“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” So said Madeleine Albright, and I agree wholeheartedly. A friend sent this quote to me recently at the suggestion of another friend. These are both women who value their sisters and care deeply about the plight of women.
On the other hand, I have seen some horrid behavior from women toward other women. To say such behavior is disconcerting is an understatement. I have even had many men bring this type of conduct to my attention – some thinking it funny or ironic and others finding it worrisome.
If there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women, what kind of karmic reckoning awaits those women who willfully harm other women?
It is bad enough that women are forced to live under the constant weight of male dominance, which is comprised of physical, mental and verbal abuse as well as an overarching financial jurisdiction, incessant sexual harassment, rape and an encompassing control over the lives of women (just to name a few).
Yet to have women resort to the very same behavior – whether in deference or acceptance of the same patriarchal rule that oppresses them or because of some inner maliciousness – is the epitome of immorality. There are very few things I find as revolting as a woman who intentionally harms another woman.
For one woman to harm another woman, there is a depth of female empathy that must be completely disavowed. In other words, to some degree or another, a woman always knows the suffering of other women and must mock that suffering (and thus her own suffering as well) in order to inflict intentional harm on her sister.
The victimization of women by someone of their own gender too often exhibits the same contempt and brutality seen by men towards women. For example, here is a statement made by a woman about other women that could have easily come from a man, “Sluts should be called, Humpty Dumpty. First they get humped & then they get dumped. Lolzzz.”
There is no identification with other women in this statement. There is no sympathy for the other women. In this statement, one woman used the word “slut” to denigrate other women. This is just so sad that it hurts my heart.
The word “slut” is a term men use against women to control their sexual habits by making them feel guilty for performing a biologically natural function. Yet we all know that it is socially acceptable for men to have sex with as many women as they want and not subsequently receive any such denigrating label.
Therefore, when this particular woman used that term against her own gender, she openly curtsied to the patriarchal system that has oppressed her, her mother and her mother’s mothers for hundreds of generations. And that same system, left unchallenged, will oppress this woman’s daughter and her daughter’s daughters for generations to come. It is masochistic and self-flagellating for women to treat other women the way some men treat women.
Allow me to expound on this notion of feminine masochism for a bit. Here is how Webster defines the word masochism – “1 a : a tendency to direct aggressive or destructive impulses against one’s own ego in order to reduce the anxiety attendant on anticipated inevitable punishment or to gain positive gratification through identification with a loved one who was formerly a source of pain b : a tendency to assume a role of submissiveness and apparently to enjoy humiliation as the outcome of feelings of worthlessness c : a tendency to gain or to increase sexual gratification through the acceptance of physical abuse or humiliation d : a tendency to take pleasure in physical or mental suffering inflicted on one by oneself or by another or in the practice of extreme self-denial or self-punishment : a taste for suffering.
The definition for self-flagellation is very simple: “extreme criticism of oneself.” There is no doubt about it; women who harm women are inflicting that harm upon themselves. Every time a woman’s actions against another woman conform to the patriarchal system of oppression against women, she is giving that system even more control over her own life.
Likewise, every time a woman beds a man who is in a relationship with another woman, great harm is done to the Sisterhood on so many levels and both women in the situation are yet again crushed under the system that says that it is acceptable for the man to behave as such, yet one woman in this situation will be labelled a slut and it will be said the other must not be doing everything right to please her man or he would not be looking outside of the relationship.
My feelings on this matter are not about sexual morality as I believe single women should be able to have as much safe sex as they desire. My objection is about both women in a “sweet woman” situation being lowered to such desperate positions – one to that of a sex object and the other to that of a fool. Why would one woman ever want to put another woman in a position to look like a fool? Haven’t we been played for fools for far too long already?
For that matter, why would any woman want to be reduced to the position of a sex object? If you are a woman and you find it flattering to be considered as nothing more than a sex object, then you have succumbed to the expectations of the oppressive patriarchal system.
