. Some of the victims stay believing that therapy will assist their partners to quit being violence. Having the partner accept to go for therapy or marriage counseling raises the hope of the victim in saving the marriage. She reasons that the partner will be cured by the therapy. Her hopes are supported by the expert who is carrying out the therapy for she sees him or her as the expert who will work miracles for her marriage, end the violence and restore the relationship.
All women want the abuse to end and none wants the relationship to come to an end. As long as there is this hope, the woman will stay on as long as it takes. The woman will stay as long as it takes especially where the abuser shows some signs of changing like accepting to take the therapy sessions or seeing a marriage counselor (Himes and Coriden, 2004). Most of the women who are Christians will be taught to submit to their husbands and that divorce is hated by God. As a result, they will stay in the marriage no matter what.
Some women believe that their husbands have power over them and that they are meant to submit to their will. They are given the authority by God over them and are not wrong to abuse them. Some see the abuse as just a form of control that men are entitled to. From this point of view, they do not see the reason for leaving since the abuse is justified. Additionally, being Christians they are not supposed to get the secrets of their marriage out in the public. As a result they suffer secretly without seeking any help for guilt of exposing their partners (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000).
Domestic violence is mostly treated as domestic dispute by the law enforcement officers rather than a crime that is supposed to be dealt with by law. In this case women feel that they will not be assisted in seeking for help from the law. Again the law enforcement officers have not given them the reason to rely on them for help. Without any possible place to go to for help, the victims are forced to stay in the relationship. Sometimes the abusers are given the leeway to feel superior over their wives since even the law cannot protect them.
They take advantage of this to mislead their wives by showing them what they stand to loose by leaving since not even the law can protect them. The victims are forced into suffering silently since they cannot even rely on the law that is meant to offer them protection (Himes and Coriden, 2004). Since the law enforcement officers see family violence as family dispute, they may tend to dissuade victims from filing charges. Even in cases where women accept to file charges against their abusers, the police officers may fail to side with them.
This leaves them with no alternative but to stay in their relationship. Without assurance of police and legal protection, the victim is left without justice and for fear of loosing everything once she is gone, opts to stay (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000). Probation or fines are the most common penalties for perpetrators of family violence, since incarceration is a rarely used option. Despite the fact that they are given restricting orders there are no serious measures taken to ensure that once the perpetrators are released do not come back and repeat the crime.
When they get a chance of coming back, the abuse becomes severe since they carry it out as a form of revenge. Due to lack of severe punishment and the chance of repeated assault after release, the victims choose not to pursue legal redress against their partners. The system does not work effectively in giving the victims a chance to leave their abusive partners (Oths and Robertson, 2007). Despite the fact that there is an increase in awareness and places for sheltering women running away from their abusive partners, there are no enough places to offer them protection.
Women in abusive relationships may therefore stay because they do not have any place to run to. The shelters are not everywhere and those that are available are full since family violence is becoming a serious problem in our society today. There is also a problem with funding and providing resources to these shelters because the authority does not take them seriously. The available shelters are vulnerable to attacks by people who believe that they are destroying the family unit in society (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000).
Women who are freeing abusive relationships may also have problems in accessing rental houses. Landlords are usually reluctant to offer houses to victims of family violence believing that their abusive partners might show up and cause problems or damages to their properties and premises or even physical in juries. The partner may also sabotage the credit ratings of the fleeing victim or prevent her from creating one at all. This means that the victim has no way to leave the abusive relationship. It is easier for some people to ignore the suffering that to face making hard decisions and facing an uncertain future.
Some women are faced with financial social and emotional difficulties once they leave their partners and often get very limited or no help. The weak justice system has failed women over and over again until they have given up (Lawless, 2008). Some women are forced to stay in an abusive relationship due to the ineffectiveness of the justice system. Some attorneys are reluctant to prosecute family violence cases. The system does not assign the kind sentences that the abusers deserve. As a result, the victims become reluctant to seek legal help for their problems. Some women also stay in the relationship because they cannot afford justice.
