Unfortunately, more and more often we read alarming news about violence against women but, in the end, the question we ask is: why women, after undergoing all those abuses and beating, still can’t leave their partner? What keeps them to endure so much pain and humiliation? There’re several factors: these women are neither dumb nor insane (hasty explanations like these are the order of the day in cases of violent acts). In order to understand the difficulty of these women to get out of a situation of this kind, it is necessary to define what physical abuse is, and the answer is not so trivial. Physical violence refers to all acts which aim to procure bodily pain to someone: from throwing things, shoves, slaps, punches and threat with a weapon (a bladed weapon or a firearm), to actual homicide. Thus, why does a woman remain bound to her partner despite abuses? The main answer is one: dependence. That’s right: abusive men always start to wrap themselves around their victims through verbal abuse (as discussed in a previous item). This kind of violence leads the woman to cancel their self-confidence and to feel increasingly needy and dependent upon the abusive partner, who holds over her persuading her she’s worthless. Psychological violence, in many cases, triggers physical abuse.
The woman, confused by the ill feelings she feels for her partner/husband/boyfriend, every time endures the beating, she tends to justify those terrible actions and to blame herself: “I was too hard”, “I pushed too much”, “I was the one who made him do this”, “after all, it was just an isolated incident, he has never done anything like this before and he won’t do it again!, “he was very nervous for a situation he’s been going through, it’s perfectly natural to react like that”. On top of that, the abusive partner often and subtly comes back to the victim; he apologizes in every way and tries to get back in her good graces, diminishing the violence inflicted and convincing her of the exceptionality of the incident.
Then, the abusive man shifts the responsibility of his actions on external causes (nervousness about the job or school, money, alcohol, etc.) and on the woman herself, which shouldn’t have provoked him with her behaviour. In this way, the victim convinces herself of being able to avoid the partner’s violence, changing her behaviour. Unfortunately, this is just a vain hope: violence in a couple is a cycle and soon, for whatever reason, it will start all over again, within days or months. One thing’s for sure, it will restart. The woman struggles to get out of the vicious circle of violence and to leave her partner, because of this alternation of sweetness and violence in the relationship. Every time, the victim believes that the positive change of the partner could be permanent. But it is not, and it can never be.
So why women do not report, even when their life is in danger? There are a lot of factors: she’s afraid she couldn’t pull through alone, she’s afraid of the pain of separation from the partner, she’s afraid of not being believed. Moreover, victims of abuses feel ashamed of their situation, often they blame themselves for what’s happening or their feel obliged to keep the family together for their children, or simply for a cultural factor they believe that what the head of the family does is always right and unquestionable. Within her, the victim always has misplaced hope that the partner can change and that those abuses are only an interlude, a transitional phase. The abused woman, then, always finds thousands of reasons which keep her from make the decision to get away from the abusive man.
The vast majority of physical abuses suffered by women happen in the home. We remind, therefore, to pay attention to the red flags of those around us, and to never take for granted a situation: the violent more expert and manipulative often hide behind faces we know well and we would never suspect.
Italian version by Isabella Poretti
Translated by Elisabetta Castellotti