Women are far, far more than just a vessel for sex and to limit yourself to this lowly position robs you and the world of all of the feminine potential you have inside.
Wake up, sisters! Wake up and realize that if we are ever to see the full potential of the world’s females, we must stop treating other women the way men treat them. We must see each other with the knowledge that other women around us carry within them the same feminine power as we do – a power can change the world for the better – and we must do whatever it takes to nurture and cultivate that power.
To call a woman a “strong woman” means different things to different people. To some it is a compliment about a woman who has the ability to weather the storms of life and love. To others, a strong woman is someone who walks with too much confidence and needs to be “put in her place.”
In this month, Women’s History Month, it is right and proper that we address long-lived misconceptions about strong women. The very reason there is need for a month dedicated to Women’s History on an international scale is because written human history has always just that – His Story. It is very seldom Her Story.
Without much history on the spectacular feats of women (when they were “allowed” to be spectacular), women are incessantly reduced to minor, supporting roles in historical context. Therefore, a strong woman is out of place in the light of recorded texts and a female with a confident stride must be arrogant.
Yet the strong woman is a misunderstood soul. I know this quite well because I am a strong woman. In my 30s I was being told that I walk with too much confidence, so I tried to slouch my shoulders, bow my head and walk more gently to conform to the meek and mild societal perception of how a woman should act.
That experiment ended quickly when I realized I am not, in fact, a woman who walks around gently with bowed head and slouched shoulders. It is not arrogance that feeds my confident stride; it is simply my personality. I know who I am and I am comfortable in my own skin, so why should I pretend to be something else?
Some think strong women are overbearing, but just because a woman is strong it does not mean she walks all over everyone around her. On the contrary, a strong woman needs little or no affirmation from others to know she is where she belongs.
The fear others have of strong women comes from the fact that women are expected to be weak. When women are meek and mild there is nothing to fear. Meek and mild translates to submissive and obedient. Social protocol has long insisted that as long as a woman submits and obeys, she is a good woman. Which means that if she is a strong woman with a confident stride and brain, that she uses on a regular basis, she is not a good woman.
Why on earth would a woman who is intelligent and capable feel the need to submit and obey anyone else in vital decisions concerning her own life? Would an intelligent and capable man ever willingly choose to do such a thing? Never. So why should a woman be expected to spend her life in droll acquiescence to please the egos of men she could run circles around intellectually and morally?
I would much rather be thought of as arrogant than to pretend to be ignorant. Yet still, as has already been mentioned, thinking of a strong woman as being arrogant is a misconception. I know many strong women who have weathered life with grace and dignity and there is not one of them who is arrogant in the least. In fact, the strong women I know are very caring women, most of whom spend large amounts of time helping others and contributing to their communities.
There is absolutely nothing to fear from strong women. In fact, strong women have much to teach the world. Guyana is full of strong women and I am humbled every time I meet one of them. Each one teaches me another lesson about life and I am always a better person for having spent even a small amount of time with them.
It is not quite clear to me what it is about strong women that strikes fear in the hearts of others. However, they inspire me. They do not scare me.
Throughout history, some of the strongest and bravest women have been killed for their “arrogant” ways. In the 15th century, Joan of Arc led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She was captured and burned at the stake when she was just 19 years old.
Countless women were killed during the Inquisition because they were accused of witchcraft, interrogated (tortured) and burned at the stake. In her book, Loving to Survive, Dee Graham said, “The most reliable estimates suggest that in the course of three hundred years they executed about nine million people branded as witches. Who are ‘they’ that executed the witches and who were the witches? Williams and Williams (1978) note that the ‘accusers were mostly men, [and the] accused mostly women.’” (p.4)
The truth is that many of the women killed during the “Burning Times” were women who chose to use their brains and spoke their minds. In other words, they were not submissive and obedient; they were strong women. It chills my soul to think of the millions of strong women who were murdered. So much life and potential burned like mere trash for simply using the brain God gave them.
