Abuse often lurks long after the victim leaves…
During my time as a development intern at WC&S this summer, I was fortunate enough to spend a day in the legal department. It was here that I watched women file Protection From Abuse orders (PFA’s), and even had a chance to sit in at court hearings. One woman in particular tugged at my heart that day. She and her abuser both had PFA’s against one another. The situation unfolded and she, unknowingly, violated a clause in her PFA and was arrested. She was sincerely misinformed, but her abuser used this as a way to purposefully have her arrested. This situation shocked me, and clearly demonstrated that manipulation, control and intentional hurting still happen once the woman decides to leave. Ending abuse is not always as simple as “just leaving.”
I learned about her story, along with many others, when I first started my internship with WC&S. Prior to, I had very little knowledge about the horror that is intimate partner violence, but I quickly learned. With more than 30% of all females being affected by abuse, it is clearly an issue that deserves attention. In addition, I soon learned that leaving is only the first step in a long journey for these women. This woman’s abuser still managed to control and manipulate her, even after she had physically left the relationship and taken legal actions against him.
In another case, a woman separated from her abuser but was not financially stable enough to file for divorce. Every year, her husband used his tax filing as an opportunity to control and manipulate her financially. Financial manipulation was another aspect of abuse which I was unaware of, and this showed me that control can occur in a variety of situations.
Alyce was in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive relationship. For years she lived in fear; in fear for her own life and also the lives of her family members. When Alyce finally made the dangerous decision to leave her abuser, she did not realize that he would continue to find ways to control her. Not only did he try to reach her through the internet, he also stole her email password and took over her account.
Indeed, even after a woman escapes and appears to be physically safe, the emotional distress and fear often escalate. One client explained that although she had left her abuser, she still lives in fear because now she does not have a constant eye on him, and she expects him to show up everywhere she goes.
“At WC&S I learned the complexity of these abusive relationships.”
Abuse is a choice to exert power and control, so when the woman escapes, her abuser very often escalates his tactics in order to keep her living in fear. This is why asking the question “Why doesn’t she just leave?” does not work. Leaving an abusive relationship is, in fact, the most dangerous time for the woman. The safety planning that WC&S provides for women allows them to develop safe strategies for getting out, as well as strategies for staying safe after she leaves. Recently, for example, Women’s Center helped a client safety plan for her children’s custody visits with their father, the abusive partner she had left.
Next time you hear:
- Why doesn’t she just leave?
- Why isn’t she over it yet? She left the relationship.
…Will you take the opportunity to talk about the lingering patterns of abuse that occur AFTER she leaves?
Brenda Stroz says
It all comes down to survival.With enough abuse people become so unable to function for long periods of time that out side the abuseive home/if at all.Our minds are so manipulated that when we get calls from the abusive person it responds in kind.Example..I would get flowers candy etc.- would then tell myself maybe it is all me.Or have your child threatned to have their throat slashed.
“Normal” for me would be thinking ok maybe I should go give this another try-he isn’t so bad…he will kill my daughter etc.Men who have low self esteem do prey on women they can control out of “LOVE” as they call it.And most won’t give up ……………
I am filling my divorce papers today.Scare witless I dont even have a job -place to live etc. But I will somehow survive.
Why I made it this far!
Thank you for sharing your story! Abuse is extremely manipulating and damaging, but we are so glad to hear that you are leaving your abusive situation. Please feel free call our hotline at 412-687-8005! Our advocates can help connect you with many different resources.
Brenda Stroz says
I filed for a divorce as dictated in my letter of 2012.I asked him to sign it,He refused and had two heart attack episode and was hospitalized for 10 days. Again I asked one year later and again he refused and had another heart attack episode.
My mistake at the time was in filing with a looser Lawyer.he said i had to stay in the home I filed from or he would charge extra to change the paperwork.If I called him he would charge me extra also.Well I filed from my home an impulse.
But it all good.I have gotten use to my life as it is.It has been worse.he is no longer violent because he fears prison.
Just an Update:)
Ps do you realize that this letter is public ?
Maybe that is why I cannot get a job?