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Why Are You Asking Her?

Why do we always feel the need to blame the victim? Why are we so quick to try to understand why an abuser does what he does? When are we going to put the fault where it belongs, right on the abuser?

Why does she stay? This is the question often asked in cases of domestic abuse. Why does she stay? Why doesn’t anyone ask why he hits her? Why don’t people ask, “what makes you think it’s ok to savagely beat someone you claim to love? What could she possibly have done to deserve that?"

Of course domestic violence isn’t just about the physical abuse. It is about the control and before the abuse turns physical there is often emotional abuse and the breaking down of a victim’s self-esteem. It may start small like when an abuser finds a flaw and makes sure the victim is aware of that flaw. It could be something ridiculous that may not bother you or me but for the victim is the cause of insecurity. Once picked out, it is like a thread that is pulled only to slowly unravel the entire fabric.

Looking at the news it seems as if everyday we are reading about a mother who has disappeared whether it is Lacey Peterson, Stacy Peterson, or Susan Powell. A beautiful young lacrosse player, Yeardley Love, from the University of Virginia was beaten to death by her boyfriend, someone who supposedly loved her. These are just some who have made headlines. There are more who don’t make the news, too many more.

On last week’s Grammy Awards Chris Brown performed twice and also won a Grammy, a huge contrast from three years ago when he was absent after brutally beating Rihanna, his girlfriend and someone he claimed to love. Police reports were released detailing the assault.  It was a difficult account to read and not once did I wonder why she didn’t leave him.

I wondered instead what could possibly possess a person to ever beat, bite, punch, or choke someone he claimed to love. And I wondered how in three short years anyone could think he was so rehabilitated enough to deserve the love fest he received on the Grammy Awards.

Apparently some other people were on the same page. Miranda Lambert sent out a Tweet questioning how we could ever forget a man putting his hands on a girl. I’d only correct her in that he did more than put his hands on her. A lot more.

I supposed I wonder too what would have happened to Chris Brown had he assaulted a stranger randomly on the street. Would he have been ordered to do some therapy and community service or would he done time inside a correctional facility?

I have to wonder about sentencing for mugging and armed robbery as opposed to assaulting a loved one. If there is love involved is it less of a crime? And where does that question come from, you know the one, “Why did she stay?” as if this is somehow her fault and not the fault of the person who commits the violent act.

The thought of bringing up Charlie Sheen and all of the ways his career has flourished after each accusation of violent incidents against a woman pains me. Yes, he is talented. But a Comedy Central Roast of Sheen celebrating abuse? Really? You could ask why a woman would get involved with him knowing his history. It is a fair question. But still, when are we going to ask Charlie if he thinks what he does is all right?

I’d like to point out that I’ve used celebrities as examples as well as cases out of the headlines but unfortunately that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. There are so many more victims that don’t make the news. There are so many victims who never even get a police report. Whether it is the shame or stigma felt by a victim or the lack of evidence that sometimes make a police officer’s job difficult, there is no one reason and no one perfect example.

Domestic violence is insidious and what many people don’t realize is just how long after a relationship ends it can still have an effect whether in the form of an abuser who refused to go away or in the different ways it can impact on a victim’s life.

It is time to stop directing the questions at the victim and time to start asking the abuser why. It is time we let the abuser know that there is no excuse, no justification. It is never ok. Never. Just by asking the victim why raises the possibility that she should share the blame and that is blame that should fall on an abuser and an abuser alone, unless of course you are the one looking at the victim asking why.