Receiving personal protection and retraining order may be hard and where possible it might require hiring a legal representative, which will require finances. Legal aid offices may not essentially deal with divorce, and many lack the resources to take care of divorce and custody cases where family violence is concerned. The current system has limited the chances of legal redress for victims of family violence. The abuser may have threatened to use his resources to hire a highly qualified lawyer to handle the case, taking away the children and their joint assets. This might make the victim afraid of leaving (Hage, 2006).
There is fear in women that once they leave they will be charged with desertion, leading to loss of custody and joint property. This fear is mostly inflicted on the victims by their abusers. They do this to ensure that the women in their life stay with them and the unfortunate thing is that they tend to get away with it because the victims stay. The abusers deliberately give wrong information to their victims about the civil or criminal justice system. Without information and knowledge of the law, women stay for fear that they will loose their children and property to their abusive partners (Himes and Coriden, 2004).
Traditional thinking Some women believe in marriage and that divorce is not a feasible option. Such women stay in abusive relationships for as long as it takes. Some believe that the society does not approve divorce and leaving their homes is not the best option in the eyes of the society. They are supposed to do everything possible to make it work. Marriage is esteemed and should be protected as much as possible. There are some women who feel incomplete without their spouses or partners. To continue being in marriage they do not mind the abuse. To such women marriage is above their personal wellbeing.
Additionally, the society does not view divorce positively. The society believes that the woman’s place is besides her husband. Marriages are respected, while divorcees are not. Mostly the blame is put on women for not salvaging their marriage by taking care of their husbands. Rather than being branded a divorcee and loose the respect of the society, some women choose to stay in abusive marriages (Rampage, 2002). Some women tend to believe that single-parenting is not the best option for the welfare of their children. These women are convinced that even an abusive father is better than no father at all.
Women who are committed to raising their children within a family unit will stay in marriage no matter how abusive their spouses are. Others are afraid that after they remarry their children will not be accepted by a step-father. This is likely to keep them with their spouses for the children to be with their real father. There are others, especially those with many children who fear that they might not be remarried because of the children. This is the group that believes in marriage and would want to move on to another one if the current breaks. They will tend to stay in their marriage regardless of the abuse.
Additionally being a single parent is straining and many women will try to avoid this as much as possible. Their situation is made worse by the society that has no respect for single parenting (Lawless, 2008). There are women who have been made by the society to believe that it is their responsibility to make their marriage work. To such women, failure in their marriage amounts to their failure as women. These women are prepared to go to any length to sustain their marriage and walking out is not an option. Some women feel guilty for removing their children from their father and for not making things work.
They feel that they did not do their best to save their marriage and that their husbands and children deserve better than a broken family. This guilt may make a woman to stay long in an abusive marriage. The society has created what is referred to as the ‘sex-role conditioning. ’ A man is taught to be a protector and provider, and once a woman abandons or leaves him means that she has accepted failure. The woman is supposed to remain besides her husband for that is what is expected of her and take her role as a wife and a mother, to her children (Hage, 2006).
Many of the victims of family violence make excuses for their abusers and justify their actions. They will blame their behavior on stress, alcohol, loss of job, problems at work and such factors. They therefore feel that they are obliged to protect the abuser due to the stress he is going through. Leaving him will amount to betrayal at the time he needs her. The victim believes that the partner needs extra love and care and not abandonment to help him get through the problems. They feel that it is their responsibility to assist him become whole. This will make the victim stay for the responsibility she feels that she owes the partner.
The victim convinces herself that the cause of the problem is within her than within the partner. She is also convinced that the problem is not permanent since once the stress is over she will have her loving partner back. They will tend to stay waiting for the problems to end so that their partners can become whole again and stop abusing them (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000). Some women stay because of what some people in the society think about battered women. Some women tend to believe that people have a negative notion about battered women. They think that some people imagine or exaggerate the nature and degree of abuse.
