Tuesday, September 23, 2014

KASSELMAN: Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t quick, easy

By AMBER KASSELMAN, Willow Domestic Violence Center | 12/9/2013

It was love at first sight when 21-year-old “Evelyn” met “Victor,” a handsome and clever man who was just a year younger than her.

They worked at the same company, and after some encouragement from co-workers, Victor finally asked Evelyn out. Four short months later, they were married. But instead of the happily-ever-after Evelyn imagined, she discovered she married a man who enjoyed humiliating her in front of friends and who erupted in violent outbursts, which often included physically abusing Evelyn and threatening to commit suicide.

It was love at first sight when 21-year-old “Evelyn” met “Victor,” a handsome and clever man who was just a year younger than her.

They worked at the same company, and after some encouragement from co-workers, Victor finally asked Evelyn out. Four short months later, they were married. But instead of the happily-ever-after Evelyn imagined, she discovered she married a man who enjoyed humiliating her in front of friends and who erupted in violent outbursts, which often included physically abusing Evelyn and threatening to commit suicide.

“The first abuse I recall was when we lived in an apartment that had cinder block walls,” Evelyn said. “We were in our bedroom and I said something he didn’t like so he grabbed me, picked me up and threw me into the wall. He was 6-foot-4 and I was 5-foot-3. It knocked the wind out of me, and as soon as he realized he hurt me, he cried and apologized, which I accepted.”

Like Evelyn, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lives, according to a 2000 survey by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. And once someone enters an abusive relationship, it isn’t as easy as just walking away. In fact, those who are abused will return to their batterers an average of seven times before they leave for good, according to the Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence, which services Franklin County.

There are countless and varied reasons why people stay or return to their abusers, according to New Choices. Some of those reasons include:

• Fear — confiding in people, being a failure, leaving, the unknown, being blamed or stigmatized, losing children, being homeless, being hurt or killed.

• Lack of resources — money, employment or shelter.

• Negative thoughts or feelings — guilt, shame, isolation, depression, self-blame or confusion.

• Disabilities — mentally impaired or ill, blind, deaf, physically disabled.

• Commitment to relationship — attached to the partner, loves the partner, hopes the partner will change, etc.

• Abuser’s threats — seek custody of children, kidnap children, hurt or murder someone or commit suicide.

• Believes domestic violence myths — violence is unavoidable, it’s their fault, they deserve it, they have to fix the relationship, etc.

While there are numerous explanations for why Evelyn stayed married to her abusive husband for 23 years, she relates to some of these reasons, such as wanting to have a successful marriage and fearing that she wouldn’t survive without her husband. Evelyn’s primary motivation for not leaving her husband, however, was because of how her parents would see her if she did.

“I knew my parents would consider me a failure, which they did,” Evelyn said.

Even with her parents’ disapproval and a negative community backlash, Evelyn found the strength to completely sever ties with her husband, and has finally achieved the happy and healthy life for which she’s always yearned.

“No matter what he or she tells you, you can be successful without them,” Evelyn said. “I was.”

 

Amber Kasselman is a contributor for the Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence, which serves Franklin County residents.

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