This is probably the single most infuriating question I’ve been faced with, time and time again in my not too pleasant, tumultuous life. Every time I hear this question my right temple starts throbbing ceaselessly and I have to direct all my energy into quelling my sudden spurt of mindless rage.
People who ask this particularly irksome question are either dangerously clueless or horrifically callous or prone to making shallow generalizations; either way it is downright unacceptable. Verbal or emotional* or god forbid - physical abuse in a marriage or a relationship is not something to be pooh-poohed away with banal, ignorant statements pertaining to the woman being abused. These statements or questions can range from being exasperatingly foolish to blatantly offensive like the proverbial 'why doesn’t she just leave' to cleverly reworking the question as 'but why don’t you just kick him in the groin, god knows that’s what I would have done.' to passive aggressive schlop like 'Oh honey you deserve so much better. Why do you still go back to him? ' and it goes on and on, this misguided faux ‘care’ which these people seem to relentlessly drown their target in.
I personally believe that torchbearers of such rubbishy faux ‘care’ are insensate louts. They’re snarky and pathetically passive aggressive and their belittling statements do not stem from care or pity or even sympathy; it’s just their way of passing their unequivocal judgments on the woman because they are convinced that she must be either deranged or moronic or both. Ultimately they think that she is to be blamed for the abuse; because hidden within their ‘well meaning’ statements is a strong undercurrent of their belief that abuse in itself is an uncomplicated problem which can be easily and miraculously solved if the woman simply decides to walk away. In their minds the whole situation is romanticized, their thinking is almost unbelievably utopian; she walks away from her hulking, maniacal brute of a husband or a partner, and everything rights itself. Everything somehow becomes A-ok just as soon as she walks out that door.
Earth to faux ‘care’ givers. Really. Because I don’t know if your thoughts stem from incomprehension or resolute denial, but it’s about time that you wrapped your mind around the idea that maybe, just maybe in an abusive relationship the abusers are the one to blame. Now repeat after me: abusers cause abuse. Abusers are not hulking, aberrant sociopaths ready to fly off their handle at the slightest provocation. They are as normal as you or I; friendly, affable and more often than not, quite popular at work or with friends and such like. You cannot fit the abuser’s persona into a comfortable mould. He may be rich, poor, short, fat, tall, slim, soft spoken, whatever. But one thing remains certain. Abusers are exceedingly charming and amiable. They are scammers, because their charmingly affable behavior is only a persona and nothing else. So if you entertain nonsensical notions about how women are attracted to men who treat them like shit or worse, if you believe masochistic filth like ‘oh she went back to him because she likes being abused’ then realize that its because of apathetic people like you that abused women are not vociferous enough. Heck they don’t speak out at all, in most cases.
Nobody likes assholes. A woman does not walk into a relationship wanting to be with an asshole. In all probability, she was conned into having a relationship with the abuser by his charm, his demeanor and his undivided attention. She is but a fly in the web he spins around her; she is beleaguered by his unswerving devotion. She cannot believe that anyone could possibly love her so much and slowly she becomes enmeshed in his web of deceit. Always remember that the abuser is not a dim witted clod, he is clever in singling out his targets; like a seasoned hunter he preys on women who are shy, their self esteem is either low or non existent, they may also be vulnerable or insecure or all of the above. His conniving side slowly begins to appear and he starts interspersing praise for his partner along with ‘constructive’ criticism, sarcastic jabs, name-calling, passive aggressive behavior and acerbic comments directed at her ideas or appearance or both, making sure that he slowly (or abruptly) chips away at her self worth. He then starts to manipulate her other relationships, be it friends or family and he steadily begins isolating her from people who are supportive towards her (in his own abstruse mind he views such people as competition; to him they undermine his control. This can be linked to the obvious fact that abusers are usually intensely jealous and possessive, fueled by a fervent desire to control their partners), or she may look to them for emotional strength. Finally she is left alone and powerless. No family or friends to back her up, she is at his mercy; to manipulate, to control and to brainwash.
His behavior starts to worsen uncontrollably. He is prone to outbursts, often erratic and unforeseeable and it is this unpredictability which throws her off and makes her feel like a deer caught in the headlights. Time and again, the most minor occurrences will be enough to trigger off his violent temper. He would have by now fruitfully reworked her thinking and behavior so completely, that she will automatically hold herself responsible for all his outbursts. Her non-existent confidence plummets even further as he continues to berate her for every single one of his shortcomings. The abuser possesses a terrific aptitude for self - deception, he is convinced that he is NOT to blame for any of his actions and he will inexorably project all his faults onto his partner.
But the situation becomes a tad convoluted when the abuser does an absolute volte-face and becomes all snivel-ly, self chastising and very remorseful. This usually follows an especially brutal episode of violent, abusive behavior. And this is why the woman usually sinks into the mire of an abusive relationship and is confused or scammed into staying. Even if she does decide to finally break his stranglehold on her, he gauges her intentions and changes into his repentant, apologetic persona and usually makes lofty oaths that he will never hurt her again. And she wants to believe him. She wants him to be the man she first met; she does not recognize this person who petrifies her and his brainwashing is so efficient that she falls back into her usual cycle of self depreciation. After being effectively duped by his dramatics, she stays.
Finally, something switches inside her. She comprehends the fact that she must leave or else she’s putting her life (or at the very least, her sanity) in jeopardy. Abusers are so attuned to their victims’ behavior and emotional mood swings that they will sense this change instantly. And that’s when the intimidation will take a nasty turn. Often times this is when emotional abuse spins out of control and turns into dreadful psychological abuse. He will start threatening to kill her, her family and sometimes even her pets. He will impose his feudal (and rigid) outlook on women and marriage in general on her to often frightening proportions; so much so, that god forbid she dares to even look at another man. Even if she accidentally happens to glance at another man (whatever the situation may be) it will trigger off a vicious outburst which will usually culminate in filthy name calling or worse on his part. He will threaten to kidnap her and harass her (physically or sexually) if she has the temerity to even hint at leaving him. She becomes despondent, the gravity of her situation makes her sink into a quagmire of fear and depression and this is when she turns suicidal. To her, suicide takes on a silver lining; she looks upon it almost reverently. To her it spells freedom.
If you still think that the situation is fairly simple and that all she has to do is simply ‘walk away’ then you’re a fuckwit. Think before you casually throw around the question 'Well, why doesn’t she just leave?'
Understand that her actions do not require justification, his actions do.
She is but a glorified pawn in his hands, a victim. And nothing else.
* I have spoken specifically about verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. I did not include physical abuse in this post only because physical abuse warrants a post in itself, and that's why I've put it on the back burner for now.
Addendum: I would also like to shine a spotlight on desi 'friends' of the victim (desi, of course) in particular, who convince the victim that her partner’s neurotic and borderline psychopathic behavior is proof of his 'love' and she should thank her lucky stars for being in a relationship with him. If you are one of those people, then I hope you hang yourself.
Addendum II: Go here pronto and donate your old mobile phone (or phones) if you feel strongly about domestic violence. Go. Now.