If you or anyone you know is in an unsafe situation please call the Coalition Against Domestic Violence for help. (516)542-0404.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cathy February 25, 2012 at 04:15 PM
OMG you are so right. Im so guilty of asking why she stays. But at the same time i totally see how shes stuck. How they eat away at your self esteem & turn it around on you & make it seem that your over reacting & that its your fault. Wow i hope everyone reads this one!!!!!!!
Kristen Ferrari February 25, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Hi Cathy, Obviously it goes much deeper than asking why she stayed or why he hits her, but I do think it's important to shift the blame back to the abuser. With Chris Brown and Rihanna's supposed reconciliation in the news, many people are asking why she'd go back. I can't blame people for wondering why she would go back to a man who did that to her, but so many victims do go back. The have an emotional investment in a person that we on the outside don't share. Still, we don't have to understand why she goes back. We do have to understand the danger in leaving safely. And we do have to ask the abuser what possible justification there could be to bite, punch, choke, or kick someone he claims to love. Thanks for your comment!
Yankee Man February 26, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Most people in abusive situations are not able to really escape due to emotional, physical and financial abuse. Rihans has no such excuse. She was the victim, and was able to escape him. He is a criminal and the fact that he is even allowed to be on these shows is a disgrace. Anyone seen mel Gibson lately....of course not. the fact that Rihanna would go back with him is unreal, and yes we can say " why would she take him back!" There are no children involved, no financial need. She is taking back a person with a history of abuse. Does she then get what she deserves? of course not, but will we be surprised when it happens
Kristen Ferrari February 26, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Soup Nazi, many people in abusive situations don't leave because of the danger. You are correct. I hesitate to say Rihanna has no excuse because an aspect that people often miss is the personal relationship involved, one we don't share. Because abuse is often gradual, there is an investment and love. Often victims want to believe an abuser really is sorry and will never do it again. It's a scary pattern for people to watch. Like you, I won't be surprised if he hurts her again should their reconciliation happen. Obviously I don't know her personally to know if she went to therapy or dealt with any of the issues related to being a victim. I hope that she did. If not, and if she does get back with him, any future abuse would still be on him and I would hope people would place the blame squarely on the shoulders of a person who thinks assaulting a loved one is every ok or justified.
James M. February 27, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Just a question to throw a wrench into everyone else's thought pattern. What if Rihanna was verbally abusing Chris Brown and he snapped much in the same way we hear about a mother that snapped and killed her husband after years of verbal abuse? We always assume as a society that the man is to blame for the emotional issues in the relationship, but stop and think for one moment. What if Rihanna verbally abused Chris Brown and he snapped and hit her? Would you blame a woman for snapping?
Kristen Ferrari February 27, 2012 at 06:29 PM
James M, I'm not blaming Chris Brown for any emotional issues in his relationship with Rihanna. I am blaming Chris Brown for punching, choking, biting, punching again, choking again, and however many more times he did it to the point that she lost consciousness and feared for her life. Any time a person is bigger or stronger, no matter the sex, and uses physical violence to solve a problem that is not a result of physically defending themselves, they are in the wrong and no excuse can be made for them. Are you saying that Rihanna deserved what happened to her or somehow that Chris Brown is justified in his actions? Have you read the police reports or seen the pictures? And can you ever tell me of one day that Chris Brown has shown true remorse for his actions.
James M. February 27, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Question, If you believe it was wrong for him to retaliate under my hypothesis you should also believe that a woman that shoots her husband after years of verbal abuse should be tried for murder? IS that accurate? A husband who is verbally beaten by their wife for everything that goes wrong in their life even to the extent of being hit regularly by that wife but does nothing because it is unmanly to admit your wife is hitting you is the typical abused husband. If you think women are silent about abuse men will never mention it to anyone ever. If Rihanna is the abusive type Chris may have been justified much in the same way a woman verbally abused is justified in beating or shooting their husband. "Any time a person is bigger or stronger, no matter the sex, and uses physical violence to solve a problem that is not a result of physically defending themselves" I have a problem with this logic because many times it is the smaller person instigating the fight because they are under the illusion that bigger people won't hit smaller people, hence the term a Napoleon Complex. We don't know if Rihanna is verbally abusive because a person like Chris Brown would never admit to it in the first place. I just think everyone needs to slow down and not rush to judgement. I have no idea if Brown was justified, I also don't believe the public has the complete picture of the situation.
James M. February 27, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I'm speaking out for all of the abused husbands who get a bum rap from the media because on one hand it is wrong to hit a woman on the other hand it is ok for a woman to hit a man in the same situation. The same is true in custody cases, over 75% of custody cases end with the the woman being granted custody. In the UK over 40% of domestic violence is caused by women. IN the US statistics are similar but only 13% are reported. Again I am not saying Chris Brown was justified. I am stating that we as the public do not necessarily have all the facts. But it brings it around to the point of the article of "What did she do?" because the reality is we do not know and the reason we ask that question is under certain circumstances the general public can understand it.
