B. Why Battered Women Stay/ Obstacles to Leaving
1. Her Childhood: It is estimated that 60% of battered women
grew up in homes where either they were abused or they witnessed
their mother's abuse.
2. Isolation: Many batterers systematically destroy the victim's
friendships and family ties. Often people feel uncomfortable
around the abuse and therefore, avoid contact with the victim.
The resulting isolation can leave the victim psychologically
dependent on the batterer as her only support system.
3. Low Self-Esteem: Many battered women feel they are failures
as wives, mothers and women because they do not know how to void
or stop the abuse. Their batterers often reinforce this belief
as a means of control.
4. Fear: Fear of reprisal for calling the police or going to
court is not unfounded; MORE BATTERED WOMEN ARE MURDERED WHILE
ATTEMPTING TO FLEE THE ABUSER THAN AT ANY OTHER TIME. Often it
is not only the batterer, but his extended family and friends who
will threaten, harass, intimidate and harm the victim for seeking
5. Guilt: Like victims of rape and incest, abused women often
believe that they are in some way responsible for the crime.
Thus, they may feel guilty for not figuring out a way to stop the
6. Promises of Change: It is easy to believe the batterer when he
tells the victim that he is sorry and the abuse will not recur.
She may still love him and believe that if she is patient enough
he will stop the violence. WHILE SOME BATTERED WOMEN WANT THE
RELATIONSHIP TO CONTINUE, THEY ARE CLEAR ABOUT WANTING THE
VIOLENCE TO STOP.
7. Denial and Minimization: If the batterer denies or minimizes
the abuse, it can be dangerous for the victim to contradict him
and report the intentional injuries as such. The victim may
accurately perceive that denial of the abuse is the only way to
8. Prior Lack of Serious Intervention: In the past, the victim
may have attempted to obtain help from friends, police and/or
courts, to no avail. Based ont his inadequate response, she may
now assume that no one will treat the abuse seriously. Thus, the
battered woman may be reluctant to keep calling the police or
going to court UNLESS SHE SEES CONSISTENT, SERIOUS INTERVENTION.
9. Wanting to KeeD the Family Together/ Fear of Losing Custody:
The victim may believe that the children will fare better in a
two-parent family, especially if she can figure out how to stop
the abuse. Additionally, since the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court
Gender Bias Study (1989) reports that fully 70% of the men who
attempt to gain custody are successful, the mother has very valid
fears of losing her children should she try to protect herself
through the legal system.
10. Financial Considerations: Many battered women and their
children are economically dependent on the batterer. If she has
no marketable skills, her meager income and/or inadequate public
benefits are just not enough to pay for rent, child care, food,
clothing, utilities, etc. The battered woman may feel that she
can try harder to appease the batterer as the only way to provide
for the children.
95% of the women in the Framingham Prison are battered
women, the majority of whom committed property crimes in an
effort to support their children.
Minimum wage gross per week............$150.
Cheapest day care for one child..........90.
$ Left for food, clothing, rent........$ 30.
Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, only
Alaska ($9024. per year) provides AFDC benefits above the federal
poverty line ($7,730 for 2 people). 35 states pay less than
$4,000. per year, and 3 states (Massachusetts, Alabama and
Kentucky) actually lowered their AFDC payments for 1990. The
following are sample state's 1990 AFDC for a family of 4:
State Need Standard Maximum Payment
Alabama $677. $145.
Arizona $748. 353.
Arkansas 850. 247.
District of Columbia 870. 499.
Florida 1,008. 346.
Illinois 876. 414.
Louisiana 809. 234.
Nevada 650. 390.
Ohio 914. 397.
Texas "691. 221.
Washington 1,068. 589.
State Coverage of Pregnant Women and Children January 1990,
National Governor's Association Maternal & child Health update,
p. 15, Table 3 (1990).
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