I would have been one of those women who were tortured and burned alive. Would you have been?
Lately, female deities have fascinated me. Having grown up as a woman in a Christian home, I sorely felt the lack of having a female deity. I did not even know what it was that was missing for a long time, but I did know that I did not identify with the male deity worshiped by Christians.
Further, I simply did not want to identify with that male deity. I studied scripture long and hard for decades trying to change my “rebellious” views, but in the end I could not embrace a male form of God. The aggressive behavior (the systematic killing of any tribe that didn’t worship the God of the Jews), the condescending treatment of half of the world’s population (the female half) and the demand that only that male God must be worshiped.
However, I recently discovered Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, arts, music and science. This is one smart Goddess and this is a deity with whom I can identify and I have found that she inspires me more than any male deity ever did.
I know the very idea of me exploring female deities will rankle the ire of some of my Christian readers, but I ask that you to bear with me, friend.
You see, there are so very few female role models in the world and women need female role models.
There are male leaders everywhere – male Gods, male politicians, male business owners, male religious leaders, male everything.
There are so many male role models that women have felt they needed to emulate men to be successful because the only leaders women have had in front of them for thousands of years have been male.
But I do not want to be male-like at all. In fact, I find many male leaders to be the exact opposite of what I consider a good leader. So where does a young woman turn for a solid example of female leadership?
No, I do not consider submission to male leaders a good example of female leadership. Female leadership consists of women actively and equally participating in community leadership, religious leadership, political leadership and much more. Unfortunately, examples of this type of feminine leadership are sparse.
We are once again left with the question of where would a young woman turn for examples of feminine leadership? In today’s modern world we do have a few examples of female leaders, but only a few. However, that number is rising exponentially every single month.
I am ever on the prowl for feminine role models to trumpet and recently came across Saraswati. I was elated to find a female deity who personified knowledge since the religious environment I grew up in made it seem women were intellectual inferiors to men. Yes, this female deity is worthy of worship to me.
Furthermore, feminine deities existed thousands of years before the current patriarchal religions. One of the oldest figurines of a goddess is that of Venus of Willendorf, which is over 25,000 years old.
The fact that so many of these small hand-sized statuettes existed leads us to believe this full-figured and voluptuous female was worshiped as a fertility deity, which means Venus of Willendorf was worshiped about 20,000 years before the Judaic religions. Even Saraswati was worshiped for a very long time before the patriarchal religions.
Another female deity that has caught my eye recently is Astarte, a goddess known in many countries throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Classical times. I like Astarte because her name can be translated to Stella.
However, Astarte, like most other female deities, was wiped off the earth by patriarchal religions.
The Bible itself shows how the Jews went about systematically destroying all the tribes who worshiped other gods. What it doesn’t mention in great detail is that most of these other “gods” were actually goddesses.
The result – other than thousands of years of history being destroyed – is that women lost feminine religious role models. Under the patriarchal religions, women who once openly celebrated their femininity with pride were relegated to hiding behind cloaks and partitions.
Women are now forced to wear a heavy chain of “sin” around their neck because patriarchal religions say the sin of the world started with a woman.
Women who praised sexuality and fertility were made to feel guilty for their natural urges and dirty for biological functions like menstrual cycles.
After the feminine deities were destroyed by patriarchal religions, women were placed on lock down and they stayed locked down for thousands upon thousands of years.
I am not trying to convert anyone to worship female deities, but the truth has been hidden for far too long.
The world did not begin 6,000 years ago with the start of the patriarchal religions and before these religions brutally massacred the followers of the matriarchal religions, women were leaders and femininity was celebrated. That is the type of religion I want to see again.
The loss of female deities was a significant blow to the human race. When the female deities were destroyed, so was the celebration of females. Dark days (millennia, really) have followed women until this very day thanks to the patriarchal religions.
One man recently said this on Facebook, “Somehow I think the world is heading down the wrong path, empowering women at the expense of men.” I cannot help but be amused at such statements when one considers that men have been empowered at the expense of women for thousands of years.