Kristen Ferrari February 27, 2012 at 07:37 PM
James, If, according to your hypothesis, he was retaliating, at what point does it go from retaliation to assault? Was it when she lost consciousness? Was it the first time he smashed her head against the window or was it when he tried to push her out of a moving car? Was it when he repeatedly punched her? BIt her? Choked her? I'm a little lost with your hypothesis because if she was the aggressor as you seem to believe or imply, why did he cop a plea and not fight the charges? Why did he not claim to be the victim of abuse who was simply defending himself? I also wonder what that window did to him, you know the window he tried to throw a chair through after being enraged by interview questions. I wonder about those people walking along the street minding their own business who would have been hit by shards of glass or a chair from several floors up and how if Brown, after his rage passed, would have passed that off. You're right that I don't have the complete picture, but the picture I do have based on an undisputed police report coupled with pictures tells me that your hypothesis is most likely incorrect and that Brown was the aggressor and the abuser. It was he after all, not she, who faced criminal charges and received a sentence. She was brutally beaten with his fists and his mouth. He received a slap on the wrist.
Kristen Ferrari February 27, 2012 at 07:45 PM
James M, I'll address your second point because I didn't see it before my last reply. Nowhere did I state that it was ok for a woman to abuse a man. There certainly are cases where a man is abused and because we live in a society that expects men to be strong, I could see a man feeling stigmatized by making a report. I am not justifying abuse at the hands of a man or a woman. Are you saying that in 75% of custody cases, a woman wins custody over a man or that 75% of custody goes to women. There is a difference. There could be many situations where one gender gets preferential treatment but what I wrote about is abuse, not custody cases. They are two completely different subjects and I'm not going to use what you perceive as an unfair custody system as a means to debate domestic violence. I would suggest that if you feel you have something to say or facts to support your argument you contact the editor and write a blog about a slant in the court system. My own divorce and custody issues are all I could base an argument on and I'm going to respect my ex-husband's right to privacy and not delve into that topic.
James M. February 27, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Kristen My apologies I did not think this would produce as emotional response as you did. I was only discussing this from a different perspective. Here are some links http://www.marriagemissions.com/husband-abuse-can-a-wife-abuse-her-husband/ http://www.batteredmen.com/ http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/abusiverelationships/a/male_abuse.htm http://www.attorneys.com/child-custody/why-do-women-win-most-custody-battles/ Just so you know I'm going to drop it now since this was not the response I was expecting. Again my apologies.
Kristen Ferrari February 28, 2012 at 12:15 AM
James M, There is no need to apologize and you are more than welcome to comment. If my response seems emotional to you it is because I think domestic violence is a very serious problem. I don't see any justification for what Chris Brown did. He did not fight the charges and has shown a pattern of behavior since his arrest that leads me to believe that he has anger problems. I don't claim Rihanna is a perfect person who never did wrong. I do say she did not deserve to be brutally assaulted by someone claiming to love her. It was, no matter what you say, a brutal assault. Of course men can be victims and it is very sad because, as I said earlier, there is an expectation in our society for men to be strong and a man who is a victim may avoid filing a report due to a fear of being ridiculed. Nobody should ever feel shamed out of getting help. As far as the custody issue goes, it is not that I'm disagreeing with you. It is a completely different topic which is why I suggest you write about it if it is something you feel strongly about. I have my own opinions of the court system but have to respect the privacy of my children and my ex-husband. There is much I think needs to change and rarely have I ever seen what is in the best interests of the children truly be represented.
Rob 203 March 01, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Well said Kristen. You are a talented writer.
Kristen Ferrari March 01, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Thank you Rob 203. I appreciate the kind words!
Yankee Man March 03, 2012 at 03:09 PM
james ..you are 100 percent wrong....... even crazy. Are even suggesting that a person who is the victim of verbal abuse has the right to physically hit someone.? Is that acceptable anywhere . From the school yard to the kitchen, how can you say that. Wow...hos that for 17 th century thinking. Hope this does not give you an excuse to punch me
Kristen Ferrari March 03, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Soup Nazi, I took issue more with after reading about the brutality Chris Brown inflicted, James still tried to explain it away as if there was a justification. I repeatedly stated that he punched, hit, bit, choked to make the point, not because I was being emotional. Defending oneself is quite different than what Brown did. His behavior since his arrest has not been the behavior of anyone who expresses remorse or a change in behavior. I am not an advocate for physical violence ever but I will acknowledge that emotional abuse can be very dangerous. I still don't say that violence is the response nor will I ever believe that what Chris Brown did to someone he loved that night could ever be considered an appropriate response even with the presence of emotional abuse. I'd like James to read the police report that is linked and ask himself if he would think his mother, sister, daughter, etc, would ever deserve that.
James M. March 05, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Here's the logic Abuse = Illegal Verbal Abuse = Abuse Physical Abuse = Abuse/Assault Physical altercation against a perpetrator of abuse is considered Self Defense Difference between Self Defense and Abuse/Assault = Perspective IF you can break this logic my hat is off to you.
