As a woman, it can be difficult to find your voice and feel comfortable saying no. Because of how society socializes women, we are taught that it is important to please others, regardless of our own desires. If you have ever agreed to have sex with someone when you really didn’t want to, then you know what I mean. Some women pass down the idea to their daughters that they should put others first, perpetuating a cycle that results in the abuse of women. This is one reason that women remain in abusive relationships, or seek them out.
When women try to explain why they stay in abusive relationships, it is hard for those who have not experienced it to understand. When leaving the abusive relationship, it is more difficult for women to gain support and legal resources like housing and money. When an abused woman reports a domestic assault, she must leave, not her abuser, and she often seeks shelter in a safe house while he remains at home, undisturbed. Even in reporting the abuse and escaping from it, others will tell her that it is her fault that she remained in the situation, especially if she has repeatedly sought out and remained in abusive relationships.
Because of the stigma attached to an abused woman, she is not comfortable admitting to anyone that she is being abused because it will not be understood by others why she stays, and the abuse will not be recognized by many when she does. This keeps the issue of domestic violence from reaching public knowledge, discussion, and acceptance as a result of both society and the abuser’s isolation of her from other women experiencing the same thing.
As a result of the abuser socially isolating her in order to control her, she is emotionally dependent on him and she often does not have a support system at this time, such as friends and family who empathize with her situation. Police, and others, may not understand why she is emotionally attached to him if he harms her. It may even be difficult for her to understand this herself.
Because of the male-focused values in this society, women are taught to desire behaviors in men such as physical power, egocentricity, aggressiveness, and social power. It is acceptable for men to express anger physically and verbally, but not to express sadness and insecurity, or even cry. Women have been taught to nurture, forgive, take responsibility to the point of blaming themselves for other’s problems, and to put other’s needs first, leading to women entering abusive relationships and remaining in them. When people these women talk to don’t understand their situation, it makes them question themselves and feel powerless, leading to emotional dependence on their abuser and a reluctance to validate their own experience. However, it is a result of our society’s belief system and a lack of awareness that leads to this issue being buried under a pristine view of society’s gender roles.
30% of women murdered are killed by their husband or ex-partner, versus only 5% of men.[i]
The World Health Organization World Report on Violence and Health finds that “‘one of the most common forms of VAW is that performed by a husband or male partner.’ This type of violence is frequently invisible since it happens behind closed doors. Moreover, legal systems and cultural norms often do not treat it as a crime, but rather as a ‘private’ family matter or a normal part of life.”[ii]
More information on gender violence can be found at http://www.who.int/gender/violence/en/
, the World Health Organization.
Katrina Semich, WRC Blogger Fall 2010