The statement by this man and others like him is just a knee-jerk reaction to their fear of losing power while women are being empowered. Still, it seems quite obvious that if women are truly being empowered at the expense of men, since men have all the power – they can afford to give some away for the good of all.
The feminist movement heydays were long over before I even knew I needed to stand up for my own rights. I grew up in an urban environment, single mother, poverty-ridden home.
Those who grow up in such situations are never thinking about fighting oppressive government policies, they are more concerned with just getting by from day to day. Will the electricity be turned off today? Can we eat something more than mayonnaise sandwiches? Will my overworked, high-pressured, abusive mother snap again today? The last thing on my mind was fighting for my rights as a woman.
On top of everything else, there was school to keep my urban survival skills sharp and church to make me feel small and insignificant – as if I did not have enough to accomplish that task already. One of the many things I learned in church was to be mad at the feminists. I did not know why, I just knew that I should. I was taught they were out of control male wannabes.
I married at a young age to a wonderful guy and started having children 18 months later. My focus was then on toddler chasing and house cleaning. I still did not know I should be concerned with my rights. In fact, at this point in the late 80s, feminism was an intimidating topic for me. I just knew that I needed more than to stay at home with the kids. I was in dire need of some intellectual stimulation, but instead I tried to play the role of what the church declared to be a good wife and mother.
For some women, this would be fine, but I needed more. My husband was working during the day and going to college at night. So I would care for the children all day – every day of the week. Then on the weekend, I would go to church to have them tell me how I should be happy since this was God’s design for women.
I tried to be happy and to some extent I was happy. I had beautiful children whom I adored and a good husband. Beyond that, I was bored and feeling like a slave. It wasn’t that my husband did not love me, we just both fell into the traditional roles of family life, which worked for him – but it did not work for me. After years of this, I decided I could not handle it anymore. I honestly did not know what I needed; I just knew I needed more than what I had.
I started rejecting the church’s notions on women and realizing I could not possibly fit in the suffocating mold they had created for all women. It was time for me to take control of my own life. After years of discontentment, I decided I needed to go to school. This would change my life forever.
I loved learning about astronomy, geology and reading the classical writers. I loved writing long essay papers because in my mind they turned into works of art. Each letter was a stroke of a paintbrush and I would work for hours on one paragraph just to make sure it portrayed the message I intended. When it was finished, I would beam with pride over the art I had created. I had finally found what was missing in my life. I was a writer.
I learned a great deal more at school, too. I realized that not only could I disagree with the church, a step I had already taken, but I could also disagree with the government and even the president. Not only was it my right, but it was also my responsibility to voice dissent when I felt the need. I saw so much injustice for the poor when I was young and for women when I got older that I just could not help but voice my dissent.
By the time I had matured to the point of realizing I needed to fight for my rights as a woman, I was well into my thirties. It seemed so late for me to start this process that most women’s rights advocates begin in their late teens and early twenties during their college years. But I had a gift for writing and a passion for activism, so I decided against being intimidated any longer.
Now I spend my time studying and writing about the many grievances I have with the unbalanced social equilibrium of the sexes. When a person’s physical equilibrium is off, it is difficult to stand up straight or walk a straight line. In fact, they often get sick to their stomach. This is the same type of symptoms we see in our world because of the unbalanced social equilibrium between men and women.
It is time to find a cure for the injustices forced upon women. I want to see a healthy world that is balanced and fair. This is not a battle of the sexes; it is simply a matter of finally allowing the natural balance of power to run its course in every aspect of human interaction. It is time for equal distribution in the scales of power – in the home, in the church, at the workplace and in the government.
I do not see this balance being handed over easily to women though. This is something we have to take for our own by resisting the traditional feminine roles and stereotypes handed down from a patriarchal society. By rejecting these unjust expectations and embracing our rights as equal beings to the opposite sex, we can make huge strides.
