October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. I got a proposal for a post from a possible guest on why battered women don’t leave. It was a great idea for a post, and one that we have explored here before. But that is not the reason I vetoed the post. Why battered women just don’t leave has got to be the question most often asked when the subject of domestic violence comes up. We could do a whole month on the topic alone. The reason I didn’t really warm up to the writer’s topic is that the guest writer suggested that it was fear–of being hurt and of being pennyless. And that suggested to me that perhaps, they knew a little but maybe not enough.
Women don’t just stay because of fear–although that is certainly part of it. The statistic about leaving being one of the most dangerous times for battered women is one of the most quoted one out there. But it goes beyond personal fear many times. He may have threatened their family if they were to go there. He may have told her in so many words how he would hurt any friends she would go to. So she can’t go any of those places.
As to pennyless? Many women in this situation have little or no money because he controls the finances. Which leaves shelters. Women don’t leave because shelters are over crowded and (many) are short term anyway. So perhaps they will get only a month or so to figure out where to go from there. And they know that’s not long enough to remake a life.
They don’t leave because they know that they will not only have to have the deposit and first and last month’s rent on a new apt. (and furniture, dishes and linens….) but they will have to get a new job, because they know he will confront her at her old job. They know they will have to have the kids change schools, because, he can and will take the kids. MIght even hurt the kids to hurt her. Leaving, even when the cops come to make sure she can get her stuff out, is hard because he’s going to claim that everything from her cell phone to the locket her mother gave her for her birthday is his (or in the case of the locket an old family heirloom)–to the cops. And the cops will tell her it’s marital property and can’t be taken.
And once she has left the house with the cops, she will realize she forgot her spare contacts and the baby’s favorite blankie–and it will all be gone for good, because he’ll burn it rather than let her have it.
And maybe just maybe there is still a very small part of her that wants to believe him when he says he’ll change, that he loves her, that she needs to forgive him.
Leaving is a lot more complex than just fear. It takes more than one try for many many women because of that.