First I wanted to thank Melanie of Deliberate Donkey for asking me to guest post; I was honored to be asked. I must admit I had a hard time coming up with what I was going to write about, with my blog I know what I miss I can put into the next post or if one post stinks I always have another chance to get it right. But there is a topic that I can’t stress enough and it is a matter of life and death. There seems to be a common misunderstanding among society and the victims of domestic violence and that is every one seems to forget; men that abuse women, kill women.
On average in Canada every day 6 women are murdered by their abusive significant other or ex partner.
Approximately 70% of those murders are committed just before or shortly after the woman leaves the relationship.
The actual death toll is hard to calculate because it doesn’t take into account:
– the number of suicides almost 60% of women who attempt suicide have been or are in an abusive relationship.
– deaths from things like HIV, which is higher among domestic abuse victims because in many cases the abuser is not faithful.
– Women in violent relationships are 70% more likely to have heart disease and other health issues.
– Half of the women who die on the streets reported fleeing an abusive relationship as their cause for being homeless.
Survivors of domestic violence face high rates of PTSD, depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.
Among women brought to emergency rooms due to domestic violence, most were socially isolated and had fewer social and financial resources than other women.
Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence are more likely to be victims of abuse or abusers themselves and generally make poor romantic choices, have lower grades and more behavior problems.
With repercussions like that you would think society would take the problem more seriously but it is still a misunderstood problem of society. Victims are often revictimized by the very departments responsible for protecting them like the police, welfare system and courts. Even the victims themselves don’t take the repercussions seriously, I know; because I was one of those victims that refused to admit my life was in danger.
No woman wants to face the fact that the man she loves, who she thought was her soul mate; could kill her. The victim doesn’t realize the groundwork for the abuse started on the very first date and the abuser has whittled away at her self-confidence, destroying her support system and isolating her ever since.
Combine that with the fact that most friends and family get frustrated with her not leaving and with draw all support, which plays right into the abusers plans to isolate the victim and make her feel helpless and unable to leave.
No one likes to hear about abuse, victims will tell you the minute they open up about the abuse people start to minimize it, change the subject or refuse to believe it is happening at all. The abuser is an excellent actor and has studied human behavior, knows exactly what buttons to push to make the victim emotional and appear unstable and he is calm cool and collected. To the untrained person it seems the abuser is the victim or at the very least they are both at fault.
It is obvious from the people who come to my blog that support for victims of abuse is sorely lacking.
The abuser most often is enabled to continue controlling and abusing the victim because the victim’s claims of abuse are ignored and she has no back up while the abuser goes on a smear campaign to discredit her. There are horror stories of women being jailed for crimes they didn’t commit, losing custody of their children, losing everything they owned and often times women leaving an abusive relationship end up living in poverty.
With no support, no money, and the abuser promising he has changed and wants to make things right, is it any wonder the victim goes back? People are quick to criticize the victim for going back but have they been an understanding support system for the victim?
I know when I left (time after time) if I tried to discuss the abuse I heard from people;
“You must have liked it or why did you stay?” I didn’t stay…..I left and that is why I am asking you to listen to me.
“I never liked him; I knew something wasn’t right with him.” This may sound like support to the person saying it but to the victim you are saying, “What’s wrong with you, everyone else could see the guy was an abuser.”
“You should be happy to be away from him, why are you crying? How can you miss an asshole like that?” In other words, “What is wrong with you.”
“You need to get out and start dating to forget him and move on.” the victim is hearing “This is no big deal, you are over-reacting and too emotional.” exactly what the abuser has told her.
The victim often feels the abuser is the only one who truly understands her; after all he has studied her extensively and knows every soft spot and insecurity she has and uses his knowledge to manipulate the victim. The abuser will try every thing to get the victim to come back, if anger doesn’t work he will play the sympathy card and if that doesn’t work he will go back to the sweet loving guy she met; wanting to care for her. She goes back because she wants to believe him so badly, she isn’t getting the emotional and financial support she needs away from him, she doubts herself, and it is so much easier than hurting. Personally I went back more times than I can count for various reasons; I thought I loved him, I doubted myself, I felt sorry for him, I thought he had changed, I was lonely, I was broke, alone and scared. I stayed because I had gone back and didn’t want to admit I made a mistake, I was trying to save money to leave with, he was disabling my vehicle which was also my work truck and my only way to make money, I had given up fighting and had just resigned myself to the fact that this was always going to be my life. I left because if I didn’t I was sure he would kill me or I would end up killing myself. Too wait until you fear for your life is too late in most cases and if you do get away it is sheer luck.
By the time a woman leaves because she fears for her life you can bet she is an emotional basket case, she has denied her feelings and gut instincts for so long she has a hard time deciding what to eat for lunch. She doubts every feeling and reaction she has. In fact she is no longer proactive in her life but reactive; because she has spent so long being told she shouldn’t feel the way she does, she is too sensitive, too emotional, that she does nothing right and the cause of all the relationship troubles. Usually the abuser has made sure she has no resources and nowhere to go.
The costs are immeasurable to society, our children, the welfare system, lives lost, and the future security of the victims. It would be more prudent to come up with a way to prevent domestic violence than to deal with the effects of domestic violence.
So how do we solve the problem?
We have to get the girls before they start dating and we can’t leave the responsibility up to the parents; we need to teach children to set boundaries and respect themselves in elementary school even.
We teach our kids to respect others, to share and get along, say your sorry, play nice and treat others like you want to be treated. In theory that should work, if all the children are taught to follow the same rules everyone should get along great. But we aren’t taking into account and we don’t tell our children that there are evil people in the world who will use their sensitivity to manipulate and abuse them. They will only play nice with you to put you off your guard so they can take advantage of you.
How can we expect women to protect themselves if they aren’t given the tools to do so. We read them bedtime stories about a knight in shining armor who saves the princess. No one tells them that the knight in shining armor is a narcissist and he is screwing Snow White, Cinderella, and her two evil step sisters; or that he left his wife with no money and her and the kids had to move into a shoe. He even abuses his own mother who most people know as Old Mother Hubbard. Her cupboards are bare, not even a bone for the dog but she makes excuses for him and thinks the sun rises and sets on him. Women are raised to believe that if they are pretty, sweet and accommodating we will be loved and taken care of.
We also tell the girls she can work like a man and make as much money as a man, she can do anything a man can do and do it better while she has a child on her hip and stirs a pot with her other hand. So when the woman gets tired of doing it all, her knight in shining armor rides up and tells her she is everything he ever wanted in a woman and he spoils her, caters to her and seems so into her, she soak it up like a sponge.
She is so needy to feel cherished and cared for she sacrifices everything to keep her fantasy alive.
We need to teach our children, especially girls to set boundaries and stick to them. I don’t recall anyone ever talking to me about boundaries, or how to demand respect.
I didn’t even know what boundaries were when I was in my teens.
I think too much time is spent profiling the abuser and trying to figure out how he ticks and why he does what he does when we should be focusing on how we raise our daughters.
I believe that if we teach our girls to respect themselves, and how to set and stick to “deal breaker” boundaries they will have the ability to recognize abuse. When a man disregards their boundaries they will have the confidence to walk away knowing that the minute they compromise their values and boundaries they lose the battle.