Why do women stay in violent relationships?(November 22, 2015)

With the recent rise in controversial and heartbreaking cases of domestic violence, the common question has again risen of how women get into these situations and why they stay.

Counselor and social activist, Marcus Kissoon said in many cases, psychologists and social workers would say these women may have grown up being abused and so are attracted to an abusive lifestyle. He admitted this is not true for all cases, as individual relationships are different.
He said there are many reasons why women might stay in abusive relationships. “One of them is that it’s their safe space as they’ve been cultured to be attracted to abusive partners. Then there is Stockholm syndrome, where they feel a sense of compassion towards the perpetrator and sympathy and feel they have the ability to help and change them and that’s a huge psychological factor.”
Social factors also play a factor in women remaining in these situations. “A lot of women stay in these relationships because they have no other means of support, they don’t have jobs, they’re not educated, or they feel that they’re not good enough to function on their own. When there are children in the relationship, many women see the need to have a father in a child’s life as opposed to having a positive male in their life. A lot of women still believe their father needs to be in their life, but not a positive role model. I would tell people I would prefer them to be a single parent rather than a family with an abusive man there because what are you teaching the children? You’re adding stress on the mother, you’re adding stress onto the children and what successful family life could this bring? The children do play a role but no-one is thinking about healthy role modeling.”
In addition, social institutions play a role in telling these women to stay with their partners, Marcus said. “People get married and then feel they have to stay with their husbands because society says so. The old-fashioned parents would say go and work it out with your husband, because that is what they know. The churches and other religious institutions say marriage is a holy thing and it must not be broken. We need the churches, schools and families to understand that there is no excuse for violence and once it exists in a relationship, serious intervention is needed.”
Executive Director of the Caribbean Anti-Violence Institute, criminologist Renee Cummings said most women don’t have an exit strategy to leave a violent relationship. Domestic violence is not only physical, but often emotional, psychological and financial, and so may not be recognized. “Women in violent relationships where there is violence often miscalculate the gravity of risk posed by the abuser and minimize the amount of danger in their situation. They are often convinced the violence will cease but it escalates at a deadly rate. Relationship violence undermines the confidence of a woman and creates an atmosphere of intimidation, shame and low self-esteem, further undermining decision-making and the ability to act in the best interest of herself and her children. Women who suffer from abuse often suffer from impaired judgment and are unable to assess the lethality of the relationship.”
She also said women are often afraid to report abuse to the police because of the fear of being re-victimized and re-traumatized. “At the level of policing, there needs to be a uniform domestic violence and battered women protocol as well as a protocol to treat with men who are victims of domestic violence. We need focused, long term intervention strategies to treat with domestic violence before it leads to domestic homicide.”
Marcus called for changes in societal attitudes towards domestic violence and the victims of this abuse. “At the end of the day, this person that lashes out is at fault because they are hurting themselves and they’re hurting another person. The victim is never at fault, so we’re not going to look at the victim and spend more time on what she’s attracted to.”
Renee also said there is a need for a national effort to establish a coordinated response that promotes victim safety and reinforces abuser accountability. “We also need to strengthen the response of the criminal justice system to the crime of domestic violence by imposing mandatory arrest provisions for law enforcement and increasing penalties, especially for violating orders of protection. These actions will contribute greatly to the creation of a safer and more secure Trinidad and Tobago for women.”

Resources for women who are experiencing domestic violence:
Emergency 911/999 Ambulance 811
CHILDLINE 131 or 800-4321 (toll free)
Domestic Violence Hotline 800 SAVE or 800 7283
Rape Crisis Society POS 622 7273; San Fernando 657 5355
The Children’s Authority Hotline Numbers: 996 / 800-2014
Child Guidance Clinic: 726-1324
AIDS Hotline Port of Spain: 800 4HIV; 625 2437
Lifeline (suicide): 645 2800; 645 6616
Families in Action: 628 2333; 622 6952
Alcoholics Anonymous Northern Inter-group: 662-4829, 640-5305, 679-0066 
Port-of-Spain Inter-group 628-2288
Southern Inter-group 657-6367; 677-6856
B2B Inter-group 620 2580; 650 1692 
Tobago 639 9121; 660 5668
Crime Stoppers 800-TIPS (8477)
Anti-Crime Hotline 555
O.A.B.I.: Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals 1 (868) 798-6185
Victim and Witness Support: 624-8853
National Family Services Division: 624-8218 or 627-1163
Domestic Violence Drop-in Centres are located at the following Community Centres:
Manzanilla Community Centre 
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
La Horquetta Regional Complex 
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Monroe Road Community Centre
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Chaguanas Community Centre 
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Maloney Community Centre
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Valencia Community Centre
4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Maracas Valley Community Centre
3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Penal Central Community Centre
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Valencia Community Centre
1:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Maracas Valley Community Centre
1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Drop-In Centres
Domestic Violence Drop-in Centres are located at the following Community Centres:
Individual, Group and Family Counselling
Social Welfare Building
Independence Avenue
San Fernando
Trinidad, West Indies
Tel. (868) 653-0991

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