– By Josie Rodgers –
Domestic violence continues to be in the forefront of the media, and SC still ranks at the top for the number of women killed due to domestic violence. The most frustrating issue is the reason these women stay with their abusers or don’t leave sooner. We hear all kinds of judgmental comments about these women, adding to their already pitiful self-esteem and lack of courage and determination. It is important for society to understand why these women stay or simply cannot get out of abusive situations.
The main problem is the narcissistic abuser. They aren’t mean and abusive in the beginning. They are wonderful, silver-tongued devils. They know just what to say and how to act. However, they are cunning and manipulative and eventually damage a women’s entire psyche so that she feels worthless and deserving of the abuse. And of course, the abuser is always extremely apologetic after the abuse has occurred, especially if law enforcement is involved. Abusers can face serious jail time, lose their jobs, damage their reputations, etc. Therefore, it is in his best interest to act very sorry, grovel, and even shower the victim with gifts and beautiful promises. A victim wants to see the positive in the abuser and hopes that the promises are real and that the abuser will change for the better. Most victims want the perfect family, complete with both parents taking care of the children. However, most times this Camelot is short-lived. Abusers know how to temporarily fix the situation for their own benefit, but they simply do not change.
Abusers also manipulate their victims financially, something not many people realize. Victims become completely dependent on the abuser for every necessity including shelter, food, water, etc. There are little to no resources available to help women financially be able to house themselves and their children, pay utilities, purchase food, buy gas, get medical attention, and take care of their children much less be able to retain a lawyer and file for separation/divorce and have protective orders enforced.
However, the abuser, in his infinite wisdom and planning, can hire a lawyer and make demands that frankly scare the hell out of the victim. Lose her children? Some women would rather take abuse than lose their children or be unable to protect them from the abuser. Lose her job? She doesn’t need to do that either. What about her home? Her transportation? Her children’s school? What is the answer?
Yes, there are shelters ready and willing to help these women. But shelters can only do so much and they can only house so many. Fleeing to a shelter is a major life change, one that women don’t take lightly without thinking about what the future holds, not just for them, but for their children. Seeking law enforcement assistance is also a sticky situation. Officers and others in the legal system, though seemingly trained in the area of abuse, simply cannot understand why the victim drops the charges or refuses to press charges in the first place. Understandably, they can become calloused to the continued calls for help from the same victims who consistently go back to abusive situations. It is extremely frustrating! Then the victim doesn’t feel comfortable calling for help again.
There are no clear answers. We must learn how to support and assist these victims if they are to survive, overcome, and lead normal lives. We must have financial resources available to help women who have finally come to the conclusion that their abuse must end. We must support them emotionally because divorce (or the ending of a serious relationship) can be as painful as the death of a spouse. Essentially, our thinking must change so that we understand these victims; only then can we truly help them.