Recently, Family Services hosted a Panel Discussion featuring the Southeast Texas Domestic Violence Task Force. The subject of the discussion was domestic violence prevention. But, before we kicked off our discussion about prevention, we needed to address an elephant in the room. So often, we hear “why didn’t she just leave?”
Sgt. Yvette Borrero of BPD points out that “most women will take eight beatings before they leave.” It’s a sad statistic, but it’s true. At the Family Services Women and Children’s Shelter, we often see the same individual more than once. We do everything we can to counsel them and help them craft a plan to stay safe when they leave the shelter. But we can’t make them do anything. If they choose to return to their abuser, the only thing we can do is hope they’ll be safe and welcome them with open arms if they return.
Lamar University social worker and former shelter director Bonnie Loiodice explains, “Domestic violence is about power and control. Abusers groom their victims over a period of time with control tactics. They systematically isolate the victim from their support system. They may control the victim financially. They tear them down with words until their self-esteem is very low,” she says. “We must remember that the victim loves the abuser, and the abuser twists the blame for the situation back around to the victim. They are ashamed and believe it their fault,” she adds.
In addition, “…leaving is a very dangerous time for the victim,” says Misty Craver, Director of the Jefferson County Victims Assistance Center. “If something’s going to happen it will happen then.” Lots of victims are fearful of leaving because they’ve been threatened. Threatening to take the children, threatening to harm the victim or their family, and threatening death are all common in these cases. The victim may also fear that DFPS/CPS will take their children.
It’s easy to say “she should leave.” But, we must remember that intimate relationships are complex and private. The bottom line is that no human being deserves to be abused. From there, we can start to reframe our thinking to focus on prevention.
Read Part 3 of this series entitled “5 Expert Tips to Prevent Domestic Violence” to learn what you can do.