Others may think that they are to blame or that they are the ones who provoke the violence against them. Women are believed to aggravate their partners to a point of being abused. There are some who may think that women who are abused come from poor, uneducated and, minority backgrounds. Others may believe that their partners have a problem in controlling his anger. There is a part of the society that may believe that unemployment or lack of finances is the cause of family violence. It is not possible for victims to go for help to families and friends who hold these myths.
Therefore instead of seeking help from such people, the victims opt to stay in the relationship (Peled, Eisikovits, Enosh and Winstok, 2000). Some women stay in abusive relationships because they believe in love and that they are still in love with their spouses or partners. This is difficult for individuals who have never been abused to understand. Just because your partner has started abusing does not mean that the love you felt for him disappears. There are women who are in relationships that are hard, who knows that it is best for them to leave but they cannot.
Love has been glorified in our cultures. The mainstream media, popular songs and films have reinforced the idea that love is the most significant thing and life and individuals should do anything in their power for it. Women have mostly fallen victims to this idea (Amato, 2007). The victims of abuse may love their partners despite hating their violence and abuse. They feel that since they still love their partners they cannot leave. Due to love the victim denies the reality. She refuses to believe that the man she loves would be capable of harming her.
She refuses to accept the fact that he is really an evil person because she would not allow herself to fall in love with such a person and she is still in love with him. Many women have had troubles about succeeding on their own and being lonely. Leaving the abuser may cause the feeling of grief and loss. This does not only mean leaving the partner, but also the circle of friends, family, and a community (Rampage, 2002). Some of the victims stay due to lack of accurate information about family violence. They are fed with inaccurate and incomplete information by professionals, families and their abusers.
They are told that the main cause of family violence is alcohol or drugs. They are led to believe that they are codependent and make their behavior possible. This means that if they change their abusers may also change. As a result, women stay in the abusive environment trying to change their behavior only to watch things do from bad to worse. They end up blaming themselves for not trying hard enough to resolve the situation. Some women are told by their abusers that they are the reason he acts the way he does and they fall for the lie. The victims become desperate trying to change as is expected of them (Lawless, 2008).
People tend to move into relations that offer comfort. Comfort from this point of view does not necessarily mean physical and emotional contentment. This means in relationships that are familiar having lived in such a situation in the past. This is because in life it is easier to handle situations that are known and expected than those that are uncertain. For instance, there are women who repeatedly get involved and get married to alcoholics. Some will continuously get married to such people. This might be as a result of being raised in a similar setup. One grows up and understands living with alcoholics.
They know their mother as a good wife of an alcoholic. This is why they tend to move to the familiar, hence comfortable. This is the reason why a woman might be in an abusive relationship and still stay because the situation is what is familiar to her (Himes and Coriden, 2004). Character of the abuser Some women stay in an abusive relationship out of confusion. There are men who are abusers who are confusing to their victims. One day he treats her like a queen, praises her and places her on a podium. The next day he claims that she does not meet his expectations and falls from the grace.
She is confused because she does not understand what makes him change from the most loving partner who adores her into a monster who delights in hurting her. A few days later the loving husband returns and put her back in a pedestal. This changes in the emotions of the partner keeps the victim off-balance and in a confused state. The most likely reaction is for the victim to believe that the loving and adoring partner is still there and it is a matter of time until he completely returns (Peled and Sacks, 2008). The nature of the woman will not allow her to see the hateful monster in the man, but the loving and king husband.
This is the hope that makes women in such relationships to stay. There are times when the man is so convincing to the point of convincing the victim that she deserves whatever she gets. Sometimes the woman is so confused to the extent of admitting that the pain is not as much as she thinks. Her mind will start telling her to ignore the pain and that the abuser has promised to change and will surely keep his promise. In some situations the abuser will convince her that the situation is not that bad as she believes and she will fall for it. Where the abuser is so unpredictable, the victim will tend to stay on hoping for the best (Hage, 2006).
