#WhyIStayed

| 30/06/2015 | 12 Comments

The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre Board writes: While we don’t always know the facts regarding every domestic violence case that appears in our local press, we feel it is important for people to understand why both women and men stay in abusive relationships and why they need our on-going support if they are to eventually find themselves lives free of violence and intimidation.

One of the most difficult things to do is to withhold judgement.  It is easy to judge someone and say, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”  This question is often asked with a sense of hostility and disbelief because people have such a hard time believing that anyone, whether man or woman, would stay in an abusive relationship.

After the well-publicised case of football star Ray Rice, who was caught on an elevator video punching his then-girlfriend, so hard in the head that she was knocked unconscious, there was a great deal of shock and horror, not only because of the brutality of the act, but because Janay Rice defended her partner and subsequently married him.  People could not understand why she stayed and there was a significant amount of blame laid on her.  To help people understand, domestic violence survivor Beverly Gooden started a Twitter campaign #WhyIStayed, which went viral, collecting more than 92,000 Tweets in a matter of hours.

The stories are enlightening.

It should be pointed out that that men are victims of abuse as well and at the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre we believe that no person should be subject to abuse (be it physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological) in any relationship, regardless of gender and whether it be same sex or heterosexual partners.  Although due to our size constraints, we are only able to provide housing for women and their children, we do have a 24-hour crisis line that does accept calls from men, women and children and we have educational outreach programmes that seek to prevent all violence.

These are some of the reasons #WhyIStayed.

  1. Fear/threat: Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. The abuser may threaten to hurt or kill the victim, her/his children, other family members, or even pets. He/she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against the victim, or report her/him to child services.
  2. Embarrassment: Victims do not want to be known as victims.  They may not want the world to know they have chosen a partner who is not as perfect as he/she appears to be in public.  They may feel that they are responsible for the failure of the relationship. An abuser will do everything he can to make his victim feel badly about herself or that she is defective in some way. If the victim is convinced she is worthless and that no one else will want her, she is less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode someone’s self-esteem and make them feel powerless.
  3. Low self-esteem: The victim believes she deserves the punishment, that it is her fault.  She feels that she does not deserve any better.  She has been brainwashed to believe that she cannot cope without him.  She thinks if she can do or be better, the abuse will stop.  Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behaviour on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on their victims:  “If you weren’t so stupid, I wouldn’t have to hit you”.
  4. Love: “I thought love could conquer all” Tweeted @bevtgooden.  Victims hope it will change, that they can change their loved ones.  He tells her he is sorry and that it was the last time it will ever happen.  She wants the violence to stop, not the relationship to be over.  Abusers are often charming and loving at other times in the relationship – women do not fall in love with ‘abusers’ they fall in love with the softer, tender persona that is present in between the bouts of violence.
  5. Belief that abuse is normal: This will be true particularly if the victim grew up in an abusive home.  The familiarity is comfortable.  The world outside is unknown and terrifying.
  6. Social/Peer pressure: This is true especially if the abuser is ‘popular’ or well-known in the community.  “Who will believe me?” thinks the victim.  “I will be rejected by my community”.
  7. Cultural/Religious/Societal Acceptance reasons: Victims may be encouraged to stay in abusive relationships because divorce is viewed negatively and there is a degree of acceptance of domestic violence in society.  Many of our clients are encouraged to return to abusive situations by their pastors/church and to forgive their violent partners.  Our culture often places gender-role conditioning on women, teaching them that they must be passive and dependent upon men and that a woman’s value depends on her being in a relationship.  She thinks she will be an ‘old maid” if she leaves or that leaving the relationship is to admit failure.
  8. Children: She believes the kids need a father; that families are better with the parents together.  She may also fear that he may take the children, or that the children will blame and resent her for breaking up the home.
  9. Distrust of the police/judiciary: Thinking that she will not be believed or that the perpetrators always get away with it anyway.
  10. Language barriers or immigration status: She would not have any ability to stay and work if she is an expatriate and is on her own.  This is particularly relevant if the victim has Caymanian children.
  11. Isolation: In order to increase dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will methodically cut off victims from the outside world. He/she may keep partners from seeing family or friends, or prevent them from going to work or school. The victim may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.  Sometimes family members will cut support “after what happened last time”, when a victim returned to his/her abuser.
  12. Guilt: Victims may believe that their partner needs them, that they can help the abusers overcome their own childhood abuse issues.

Statistically, one in four women (actually almost 28%) will be physically assaulted by a partner at some point in their lives and approximately 15% of men will be abused.    It takes an average of seven times before a victim finally leaves her abusive partner for good. And, the most dangerous time for a woman is in the first week after she leaves.  This is when the majority of domestic violence murders take place.