Ladies, it is never too late to fight for your rights. If we have to call on the spirit of our Amazon ancestors, then so be it. I would rather be called arrogant and intimidating than to be the slave of that system. The fight will make us stronger and ensure equity of power for our daughters and their daughters.
This column is going to be on a topic I have never written about before. No, it is not sex…I have written on that topic several times. In fact, I have written on many topics, but there is one love in my life that I have never written about in my column in great detail – cooking.
Cooking is for me a way to relax and clear my head. It is a lot like writing for me in that I find it an artistic expression. I love to cook recipes from all kinds of cultures, but my very favorite is Caribbean food.
When I first started cooking, I felt completely out of my element in the kitchen. My mother did not teach me to cook, so I was lost about so much. Since I married young to my Guyanese husband, some of the first dishes I attempted to cook were those I knew he would like. At that time, I could not even cook a decent pot of rice.
Lots of practice led to feeling of confidence, which led to experimenting on my own until I was proficient enough to play around with almost any recipe to make it something I knew I would enjoy. I made pine tarts without having ever seen a pine tart in my life – and they were pretty good.
However, I have to give a lot of credit to one friend who has helped me whenever I had a question about a recipe or dish. Cynthia Nelson, who writes a column on Caribbean cuisine for Stabroek News, has been a patient mentor for me for years. She also has a blog (www.tasteslikehome.org) that has inspired me over and over throughout the years.
I am one of those learners who need to see a map to understand where I am in the big picture. My Guyanese family are wonderful cooks, but they cook like most Guyanese do, they just throw this and that into their recipe without measurements or cooking times. They just know when something is right or wrong. This made learning to cook from them quite frustrating.
I did not have that cooking intuition at first, but Cynthia’s recipes gave me the opportunity to explore Guyanese cooking with a map to guide me. Her recipes, both in her column and on her blog, give step-by-step instructions on everything from pepperpot to roti. To a large degree, it was because of Cynthia’s help while learning to cook Guyanese food that I now feel comfortable enough to venture into cooking any and every food culture that strikes my fancy (because I am also an adventurous eater).
Here is the good news; Cynthia has now put out a cookbook entitled, Tastes Like Home – My Caribbean Cookbook. This cookbook is the most spectacular cookbook I have ever seen. No matter if the cook is well seasoned in the kitchen or a novice who is just starting, Cynthia’s cookbook will inspire with her cooking memoirs and instruct with her easy-to-follow recipes.
I was so excited about Cynthia’s cookbook that I bought one for three family members for Christmas. Two were seasoned cooks and one was new to Guyanese cooking. All three loved the book and were cooking from it from the very first day. This cookbook far surpasses every other cookbook I have seen (and I have seen a lot) in quality, content and instruction. It is truly the premier Caribbean cookbook.
I also bought a copy of the book for a friend in Guyana who was thrilled because she, too, has been an avid reader of Cynthia’s column for years. She intends to have the cookbook signed by Cynthia at the book launching in Guyana on February 20. I would encourage all cooks, both men and women, to go to the launch and get a good taste of Cynthia’s recipes.
Another valuable aspect of Cynthia’s cookbook targets those in the Diaspora who feel the next generation may lose their connection to Guyanese cuisine because this cookbook is essentially a textbook for anyone who has the desire to make great Caribbean food. I cook Guyanese food not just because I enjoy it, but also because I was adamant that my children knew this part of their culture.
It is interesting that my family in the Midwest part of the US said that even after knowing how to cook most of the traditional recipes for years, time and space had forgotten this ingredient or that dish. Cynthia’s cookbook helped to put some of those missing pieces back in place to make sure the tradition of great Guyanese food continues for generations to come.
I know I may seem a bit partial when it comes to Cynthia’s cookbook, but she was there to walk me through my first tomato choka, assured me that I could make a mango chutney and taught me how to make green seasoning so that my chow mein tasted Guyanese and not American. These recipes may seem simple to most Guyanese, but they are not simple for those outside of the Caribbean.
