Why Do Some Domestic Violence Victims Remain Silent?

It is a known fact that domestic violence happens, is a problem for Washington (not to mention the whole country), and has caused permanent injuries and even fatalities. Yet it is also known that for every victim that is found, helped and able to get out, there are many unreported domestic violence situations.  In fact, it is usually the case that when the police or courts are involved the abuse has been going on for some time before it was reported. In many cases the only reason that some domestic violence situations are reported is that a third party witness called it in or a major injury or fatality was sustained and there was no choice but to involve others for medical aid

For many people this raises a lot of comments and questions. “Surely they couldn’t like being abused – no one does. I would never let that happen to me. Why didn’t they just call the police or at least leave? Why did they stay?” These comments and questions are usually derived from sympathy for the victims and are well intentioned. However, they also show a lack of understanding of what it is like to be in an abusive relationship involving domestic violence. There are many reasons why people choose to stay in a domestic violence situation. The reasons do not condone the violence by any means. Nor are the reasons usually well thought out. But it does help us empathize with people if we can at least partially understand.

There are emotional, situational and physical reasons people choose to stay.

Physical reasons that people choose to stay are the scariest. Victims are forced to not call anyone; for example, the phone is taken or kicked away from them. This, in and of itself, is a crime. The other physical reason is even scarier – they are hurt too bad to be able to get help and are then not allowed to get medical help. This, of course, would be classified as domestic violence crime but it would go unreported and uncharged.

The situational reasons are perhaps less scary but are sad. It has become less common but there are still one income households. If the victim is living off the income of the abuser it can be imagined they would think, “If I leave, how would I eat? Where would I leave?” Depending on how long they have been with the abuser they may feel they do not have any skills with which to get a job. Some abusers make threats like, “If you leave, I’ll kill you!” The victim is already being attacked by the abuser; they may feel as if they have every reason to believe these threats. It is what is commonly called a catch-22 – they are living in fear but they are also too afraid to leave. Perhaps they are afraid for their children or afraid that custody would be taken away; at which point they would be even more afraid for their children as they would be living with the abuser. Some people have religious beliefs that forbid divorce in any situation. Others may view this contemptuously and not as a good reason to stay. But that is a bit unfair as we are talking about someone’s cherished beliefs.

Perhaps the most common, or at least the most commonly talked about reasons, are the emotional ones. Fear was listed above – it was listed as a result of certain situations. It is also a very powerful emotional motivator and it causes many victims of domestic violence to neither report nor get out of their situation. Another common emotional response is that they do care for their abuser. Often after a violent outburst the abuser feels guilt and remorse and will apologize. The abuser will then be extra kind. It may be a tactic. It may be a true attempt. Either way it is usually short lived. Even so many victims see it as a sign that the abuser may eventually and they truly want that so they stay in the hope that this will happen and the cycle continues.

It happens all too often that because the victim stays that the situation reaches extremes and the police and courts have to get involved. If you have been accused of a domestic violence crime you need the help of a Pierce County / Tacoma defense attorney. Call or e-mail the law office of Smith & White, PLLC – your free case analysis awaits you.

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