Sunday, April 27, 2008


Why doesn’t she just leave? I have been working in the area of domestic violence for so long, I am surprised that people still ask this question. Really – you don’t know? How about this – Why doesn’t he stop hitting her? Surely, by now, EVERONE knows that “the state picks up the charges.” Why does he make the choice to keep hitting her knowing that he’ll be prosecuted? What the heck is wrong with him?

But, back to this question about her just leaving: First I’d say that there is no “just” about this issue. As former police officer Mark Wynn says, “Leaving isn’t an event, it is a process.” It isn’t a matter of walking out the door, especially when kids are involved. Anyone who is divorced with children will tell you that that person is ALWAYS in his or her life. And – read the paper, watch the news – start noticing when women and children die in domestic violence relationships – it most often when they leave. Domestic violence is foremost about control – leaving breaks the control.

Unsupervised visitation is the NORM for divorced men who previously beat their wives. Unbelievable, but true. Ask any family attorney. Ask any battered woman. I’ve seen it up close thousands of times. So – here are a battered woman’s choices:

1) Stay in the relationship. Part of her loves him; maybe he’ll get better. He says he will. He even tries sometimes. At least while she is there, she is safer. She can be around her kids all the time and make sure they are safe. She keeps getting hit. Her kids keep seeing it. Her children are learning that violence is OK, that you don’t have the right or ability to stand up for yourself, or for some that are lucky, maybe they want to be different (see

2) Leave. He told her he’d kill her if she left. She tried leaving before. He didn’t leave her alone. Her kids will be around him alone, without her as a buffer. What if he beats the new woman in his life? Even though she left, her kids would still be exposed to violence. He controls the money, she feels stupid, she has lost contact with her friends and family, what if he gets custody of the kids? Here in Houston, in 2006, Leonard Hausenbauer killed his young children when his wife left him. Some people may wonder how he could hurt his own childen. It wasn’t about his children, it was about her, hurting her. He wanted her to pay for leaving.

3) Do nothing. Make no choices to stay or leave. Pretend. Live day-by-day and just hope it gets better. Maybe drink to do SOMETHING with her pain. Become less than fully human, never being able to think about how she feels – because to do that would be to fall apart. And – she can’t. She’s got to stay alert, like a prisoner of war.

So, when it comes to arresting and prosecuting, it becomes between him and the criminal justice system. What the heck is wrong with you, dude? If you can’t stop hitting her because it is just wrong, maybe you will because you don’t want to be in trouble? Maybe she’ll find a way out if you are held accountable? Chances are slim, but maybe you’ll make the choice to stop using violence?

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