Why does she stay?
The following factors are reasons why a victim might find leaving an abusive relationship difficult: economic dependence, fear of greater physical danger to themselves and their children if they attempt to leave, fear of losing custody of children, lack of alternative housing, lack of job skills, fear of involvement in court processes, belief that partner will change, cultural and religious constraints, ambivalence and fear over making formidable life changes, social isolation resulting in lack of support from family or friends and lack of information regarding alternatives, she loves him. In a conversation with a former batterer, he said, I beat her because it worked. It got me what I wanted which was control, power and a way to release my emotions.
What usually happens to the abuser?
If the police are called and there is clear evidence of who the abuser is, the abuser may be arrested, regardless if the victim wants to press charges or not. A protective or restraining order may be filed to protect the victim from the abuser attacking again. If arrested, the abuser may pay a fine, be ordered into counseling, or both. Agencies like Bay Area Turning Point provide the victim with advocacy, counseling and shelter if needed.
What about the children?
Sadly, in 1/3 of homes where the mother is abused, the children are also beaten. Witnessing violence causes psychological trauma similar to that of a physically abused child. Living in a violent home impedes the social and academic progress of children. Violence also breeds violence that is often repeated in the next generation.
Do the families help?
Often, a family’s home is the first place an abuser will look for a victim, which may place the family in danger. Some families are unable to help and many really do not understand how to help. Family violence has numerous dynamics that are generally addressed more effectively by those with specific training to do so. Victims leave about six times before finally staying away-the family may not be willing to keep helping and be overwhelmed by crisis.
What is it like to be in a shelter? What do the residents do?
A shelter is like its own little community. Everyone has to work together to make the community a safe, clean, positive place to live. The women attend educational, recovery, and personal development classes. They learn skills relating to healthy communication, problem solving, how to budget, effective parenting, and participate in pathways to healing from trauma. Some return to school, obtain a GED, or enter job training. Many become employed and begin to plan an independent future. Children attend school, the agency’s childcare, and participate in educational and healing activities. For some of the children, it’s the first time their scars and needs have been attended. Each woman is assigned a caseworker and the child advocate assists each child.
Do abusers ever cause trouble at the shelter?
Typically, no. The abuser is typically unabusive to strangers and symbols of authority. The shelter has a security system with camera monitoring. If an unwelcome visitor arrives, h/she is informed that it is a felony to trespass on a shelter property. They leave calmly 99% of the time. The shelter is within three minutes of police response. The police have been called because of an unwelcome visitor, but he/she has left before they arrived.
Can a man be a victim of Domestic Violence?
Yes. Domestic violence knows no gender boundaries and can happen in any town, in any family and any socio-economic background.
- Displaying jealous behavior-abusers will constantly accuse their partner of cheating, checking in on them and who they are with, calling frequently, or become upset if their partner spends too much time away from them. Abusers try to use jealousy as a way of showing love or that they care for their partner, but it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.
- Controlling behavior- abusers will try to control their partner’s everyday activities varying from who their partner sees, where their partner goes, making choices for their partner, or controlling all the money or property to not allowing their partner to access personal items/info.
- Quick involvement- those in abusive relationships dated or knew their abusers less than 6 months before moving in or becoming engaged. Abuser will often come in like a whirlwind claiming their partner is the only person in the world for them only after a short period of time. They need someone desperately and will pressure for commitment.
- Isolation- abuser will try to cut their partners off from all resources such as family, friends, employment or even the community. Abusers may claim these outside influences are bad for the relationship to encourage their partner to cut ties with others.
- Blames others for problems- abusers do not take responsibility for their actions and will often blame their abuse on their partner such as “I hit you because you made me”. Abusers will make their partner feel like the abuse if their fault.
- Hypersensitivity- abusers are easily insulted and will look for fights. Small setbacks will be seen as a personal attack.
- Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Personality- abuser will have “sudden” changes in mood and will be nice one minute and explode the next.
- Battering in previous relationships- abusers may mention violence in other relationships, but often claim it was not their fault, but rather the other person. Abusers will beat any partner they are with, no matter the relationship or circumstance.
- Unrealistic expectation- abusers are very dependent on their partners and expect their partners to be perfect at everything from being the perfect parent, cook, lover, etc. The expectation is not mutual for them.
Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence
Researchers have documented a strong connection between animal abuse and domestic violence.
- A study from 11 U.S. cities revealed that a history of pet abuse is one of the four most significant indicators of who is at greatest risk of becoming a domestic batterer.
- A Texas study found that batterers who also abuse pets are more dangerous and use more violent and controlling behaviors than those who do not harm animals.
- Twelve separate studies have reported that between 18 and 48 percent of battered women, and their children, delay leaving abusive situations in fear for what might happen to their animals.
- Women who do seek safety at shelters are nearly 11 times more likely to report that their partner has hurt or killed their animals than women who have not experienced domestic abuse.
- In Wisconsin, 68 percent of battered women revealed that abusive partners had also been violent toward pets or livestock; more than three-quarters of these cases occurred in the presence of the women and/or children to intimidate and control them.
- Children who are exposed to domestic violence are three times more likely to be cruel to animals.
- The Chicago Police Department found that approximately 30 percent of individuals arrested for dog fighting and animal abuse had domestic violence charges on their records.
Why it Matters
- 71% of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals.
- 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them.
- 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence.
- Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave.
- Pets may suffer unexplained injuries, health problems, permanent disabilities at the hands of abusers, or disappear from home.
- Abusers kill, harm, or threaten children’s pets to coerce them into sexual abuse or to force them to remain silent about abuse. Disturbed children kill or harm animals to emulate their parents’ conduct, to prevent the abuser from killing the pet, or to take out their aggressions on another victim.
- In one study, 70% of animal abusers also had records for other crimes. Domestic violence victims whose animals were abused saw the animal cruelty as one more violent episode in a long history of indiscriminate violence aimed at them and their vulnerability.
- For many battered women, pets are sources of comfort providing strong emotional support: 98% of Americans consider pets to be companions or members of the family.
- Animal cruelty problems are people problems. When animals are abused, people are at risk.
- Battered women have been known to live in their cars with their pets for as long as four months until an opening was available at a pet-friendly safe house.
Did You Know?
- More American households have pets than have children.
- A child growing up in the U.S. is more likely to have a pet than a live-at-home father.
If you need help, call Bay Area Turning Point 24 Hour Hotline: 281.286.2525…a safe place to talk.