Leslie Morgan Steiner, who came to Cayman in 2013 to talk about her own experience of successfully (and painfully) leaving an abusive relationship after her husband almost killed her, points out eloquently in her book Crazy Love: 

“But why would anyone hurt the people who love them the most in the world?  Why don’t therapists, researchers, police officers, judges, and legislators ask more questions about the abusers who perpetrate the terrible cycle of family violence?  Without abusers, we’d have no abuse.  I am 100 percent behind the efforts to help victims. But I believe long-term change will only come when the hard questions shift to the perpetrators, rather than the victims of family violence”.

This is where we are at, right now.  We need to have more open conversations with all of those stakeholders that Steiner mentioned.  We need to be changing the conversation from one focusing on the victims and blaming them for what is happening, and moving it to a focus on abusers:  what can be done to deconstruct the cycle of abuse, where they can get help and how we can achieve the long term goal of no family violence.

If you or someone you know is being abused – whether psychologically, physically, sexually, verbally or emotionally – call our 24-hour confidential emergency hotline at 943-2422.  We accept calls from everyone and can help you to find a path to a life free from violence.

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Category: Viewpoint

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    ” It seems the Crisis Centre itself suffers from the very fear of reprisal and bullying of which they speak” 6:20. its a wonder anyone stays or work there with the lock down, rules and oppression.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The authorities should charge in every case there is evidence even if the victim does not make a complaint. That is the only way to get anywhere, especially in a country where domestic abuse is normalised. I remember being at the cinema and a man punched his unfaithful wife and the local crowd cheered loudly and applauded. It was a disgrace.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, a country committed to protecting women would not let a man walk free from Court on the basis that his partner has withdrawn the complaint and he was drunk at the time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Although this is an excellent article, it is noteworthy that an American example, Ray Price, was used to illustrate a case of a high-profile public figure who got away with horrible abuse. It would have been more impressive had a Caymanian public figure been used to illustrate this pattern. It seems the Crisis Centre itself suffers from the very fear of reprisal and bullying of which they speak.

  4. Anonymous says:

    #13 – If I say anything who will believe me, my spouse /boyfriend knows everyone, he will beg forgiveness, find religion, go to AAA and charges dropped. Then I get beat again, hopefully I will be lucky enough to get away…thank you Judge!

  5. Anonymous says:

    It speaks volumes that there are not more comments to this article.

    One Sunday afternoon watching a football game there was a pounding on our front door. A woman in her 30s was hysterical and clearly bleeding from a beating saying that someone was after her. We brought her into our home and called the Police and ambulance. It was a domestic violence case where she was beaten with the flat of the machete. No charges were filed.

    It was a horrible experience that I will never forget right here in Cayman.

  6. Ann says:

    Please forgive me if I am missing something but in many years knowing mainly females in an abusive relationship Financial Security should be one if the top reasons on this list. I really can’t believe it has not been mentioned ?! The first thing especially mothers say is “who is going to take care of us and where will go?” This therefore ties in with the embarassment issue. Please excuse me if it is an oversight in my part and it is stated somewhere in this viewpoint.. If it’s not I find it shocking they missed this (??)

    • Anonymous says:

      Agree 100% I gave up a great career to be a wife and mother and after marriage I experienced a side of that man no one would think exists. He has the personality and influence in Cayman that will prevent his conviction, he has influential friends and family, regular attendee at church, participates in local charities and their fundraising… so I left and went back for financial reasons and he used that to control me, demand sexual favours (which I would report to my doctor as I thought he would be able to take evidence of the ‘rape’.

      Many stories but yes, financial abuse is high on the list, it was for me and the other women I know……… who have stayed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What a very informative article from CICC. It helped me to understand more about why abused persons stay in the relationship. Keep up the good work CICC!

  8. PROF says:

    I am happy that the crisis center has taken the time out to address this issue. I 100% agree with all the contributing factors outlined. I believe that there should be a more extensive paragraph for # 9. The police are very insensitive to victims of domestic abuse and “tired” to see their faces at the police station. More sensitivity training needs to be done!!! Especially those recruited from Jamaica!!! The whole country needs to do a more intensive campaign to sensitize its citizens! Not to mention # 10!!!! Mine told me “go back a yuh yard!” and he’s a homegrown Caymanian who I’ve never heard speak patois a day in his life! But the passion and hatred towards me and my nationality could not be hidden by those hateful words. I had to wonder if he got word that I lived in trees back in my home or that I was begging on the streets before I got here. This whole situation is bigger than me, and I’m sure that when I’m long gone domestic abuse will still be a festering problem; but, I do hope there will be progress in the right direction for the sake of the inhabitants of this beautiful paradise.

  9. Anonymous says:

    One reason is because when the victim reports it to the proper authorities, either the abuser gets a slap on the wrist or the charges are dropped. Does this sound familiar???

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