WORSE FOR THE CHILDREN:
Reasons why women stay
Experts look at domestic abuse...
Camille Bethel firstname.lastname@example.org
There are several reasons why people in abusive domestic situations choose to stay, experts say.
Chair of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence Diana Mahabir-Wyatt spoke to the Express on what she believes are the most prominent reasons.
“Number one is very often because of children. If you have children in the union very often the parents decide not to split up for one reason or another because they think it will distress the children. In many cases it is worse for the children to live in an environment of stress, tension and violence in which they are learning violence as an interactive response,” she said.
She also highlighted the lack of finance as another reason that makes it difficult for the abused to leave such a situation.
“They can’t afford to both look after the children and go to work. If the children are around the age of two or four, many women for example are left without a ready income that will allow them child care because they don’t have adequate State child-care for children under the age of three.
“If you have to work, you can’t take your children to work with you and that is the most frequently given reason by women with children under the age of three, why they can’t leave,” she said.
Mahabir-Wyatt said in some cases if they have a parent or a relative who is willing to take them in until they can get a job and they can support the children that takes considerable amounts of money as well.
“If you have children and you have to have reliable child care, food, clothes, transport, medical care...for many that is just impossible.
“So many decide to stay, face what they have to face until the children are old enough for school and they just have to live with it...there are women like that.”
Asked whether fear also keeps women in abusive relations she said it can and does happen.
“It happens with human trafficking very frequently and that’s one of the big issues that we are now dealing with—human trafficking either for domestic employment or for sexual transactions and in some cases you hear stories of women from other countries like Jamaica or DR (Dominican Republic) having their passports taken away and provided with a room at the back, and are told they will have to work until their tickets are paid off. They stay because they are intimidated, they are frightened.
“In the case of domestic violence, we have had cases, now less frequent, because women are now more educated,” she said.
Mahabir-Wyatt said women who have family support in some instances are scared to leave because there are threats to siblings and parents that if they don’t stay away then they are going to get beaten or threatened in some other way.
“It is not always physical. Sometimes people stay because they get so accustomed to the bullying that they are paralysed. In those instances it would usually be a parent or a close friend who will help them to get their act to together to go on,” she pointed out.
She said they are seeing a reduction in the number of educated women staying in abusive relationships, adding that if a woman being abused does not report the abusive situation, then a stranger shouldn’t take it upon themselves to do so, because women resent that.
Psychologist Dr Krishna Maharaj also spoke with the Express on some of the reasons women decide to stay.
“Many times you have a situation where the lack of family or community support obliges the woman for economic reasons to continue in those relationships because it is difficult for her to have a real opportunity to get out because she is alone.
“Another reason cited has been some women feel a sense of loyalty, they feel they have the ability or the power to change and transform this individual who may be expressing violence and hostility. Maybe because of their developmental history that was negative and may have impacted on their development into adulthood in such a way that they are not really responsible. Women consider that kind of history and feel a sense of duty to try and rehabilitate or help the partner overcome their pattern of hostility and abuse,” he said.
Maharaj said a lesser reason would include the religious indoctrination that when people take a vow “for better or for worse” and abuse occurs they feel it is part of the lessons in life that they must endure...they must stick it out.
Maharaj said there is also the issue of threat that the abuser may say to the victim, “If you leave I will hunt you down, I will find you and I will do mean, awful things to you”.
“Although not many of them who make those threats have the ability to carry them out, many of them realise they don’t need to carry out the threat because verbal threats are enough,” he reasoned.
He said mothers also make the sacrifice to stay for the children because they don’t want a situation where she may have to split the family, take some of the children and jeopardise their future.
Maharaj said when the time comes for a person to make the decision to leave an abusive relationship it is like a case of substance abuse.
“If they don’t have insight, they can’t. One must be aware ‘I don’t have to take this nonsense anymore because I know I can get help’ but if they don’t recognise this or the support systems are not there in the society, then women will continue to stay in abusive relationships,” he pointed out.
Maharaj said depression steps in when abuse continues and may find the victim withdrawing from the family.
“They lose their self-esteem, their self-respect and may even abuse drugs secretly,” he noted.
He said signs that a woman is moving towards getting out of an abusive relationship is she may begin to discuss it with people, either in a religious setting, with neighbours or relatives and then they may begin reaching out to external support systems for help, like counselling, and later start making plans to move out of the situation.
However he pointed out there is also something called the Stockholm syndrome where the victim begins to identify with the abuser that may keep that person in the situation.
“Where instead of fighting the aggressor she begins to identify with the abuser and makes excuses for him,” Maharaj said.