Why does she Stay?

Strange that so often this question is asked: "Why does she stay?" as opposed to: "Why does he treat her that way and why doesn't he stop?"

There are many reasons a woman continues to stay in an abusive relationship, especially when she lives in an affluent community. Look at all she has to lose: her friends, her neighborhood, her material possessions, her home, her lifestyle, her children (if he fights for custody and tries to prove her an unfit parent), good schools for her children, her social standing, her public image, her husband's public image which she may have been protecting, .

One woman is raped on a weekly basis by her husband and continues to stay so that her children can continue to attend the best schools. She knows that if she leaves, he will cut her and "her" children off , and on their own, they will never be able to afford the kind of quality education she wants to give them.

She may also have lost her financial independence. She could be a stay-at-home mom. She could also be an attorney with every appearance of independence in the public world. And yet, when she brings her paycheck home,  she is forced to turn it over to him. The alternative? A beating perhaps, or a month of  the silent treatment (one woman calls it "silent violence")-- pretending she doesn't exist--or threats, or reminders of what happened when she was disobedient before. One man who beat his wife to within an inch of her life on Thanksgiving had only to say afterwards, "Remember Thanksgiving?" to keep her from rising up or asserting herself in any way.

What else is she afraid of losing? Her life.

This kind of campaign of terror that is being waged against her is similar to the psychological torture inflicted on prisoners of war (See Evan Stark's Coercive Control). This constant chipping away at her self-esteem/ her confidence in herself and  at her belief in her own ability to make it on her own, coupled with the fear of the consequences of leaving, can turn a home that should be a sanctuary into a prison.

And there is his public image and network of support to contend with. Is it any wonder then, that it can take years for her to break free?

But when she is ready for change, and comes to terms with the realization that things will not get better--in fact they are getting worse--that's when she can begin to take those slow and steady steps towards freedom.