When the topic of domestic violence is addressed, the prevalent question most people ask is "Why doesn't she leave". A more imperative question is "Why does he batter", but let's look at the barriers to leaving imposed on the victims:
FEAR: resistance to or complaints about the batterers violence often provoke worse violence. Batterers are tenacious and threaten to find her and "punish" her if she "dares" to leave him. She believes him (all the statistics support she is in more danger leaving him) over 50% of battered women who flee are hounded, badgered and forced to return. Best estimates indicate that 140,000 women are stalked by their abuser at any given time and that of the 1,300 women who are killed by their partners, 90% were being stalked at the time. There has historically been a lack of protection from law enforcement, the judicial system, and social service agencies. Shelters report that of the victims they work with over 90% stated they had been threatened with death.
ISOLATION: for a batterer to exert control over his partner, he must isolate her from support systems. He will destroy her friendships, keep her family away, cause her to lose her job, not allow her access to phones and transportation, ("punish" her if she talks to outsiders and use accusations of unfaithfulness to justify this isolation. As a result, the victim feels there is no one and no where she can turn to for help.
FINANCIAL DEPENDENCE: because of the need for isolation, many times the batterer is the sole wage earner in the home. He will use many tactics to keep her dependent on him including: taking her money, making her ask for money, making her lose her job, threatening to report her to welfare, threatening to hide or quit his job in order to not pay her child support, keeping all property in his name, and/or destroying property she owns. For every three women and children let into safe house, 5 are turned away.
GUILT: batterers, tell victims that the violence is their fault because they are lousy mothers, cooks, housekeepers, lovers, etc. And society teaches that it's the women's role to keep a family together. Most people blame the victim for provoking the violence and ask "What did you do to make him so mad?"
EMOTIONAL IMPAIRMENT: batterers utilize systematic psychological (verbal, emotional, and physical) strategies to break down the victims self-esteem and sense of sanity. To survive, she begins to perceive reality through his eyes and becomes completely dependent on his kindness to live. Over time she may become: lethargic due to depression, dependent of drugs (self-medicating), focalized on basic needs, focalized on the immediate (can't think of past violence or see a future) and may display other symptoms of:
1. Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome
2. Battered Women's Syndrome
BELIEF SYSTEM: familial, societal, and religious beliefs of the victim may discourage her from leaving a marriage. Victims who stay longer periods of time in a violent relationship believe strongly in commitment and attempt various strategies to gain back the loving relationship they believed they were getting into. Families may encourage her to stay and churches convince her to "forgive and forget". She may believe strongly that children need a father in the home and that divorce will cause emotional damage.
HOPE: she loves him. She may hope that if she turns into the person the abuser wants, the violence will stop. She wants to believe his promise that he will change, he is sincere when he promises, and that everything will work out. She has experienced his "good" side and believes he's capable of displaying that "good" behavior from now on. She has invested (time, money, emotions) into this relationship and needs it to be a good one.
Stay and be passive.
Stay and fight back.
Leave and be endangered.