Battered wives must make their own decision to leave
(CNS): As distressing as it is to see women put up with being abused by their husbands and partners, it is the role of those who care for them when they run from their abusers to help them get on with their lives in a non-judgmental way. Battered women must make their own decision to leave their abuser and this means, on average, running away from their husband or partner seven times before they finally see the light, according to Cayman Islands Crisis Centre Director Ania Milanowska-Sedgley. She said that with domestic violence one thing was sure – it always got worse, not better, until the victim left for good.
Speaking on the subject of domestic violence at last week’s Nurses Conference held at the Marriott Beach Resort, Milanowska-Sedgley said that globally, one in four women are either beaten or forced into sex by an abuser, who is often a member of their own family. 85 per cent of domestic violence victims are women and every day three women are murdered in America by either their husband or partner.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the US, beating all other causes, such as car accidents and muggings, combined. 25 to 45 per cent of women who are abused are pregnant at the time of the abuse and domestic violence costs America US$5.8 billion annually, with US$1.4 billion of that being spent directly on medical costs.
People who were abused come from all sorts of backgrounds, she said. They were all ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds and all had suffered at the hands of an abuser who was looking for power over them. Milanowska-Sedgley outlined the types of abuse that was considered domestic violence and this not only included physical abuse but also sexual, emotional, psychological and financial.
She said that abusers often criticized the victim in public, put them down and insulted them to lower their self-esteem. Often they would appear gentle and kind to their victim in public and save the abuse for when they got home. They may withhold finances from their partner or wife or restrict access to family and friends in another way of abusing their victims, she explained. Women were made to feel that they had no choice in this type of activity and that the abuser had total control over their lives.
Milanowska-Sedgley outlined many reasons that abused women gave to validate why they had not left the abusive relationship, and even though it was hard to bear witnessing the suffering that the women had endured, she said it was important for those who cared for such women to allow them to make their own decisions as to when they would finally leave their partner or husband.
Women might say that they feared the unknown if they left their partner, that becoming a single parent was too much to bear, that their husband or partner promised they would reform and was also considerate after the abuse. She went on to say that women sometimes thought their husband was sick and it was their duty to help him, as a wife. A lack of self-esteem sometimes prevented women from leaving, as did a lack of financial support without their partner or husband. Some women believed that they would be perceived as failures by society or their families if they left their husbands. Some women, particularly ex-patriots, kept the abuse from their families back home and pretended that it did not exist for fear of bringing shame on their families.
Some women had religious beliefs that prevented them from leaving their abuser, thinking it was all part of “God’s plan”.
The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre has room for 18 abused women and they are never turned away, even if they have left their partners multiple times to be helped at the Centre.
“Women are never turned away because seeing them repeatedly means they are one step closer to being free from the abuse,” Milanowska-Sedgley said. “It takes women on average seven times to leave their husband or partner before they leave him for good … Abuse only gets worse if the victim does not do something about it.”
While the Crisis Centre was a female-only refuge, she said that men in Cayman were also abused by their partners or wives and even though men did call the centre for advice, there was not a place of refuge on island for them to go to. Milanowska-Sedgley acknowledged that there was little support for men in this regard.
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