“Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”

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“Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”

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In a week that marks International Women’s Day (March 8th) and Mother’s Day (March 11th), Carol Baumann, our new COPE Galway Domestic Abuse Service manager at Waterside House talks about why we need to ask a different question when talking about Domestic Violence.

When we hear of violent and abusive relationships, we often ask the question – “why doesn’t she just leave him?” or “who would put up with that?”

These are questions that women living in such a relationship can face – often from friends or families (after they have found the courage to open up about their circumstances) and too often from the agencies they may turn to for help.

When we ask this question, however, we are failing to understand the foundation of an abusive relationship: control, intimidation, erosion of self-esteem.

Women who are continuously being put down and controlled by their abusers, for days, weeks, months and even years; women who are intimidated and threatened and told that they will lose their children if they leave; lose their children if they stay; women who are sometimes living in fear for their lives – Is it reasonable to ask them, ‘Why don’t you just leave?’

Is it reasonable that such a woman is expected to somehow find the strength to leave her home with her children in tow; to find somewhere to live in the midst of a housing crisis? She also needs to find the means by which to pay rent, buy clothes and put food on the table – because you can be sure that the abusive parent is not going to give her any money. And everywhere she turns for help, she has to tell her tale again – why she is in this situation, what has been done to her.

With 2018 a year when we celebrate one hundred years of women having the right to vote, and during a week when we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th and Mother’s day on March 11th let’s really begin to show how much we support our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends and colleagues who are in abusive relationships – let’s change that question. Let’s stop blaming the woman and expecting her to find solutions when she is living under stress and tyranny and instead let’s begin to ask, ‘Why does he do it?’ or ‘How does he keep getting away with it?’

At COPE Galway Domestic Violence Refuge and Outreach Service, we can and do help & support women in such circumstances to get away from a dangerous situation. In 2017 COPE Galway Domestic Violence Services saw 75 women and 62 children admitted to its refuge, with a further 53 women accommodated in an emergency bed. We were unable to accommodate 258 women, and their 441 children, due to lack of space. The outreach service supported 210 women and provided court accompaniment for 189.

With figures like these, isn’t it time we changed the conversation? A woman who survives these relationships is brave and strong and fully deserving of our understanding and our support. Next time you hear about a woman being abused or if someone you love discloses abuse, rather than ask ‘why don’t you leave?’, ask her ‘what do you need right now and what can I do to support you?’

Carol Baumann, COPE Galway Domestic Abuse Service.

COPE Galway’s Domestic Violence Service, based at Waterside House, offers support to women and their children who experience domestic violence and abuse. If you are concerned about your own situation or that of someone you love, please phone us confidentially on 091 565985.

Be safe, be believed, be supported.

“Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”

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