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.