So yes, I am giving Cynthia’s cookbook a raving review because I have tried and tested her recipes for years and know they are spectacular. I have never written on cooking before and I do not know that I ever will again (after all, there are so many things cooking outside the kitchen that I want to write about), but I could not miss this opportunity to write about Cynthia’s new cookbook. I hope you enjoy her recipes as much as I have.
According to the Guyana media reports I have been tracking since the start of the year, of the ten cases of domestic violence reported, six involved relationships that had been severed.
This is not an uncommon trait in abusive relationships. Once an abusive partner realizes the other is going to end the connection, the violence often escalates. According to Susan G. S. McGee’s article, “20 Reasons Why She Stays, A Guide for Those Who Want to Help Battered Women” on stopviolence.com, “For battered women who leave the violence is often just beginning. Batterers oftentimes escalate their violence when a woman tries to leave, shows signs of independence or has left.”
The article continued, “Assailants often stalk their partner both during the relationship and after it ends. The batterer’s pursuit rarely ends until he has found a new victim, the victim relocates or the consequences for the stalking are too great. However, some assailants return years later to re-assault or to kill their partners. Assailants are most likely to kill their victims when they believe that she is actually going to leave them.”
Indeed, two of the ten cases reported by the media in Guyana during January ended in death. Three of the ten cases resulted in hospitalization. Both deaths and two of the three hospitalizations involved relationships that had already been severed. There were also beatings and threats, in which law enforcement and the judicial system were involved.
My point is not that anyone should stay in an abusive relationship, but one must be very smart and plan ahead. Make a safety plan that will arrange a way for a safe exit that does not involve more violence.
Here is a safety plan from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV):
If you are still in the relationship: Think of a safe place to go if an argument occurs – avoid rooms with no exits (bathroom) or rooms with weapons (kitchen). Think about and make a list of safe people to contact. Keep change with you at all times. Memorize all important numbers. Establish a “code word” or “sign” so that family, friends, teachers or co-workers know when to call for help. Think about what you will say to your partner if he\she becomes violent.
Remember, you have the right to live without fear and violence.
If you have left the relationship: Change your phone number. Screen calls. Save and document all contacts, messages, injuries or other incidents involving the batterer. Change locks, if the batterer has a key. Avoid staying alone. Plan how to get away if confronted by an abusive partner. If you have to meet your partner, do it in a public place. Vary your routine. Notify school and work contacts. Call a shelter for battered women.
If you leave the relationship or are thinking of leaving, you should take important papers and documents with you to enable you to apply for benefits or take legal action.
One other key to the success of protecting those who are leaving abusive relationships is to locate a shelter in which the victims can find safety. If there are no shelters available, victims should be ready to find a safe place on their own. The statistics in just the few short weeks of this year are too high to leave safety to chance.
Just before the “Break the Silence, Say No the Violence” rally in Guyana, South America, last November, I was on television almost daily to promote the rally. As a result, many people would come up to me and tell me their thoughts on the subject of domestic violence. I was more than a bit surprised by the number of women who would insist that if a woman marries a man who she knows is violent or stays in a relationship with a man who is violent – then she deserves the violence.
Do women who stay with abusers deserve the abuse? Let me say up front that this is the wrong question to start with, the questions we should be asking are: Why do assailants terrorize and torture their partners? Why is it that the vast majority of batterers are men and the vast majority of survivors are women? Why does society allow the abuse to continue?
However, for the sake of addressing this widespread belief – that the woman asked for the abuse – let’s list some of the many reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. Many believe that if an abused woman really and truly wanted to leave an abusive relationship, she would pack up her things and go. However, this conclusion ignores the environmental barriers that prevent women from leaving the abuser.
The following information is by Susan G. S. McGee and located on www.stopviolence.com:
Separation Violence – Many, perhaps most, people believe that battered women will be safe once they separate from the batterer. Batterers may, in fact, escalate their violence to coerce a battered woman into reconciliation or to retaliate for the battered woman’s perceived rejection or abandonment of the batterer.
