Friday, April 22, 2005

Domestic violence

I just happened upon this essay explaining why it's so wrong to ask a domestic-abuse victim, "Why didn't you just leave?" Go read it. You might even learn something.


Kate said...

What an awesome post. Seven years ago, I could have written that post.

Sergei C. said...

That was very interesting. For a while not only was I exclusively a divorce attorney, but I exclusively represnted women. I can remember a few abuse cases where the woman had somehow gotten up the courage to try and get away. We would put together a comprehensive plan of action: where we would put her and kids, how we would get them through the process, what we would do to protect all of them and get her back on her feet afterwards. We got this elaborate three times I can remember specifically - there may have been a fourth. Each time, the woman called it all off and went back to the guy. What's interesting about the post is that it never occurred to me that I was an asshole for trying to help and then wondering what went wrong. Far, far down in the comments, someone asked "so what ARE we supposed to do?" The reply was "just shut up and listen." Wacky me, I thought I had done that.

Sergei C. said...

(too long - had to break it up)
The writer suggested that the only reason people ask that question is to (a) blame the victim, and (b) make themselves feel better in a half-assed way. And she suggests that people how preface the question by suggesting they've worked with battered women are the worst offenders. But there is another reason people ask that question - the reason I asked that question: because if I can't save your life, I want to save the life of the next woman that comes in here. I'm asking "why" because clearly I'm missing something - I'm not doing something right if I can't save you or help you save yourself. If despite my best efforts you go back, "why" is all that I've got.

Sergei C. said...

there's some typos in there - I apologize. my dander was up.

thenutfantastic said...

It's very hard not to ask that "why" question when sometimes all you really want to know is what she was thinking so you can understand better. But in turn the author is right: we ask it to blame the victim instead of the abuser him/herself.

I get so irritated with my mom and sister, who when they hear about my bestest friends newest complaint, they shake their heads and say, "Well, when she's had enough she'll leave." To me that ends the supportive position you did have because you don't want to hear the complaints anymore. But because you don't want to hear the complaints anymore doesn't mean that what's causing them is no longer happening, it just makes the person (or victim but I don't like that term) feel even more isolated and blamed. They will no longer trust or talk to you because of your ambivalence.

I was somewhere recently when a nursing student said that it typically takes a woman, on average, 7 tries before she will leave her abuser for good. That's a lot when you really think about it and we as "helpers" have to treat each and every try as if it will be the last one.

Sometimes I get weary of hearing my friend complain about her situation but just when I think I've had enough, I imagine what it must be like and the resolve cup fills up again.

My mom also gave me some sound advice once, believe it or not. She said, "It's too easy to quit." Such a simple sentence really but it has ended up having an enormous impact on my life and the way I look at challenges now, including said friend and her issues.