Why women stay
It is very common for people to ask “why women stay?”. There are many reasons why women stay in a relationship which is violent:
The woman is afraid of what the abuser will do if she leaves
Her partner may tell her that if she leaves he will harm her, the children, other family members or pets. He may threaten to damage property or threaten to commit suicide. Often the abuse escalates once the woman leaves.
The woman still loves her partner
Even though she is in an abusive relationship, her partner may not be abusive all of the time and she may still have loving feelings towards him.
The woman is committed to the relationship
Many women are committed to the relationship because of children and because they believe that marriage is forever, ‘for better or for worse’.
The woman hopes that her partner will change
Often the abuser promises to change and, because she still loves her partner, she wants to give him a chance. For example, she may think that if he would just stop drinking, the abuse will stop.
The woman feels that she is to blame for the abuse
Frequently the abuser will blame the woman for his own irritability, moodiness and impatience. He will blame her for driving him to violence or other forms of abuse. As the abuse continues, the woman’s self-esteem is eroded and she begins to question herself and her perception of the abuse, until she feels that maybe she is to blame.
The woman feels that she should stay for the sake of the children
Many women believe that it is best for children to live with both parents. The woman may believe that her partner is a good father to the children and would never hurt them. The abuser may have threatened to harm or take the children away if his partner should ever leave him. She may be concerned that he will get to spend time with the children after separation and she will not be there to protect them. Research tells us without a doubt that witnessing domestic violence has a negative and long term effect on children.
The woman may lack confidence
Being in a domestic violence relationship can often impact upon a woman’s self-esteem and confidence. This is because the abuser uses various tactics to break down the woman’s confidence and make her feel responsible for the violence that she has experienced.
The woman may feel isolated and lonely or be afraid she may become so if she leaves
As a means of control, the abuser often isolates his partner from her family and friends. As a result, women are often lonely and isolated. Some women decide to stay because they are scared they won’t be able to cope with living by themselves. They have often been told this by the abuser over and over again.
The woman may be pressured to stay by their family, friends, community and church
Many women know that the abuse that they are experiencing within their relationship is wrong. However, women are sometimes pressured to stay in the relationship by their family, friends and church members. Women often fear that they will be rejected by their community if they leave their partner.
The woman feels that she will never get away from her partner
Many women are fearful that they will never truly be free from their partner because they have friends in common and are a part of the same community. He has told her that she cannot leave and that if she tries he will find and punish her. Research shows that separation is the most dangerous time for women.
The woman is financially dependent on her partner
Many women’s work is raising the children so she has no income of her own. She may not be aware of Centrelink benefits or she may feel that she and the children will not survive on such a low income. Her partner may have controlled all money matters so she is not aware of her rights, where to go for help, or how to manage money.
The woman may feel she and the children have nowhere else to live
It is common for women to be socially isolated, so she may not know how to access services that can support her and her children, and provide emergency accommodation. Her partner may have threatened to call child protection services if she tries to leave him.
The woman may feel no one will believe her
Domestic violence usually happens ‘behind closed doors’. It isolates a woman from her supports and erodes her self esteem. As such, she may feel that others will believe she is not telling the truth about her experience of violence. She may be concerned that if she is not believed the outcome could be worse for her children. She may fear that her children will be removed from her care.
The woman may be afraid of losing her right to stay in Australia
Many men use women’s immigration status as a way to keep them isolated in the relationship. Women are made to believe that if they don’t comply with their partner’s wishes, they will be sent back to their country of origin. These women have rights in Australia and there are mechanisms in place to support them to be safe, regardless of their status.