Psychological Terrorism – Some battered women are held prisoner in their own homes. Assailants use psychological terrorism and brainwashing techniques to keep them in the violent relationship.
Hope that he can change – If he can be cured, she reasons, then the violence will end and their relationship can resume. However, most experts believe that a man must be violence-free for two to three years, before marriage counselling is safe or appropriate. All women want the violence to end; many do not want the relationship to end.
Cannot afford justice – Some battered women are forced to stay because they cannot afford to pay the legal fees to separate from the abuser.
Battered women stay for their children – Battered women fear that their partner will get custody of the children.
Some battered women stay because there is no place for them to go – Shelters do not exist everywhere. They are often full. Most women cannot find or afford safe housing. They become stuck in emergency shelters, unable to find a place to live.
Some battered women stay because they are not given accurate information about battering – They are told (by professionals, family, friends and the batterer) that alcohol or other drugs cause battering. Women then endlessly attempt to modify their behaviour only to watch the violence worsen. They are sent to mediation or couples counselling, and told that if this does not work out, it is their fault.
Some battered women stay (for varying lengths of time) because their assailants deliberately and systematically isolate them from support – People who are in trouble need support. They need the aid of family, friends, co-workers and professionals to weather the crisis and make the best decisions for themselves. Assailants commonly force their partner to account for every minute of their time.
Some battered women stay because they believe in love and they still love their partners – This is often one of the hardest phenomena for people who have not been battered to understand. However, many people have been in difficult relationships or jobs that they knew they should leave, but either couldn’t, or needed time to be able to depart. Love is glorified in our culture.
Some battered women stay because they believe what their assailant is telling them, such as – You’re crazy and stupid. No one will believe you; You’re the one that’s sick. You need help. You’re hysterical; I know the judge; he won’t put me in jail; The police will never arrest me; It’s not serious. You’re not really battered; If you leave, I’ll get custody because you’ll have abandoned me and the kids; If you leave, I’ll find you and kill you. I’ll kill your family, your kids, and your pets; You’ll never escape me.
Drugs and Alcohol – Some battered women stay because they are addicted and their addiction prevents them from taking action on their own behalf. Some battered women stay because their assailant encourages or coerces them into using alcohol or other drugs, and/or sabotages their recovery.
Some battered women are trapped in battering relationships because of sexism (unequal treatment of women) – Barbara Hart: “The most likely predictor of whether a battered woman will permanently separate from her abuser is whether she has the economic resources to survive without him.” Women do not have economic resources equal to or approaching men. The poverty rate in female-headed households is much greater than that of married families.
Some battered women stay because institutions are helpless or unwilling to offer them protection or assistance – In every institution, there are those who are allies to battered women and actively search for ways to be helpful. Others are well intentioned, but have no training or knowledge about domestic violence.
Some battered women stay because they believe what women have been taught to believe about both women’s roles and men’s roles (gender socialization) – Gender stereotyping and enforced adherence to it play a major role in battering. Certainly, girls are taught to be passive, to smile, to be nice, to be accommodating, to take care of others and to be sensitive to others needs. Beyond “teaching”, our culture actively punishes girls who violate those rules. The facet of gender roles that directly contributes to domestic violence is the concept of entitlement. Men are taught entitlement. Men are trained to believe that they are entitled to the attention and services of women. When men don’t get these services, some may try negotiation, some pressure, and some may leave their partners. Some men choose to use violence to obtain those services.
Some battered women stay because they are afraid that if they try to leave, they or their children will die – They should fear death. Battered women are in real danger.
These are just some of the reasons why we cannot say that women want to stay in abusive relationships. They do not “ask for it.” Women do not ask to be abused, but are often trapped in abusive relationships and cannot see a way of escape. It is then our responsibility to help these abused women to find a way to a happy and safe life outside of the reach of violent and abusive hands.