Most of the times, after violence, men feel remorseful and some beg for forgiveness promising never to repeat it again. Some stay for some time before the abuse recurs and again afterwards they make the same promise. Women have a weak spot and most of the times they are carried away by the apologies and promises to reform. Some men will go to the extent of doing whatever their wives demands as a way of making amends. This is why some accept to go for therapy and counseling sessions. Those who drink will quit for some time before the cycle repeats again.
In this case, the woman stays in the relationship hoping that one day the partner will reform completely. Some men will also use sex and material gifts to make amends for their actions (Rampage, 2002). Some women will stay with an abusive partner because he has intentionally and systematically isolated them from support. They are isolated from friends and relatives out of jealous and possessiveness by the abuser. The abuser tends to hide the violence from the outside world and creates a sense of ‘nowhere to go to’ in the victim. People in danger require the support and help of relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
The assailant knows this and this is the reason he isolates the victim from any potential help. Due to jealousy and possessiveness many men will accuse their partners of cheating on them and demand that they do not speak to any one. They force their partners to account for every minute they are away from them. Some will lock their partners in the house or stalk them to ensure that they are not talking with any one. Some will take the car keys, cut off the phones and lock them inside to keep them away from any other person. The abusers ensure that they have driven all the friends and relatives keeping their partners for themselves.
Even when in trouble the victims have no one to turn to and are left suffering in silence. Some women feel ashamed to reveal the situation to others for fear of condemnation or embarrassment in admitting what her marriage or relationship has come to. They cannot reveal their situations to relatives or friends after suffering for a long time in silence (Rampage, 2002). Some men use threats to make women afraid of leaving. Some men threaten to take the children away form the mother in case she attempts to leave and accuse her of abandoning them.
Some of these women know that it is possible or their partners to make good their threats. The abusers threaten to lie in court about the reasons why she is leaving and thus loose the custody of her children. If he fails with the custody he can threaten to kidnap them. He can even threaten to kill her and the children, harm her pet or a relative. Others threaten to deny any financial help and retain their joint assets. Given his character the victim is convinced that he can do whatever he threatens to do. As a result he opts to stay in the relationship rather than risk hers and her children’s lives (Lawless, 2008).
Some of the abusers get to their victims by intentionally providing them with false information. They will play with their partner’s concern in their wellbeing by threatening to kill themselves or exaggerating the ruining conditions of prison. The fact is that convictions due to family violence are rare, but most women are not aware of this and will feel sorry for their partners. The abusers will tell their victims that the shelters for abused women are centers for recruiting lesbians and prostitutes and that they will be used sexually once they go there.
These kinds of talks to a person who is not aware of the real facts may convince her forcing her to stay with the partner. Some of them will stay because they are convinced with what their partners say: that the victim is crazy and stupid; that no one will believe her; that she is the one who is sick and need help; that the police will never arrest the assailant; that the judge will not put him to prison; that he will get the custody of the children once he accuses her of abandoning them; that he will find her and kill her; or that she will never escape him.
The victim becomes afraid because of these threats and opts to stay with him (Himes and Coriden, 2004). Some abused women are held prisoners by their partners in their own homes. The abuser makes use of psychological terrorism and assault to eliminate their will to resist and bring them under their power. One of the examples is the “Stockholm Syndrome” (Peled and Sacks, 2008). This model describes how a person held hostage starts to identify with, get attached to, and start defending his or her captor(s) as a survival response to a dangerous situation.
The abusers use the knowledge acquired from an intimate relationship to deal with the spirit and the sense of self esteem of the victim, thus eliminating their power to resist. Sex and domination can be used as a weapon against the spirit and thus the will to resist. The abuser can also torture or kill a pet belonging to the woman as a way of denying her the will to resist. Some will even use children as the weapon. This way they are assured that they have the woman under their control and that there is no way she can think of escaping. This is playing with the victim’s psychology
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