Why Do Domestic Violence Victims Stay?
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Domestic violence is not a joke, and should never be treated like one. Nowadays, the term "domestic violence" is slowly being translated into "domestic abuse" in order to more clearly define and incorporate all of the components which go into this kind of crime. Domestic abuse is defined as "a pattern of coercive behavior that includes the use or threat of violence and intimidation for the purpose of gaining power and control over another person." This definition includes control through physical, psychological, sexual, and economic means. Domestic violence often has a negative connotation or taboo surrounding those who are victimized. One of the first things that most people will think is, "Why don't they just leave?" A question most will see as an obvious comment; if they get hit, then why don't they just leave, because that is wrong.

Domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive behavior. Abusers will start the relationship being charming and kind, they do not start with the abuse or violence because that part comes in later so that they can gain control and power over their victim. Why don't they just leave? Well, there are so many reasons for this, so many reasons why victims do not leave. Most are in a relationship with the abuser; therefore, they could be convinced that he will get better or they might believe him when he says "I'm sorry, it'll never happen again. I promise." Oftentimes, victims feel guilty because their abuser will minimize the problem, deny, or even blame the victim who has been put under immense emotional abuse, intimidation, and has probably been isolated with whatever other means of control the abuser chooses to utilize. All from a person, the victim might consider themselves to be in love with. Fear also can play a role. Rightly so, as victims of domestic violence are at the greatest risk of being killed by their abuser at the point of separation. For those who do leave or try, it might cost them their lives. For those who simply think, "Why don't they just leave?", I hope that now they can consider some reasons why that is not always as easy done as said. Some victims of domestic abuse, don't even consider themselves to be a victim, to them this life is all they have known. One of the issues with the question, 'Why don't they just leave?' is that it does not consider the life of the victim, their past. Oftentimes, victims saw this behavior as a child and consider it to be 'normal'. Well, of course, dad hits mom sometimes, that's how you fight, that's what mommies and daddies do. Victims and their past are not considered in this abuse, which is why it is important to understand our own biases and do not blame the victim by saying "Well, why don't they just leave?"

Domestic abuse is not a joke, it is a means of control which can truly damage a person. Now, throughout this article, I have often used "her/she" when referring to the victim, and I would like to address that; 85% of domestic abuse victims are women, but that means 15% are men (for these statistics, data on LGBT was not included, though it should be noted they also can be victims of domestic abuse, as anyone can be a victim). Domestic abuse is not a one-time thing, and oftentimes officers responding to domestic abuse calls have been there before. This should not surprise you once you learn that in the state of Arizona, every five minutes, law enforcement responds to a domestic violence (or domestic abuse) call. Every five minutes. Domestic abuse is done for control and power; two things the victims lost in these crimes. The two things most people would need in order to leave.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, counselors can help you. Visit www.thehotline.ord or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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