- Because women have such ready access to rights and resources in liberal democratic societies, it is widely assumed that if abusive relationships endure, it is because women choose to stay, a decision that seems counterintuitive for a reasonable person. The logical explanation is that women who make this choice are deficient psychologically or in some other respect. Yet researchers have failed to discover any psychological or background traits that predispose any substantial group of women to enter or remain in abusive relationships. Battered women do suffer disproportionately from a range of psychological and behavioral problems, including some, like substance abuse and depression, that increase their dependence and vulnerability to abuse and control. As we will see momentarily, however, these problems only become disproportionate in the context of ongoing abuse and so cannot be its cause…
- When women stay in abusive situations, the reason is most likely psychological, not religious. For example, low self-esteem or fear of being alone.
- In fact, around 80% of battered women in intact couples leave the abusive man at least once. These separations appear to decrease the frequency of abuse, but not the probability that it will recur. Indeed, the risk of severe or fatal injury increases with separation. Almost half the males on death row for domestic homicide killed in retaliation for a wife or lover leaving them. As we’ve also seen, a majority of partner assaults occur while partners are separated. So common is what legal scholar Martha Mahoney calls “separation assault” that women who are separated are 3 times more likely to be victimized than divorced women and 25 times more likely to be hurt than married women.
In the comment zone of Schwyzer's post Richard adds quotes from Judith Lewis Herman’s book “Trauma and Recovery” (1992),
- So far, I haven’t read anything about the book that indicates that it’s truly groundbreaking. On another site, in fact, Evan Stark stated, “Others have said some of this before. But I think you’ll find, when you read the book, that it hasn’t been put together in this way before.”
- Of course, ultimately the only way to really eradicate domestic violence is to eradicate inequality between men and women. I firmly believe that oppressive violence is just a manifestation of oppression itself, and just one of many tools that a dominant class uses to keep an oppressed class under the boot. Note, I’m not saying that all intimate violence everywhere will disappear; there’s always going to be control freaks who flip out when they feel that their sexual partners are retaliating against their control. But the majority of male-on-female domestic violence comes from the fact that men have been socially conditioned to feel entitled to control over and subservience from women, and when they don’t get it, many of them flip out. Until that sense of entitlement is eradicated, we’re going to see this problem persist.