James M. March 05, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Here is a great website about abused men http://verbalabuseofmen.com/YouAreNotAlone.htm
Kristen Ferrari March 05, 2012 at 06:36 PM
James M, You seem bent on proving that men can be abused and I'm not sure why considering I've acknowledged that from the beginning of this discussion. Men can be the victims of abuse. I'm not sure why you seem so intent on classifying Chris Brown's attack on Rihanna as self-defense or why you are so sure she was an abuser. Read the police report. His punching, choking, and biting did not seem as if it was the result of a man merely trying to fend off his abusive girlfriend and I'm not sure why you refuse to acknowledge that. There is more of a difference between self defense and abuse or assault than perspective but again, I'm not sure where you're going with this. Do you agree that domestic violence is a problem or that it is ever directed towards women or do you feel basically that men have gotten a raw deal and are abused more frequently? I'm not sure what your point is.
James M. March 05, 2012 at 08:51 PM
My point is as the public we are speculating. We do not know. We read crime reports but they do not give us the whole story. We do not know if Rihanna was berating Brown about a lesser star than she is. We do not know if Rihanna hit Brown. We are SPECULATING. I speculate regularly that Michael Jackson was a pedophile. Can I prove it? NO But based on the complaints and him agreeing to pay off the people I am ASSUMING he did it. You posed the question "Why are we asking her?" I was answering why we as a society ask that question. Most people want to see domestic abuse as a simple he hit her and he goes to jail. I am trying to point out that domestic violence can be and is a bit more complicated. There can be abuse from both parties but we as a society only want to accept A) Abuse can only be physical, which it is not B) Only woman can be abused, which is untrue C) Physical abuse is worse than verbal abuse, which it is not. I DO NOT know Chris Brown's side of the story nor do I care. The question was posed "Why are we asking her?" and the reason is that the man can be abused too. And if it is ok for a woman to snap and claim abuse as self defense from charges than a man can have the same excuse otherwise it is a double standard. For the record, I believe an abusee should be allowed in self defense to physically defend themselves against an abuser.
Kristen Ferrari March 05, 2012 at 11:10 PM
James, I am not assuming or speculating. Brown plead guilty before a judge and was sentenced. He did not dispute the police report nor did he introduce evidence that he was acting in self defense or being abused. I posed the question in cases of abuse in which people ask the victim why instead of asking the abuser why. I used Chris Brown as an example because of the viciousness of the assault and the fact that despite being persona non grata for the past three years, he has now been granted an exalted status all because of his musical talent. It seems people are willing to forget if the tune was catchy enough. Another reason I used Brown as an example was because it bothered me personally to see and then I saw news reports about other musicians questioning the love fest. Never did I make any claim that men cannot be abused and in fact I have said it repeatedly. I also never went into any cases of a victim snapping in response. You continuously question Chris Brown's case and insinuate he was a victim when police reports and the outcome of his case tell us he was the not the victim. You do no favor to any victims of abuse, male or female, by nitpicking over who is abused more or coming up with reasons why Brown would be justified. He assaulted someone he claimed to love. Viciously. No excuses.
Rob 203 March 06, 2012 at 04:11 AM
James - your logic makes absolutely no sense at all. You are justifying the beating of a woman because she verbally abused the man ? Are you serious and think your logic makes any sense ? if you do , YOU need help .
Laurel May 02, 2012 at 06:57 AM
I completely get James point. When someone is tortured mentally they can snap.....no matter what sex they are. Woman have become more violent...the prescribed drugs given are no help. It is an epidemic of our society and it is an epidemic of people in pain. We need to go beyond the surface of these questions and look at ourselves and our society we are creating. I was with a man who emotionally abused me for years and when he came home and told me he decided on another woman I snapped and attacked him. I was wrong and should not have been violent. The Adderall, PMS and facing homelessness did not help but I did what I did and paid for it. I was arrested, put in jail....could not get work due to background checks and lost all my savings. After two years I feel horrible and barely remember the evening it happened. I was wrong but in retrospect I was not a person who went home beating someone up every night. I lost it and now have the freedom I kept asking him to give me. Everytime I would leave due to mental abuse he would pursue me.....I kept going back, my fault, I know. After the arrest though, I got what I wanted in a weird way....the freedom I was not strong enough to assert while trying to leave in a healthy way. This explosion on my part happened after 4 years with him. Anyway, after my initial attack he whacked me pretty good and I walked away with the pain emotionally and physically. He married the cute blonde.
Kristen Ferrari May 02, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Laurel, I'm sorry for what you went through. and that you were emotionally abused for years. I don't advocate violence, even in the face of domestic abuse. I would hope that as a society we would explore the patterns of domestic violence. Many victims have low self-esteem and that makes it easier for a partner to beat them down emotionally and physically. Domestic Violence is about control just as much as it is about violence and many survivors repeat the patterns with new partners. I'm not sure what Adderall or PMS have to do with your situation nor any of the details of your situation. I'm hoping you entered into therapy to deal with the underlying issues that made you stay in that situation as well as the issues that caused your own violent episode. Good luck!

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