One of the most common questions the general public asks about intimate partner violence (ipv) is “Why does she stay?” Several important factors need to be mentioned in this regard. First, women do leave abusive relationships. In fact, they leave and return multiple times. (Be wary of any resource that quotes an exact or average number of times that survivors leave. The reality is that we really don’t know, other than it appears to be multiple times for many women.)
Second, when someone asks “Why doesn’t she leave?” they are making the very dangerous mistake of assuming that to leave a violent relationship will cause the violence to cease. According to the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family (1996), “Many people still believe that the problem of battering can be solved by separation, but the risk of serious or lethal violence may actually increase after separation” (39).
The greatest risk for serious injury or death from violence is at the point of separation or at the time when the decision to separate is made. Data from a U.S. Department of Justice national Crime Victimization Survey indicates that among women who were victims of violent assault by an intimate partner, women reported that the offender was an ex-spouse almost half as many times as they reported that the offender was a spouse” (American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 1996, p. 39). The reality is that for a large number of survivors to leave a violent relationship does not make things better, rather, it makes things worse. Please see the attached handout, Examples of the Types of Violence Occuring At Separation (linked below).
A third factor to be considered in this discussion involves the very nature of the question “Why does she stay?” Very rarely do people ask, “Why does he batter?, or “Why doesn’t he leave?” Many grassroots activists and feminists believe that to ask “Why does she stay?” is actually victim blaming and fails to hold the abuser accountable for his behavior.
In Module 1, Lawrence Green and his colleagues identified three types of factors that can affect the help-seeking process by either encouraging or discouraging action:
Linked below is the handout Barriers to Leaving which outlines numerous factors or “barriers” that should be considered when examining the difficulties in leaving an abusive relationship. This list of barriers can be combined with Green’s et. al. work to help explain the challenges that survivors face in their help-seeking process.
For this purposes of this discussion topic please complete the following:
1. Take a look at the Lisa Steinberg/Hedda Nussbaum Case Study listed in Module 1 along with the linked handouts to this conference topic.
2. Respond to the following questions:
a) Explain the issues affecting the help-seeking behavior of Hedda Nussbaum, including issues in the victim and offender response system that inhibited appropriate intervention
b) Do you think the question “Why does she stay is victim blaming? Why or why not?
3. Please support your response with resources (including in-text citations).
Examples of the Types of Violence Occurring At Separation /content/enforced/50634-013924-01-2152-OL4-7980/BEHS 453 Examples of Types of Violence Occurring at Separation.rtf
Barriers to Leaving /content/enforced/50634-013924-01-2152-OL4-7980/BEHS 453 Barriers to Leaving.rtf
American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family. (1996). Violence and the family. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
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