Why Do Women Stay?
By Barrington H. Brennen, 1999, 2022
Question: Dear Sir, I have a friend who has been married for almost
twenty years, but whose husband is abusing her emotionally and physically. A
year ago, she almost died of a serious blow to the head. She lied to the doctor
about what happened to prevent him from going to jail. I donít understand why
she would not leave him, at least for a time until he gets some help. They have
three children and she does not work. What can I do to help her to leave before
she gets killed? Signed: Concerned Friend
Answer: Dear Concerned Friend: Many women in our society feel trapped in
their relationships. Obviously your friend is trapped and confused and does not
know what to do. However, my counseling experience and knowledge about abusive
relationships have taught me that no women really want to be in abusive
relationships. Then why do they say? Here are a few reasons why women stay in
- Shame. Often, the victims of abuse are ashamed to
talk to friends or relatives. Although you know about the abuse, your friend has
denied and/or belittled the effect of her husband's behavior on herself, and
thus has covered up for him often. Her dreams of a
"live-happily-every-after" marriage is falling apart, and it is too
painful to talk about.
- Some women believe children need their fathers.
They may even think it is better to have a man in the house, no matter how
dangerous his violent behavior may be, than to have none at all. While the role
of fathers in parenting is as equally important as that of mothers, yet children
can be emotionally and socially damaged for life if they continue to witness the
physical and emotional abuse of their mothers. In other words, more harm can be
done to children witnessing abuse than if the abusive partner was separated from
- Women genuinely love their husbands and hope they will change.
Many women feel if they display compassion, care, and tender love, they can
change their abusive husbands. This is a great mistake. Battering is a
lifestyle, not one event. Abusive men need to be educated how to treat women and
how to display compassionate behavior. All the love in the world will not change
the husbandís behavior. Change will come when on his on volition he admits he
has a problem and desires to change.
- Women are told if they change their
behavior, the abuse will stop. You can make your partner mad, but you cannot
make him hit you. He is totally responsible for his own behavior.
are raised to believe divorce is wrong and marriage should be kept intact at all
costs. Although divorce is not ideal, remaining in a dangerous relationship
is not God's idea of marriage. As of matter of fact, God hates violence as it
breaks the marriage vow. God does not expect a woman to sleep in an unsafe bed
with the threat of death or injury. Some women and men misunderstand the meaning
of the marriage vow "until DEATH do us part." Safety is the operative
word in such relationships.
- Some womenís identity is dependent on their
husbandsí. They were taught they need a man to be "whole." It is
a mistake to believe that we need each other to be a whole person. God made us
as complete individuals, not half of a person. Yes, we are made to be gregarious
beings, however our individuality is not to be absorbed in another. Some
Bahamian women hold on to their abusive husbands became of the
"prestige" they apparently provides. He gives her money she thinks she
needs, he provides a good home she thinks she needs, he is from a
well-to-do-family she thinks she need. Why give all this up she thinks? In fact
some of her closest friends would tell her "You would be foolish to give up
all of that." This is a big mistake. Prestige cannot buy LOVE, PEACE, nor
SAFETY. In fact these men are quite aware how much they have control and power
their over partners..
There are many other reasons why women stay in abusive relationships.
However, a final reason I would like to state here why women stay is because
they often do not know where to turn for help and most times no one believes
them when they do tell someone, therefore they feel isolated and confused.
Concerned Friend, encourage your friend by letting her know that there is help
right here in Nassau. There are professional counselors who understand the
dynamics of domestic violence at the Women Crisis Center and there are other
professionals who have work with hundred of victims and abusers. Point out your
friendís strengths and be as supportive as your can be. Be honest and tell her
if youíre worried about her safety. Remain as her friend.