March 7, 2011
Most people believe that battered women will be safe once they separate from the batterer. They also believe that women are free to leave abusers at any time. We have all heard, “All she had to do was leave; she brought it on herself.” The unfortunate fact is that leaving does not usually put an end to the violence. 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. The man who believes that he is entitled to a relationship with a woman or that he “owns” her; views the woman’s departure as an ultimate betrayal which justifies retaliation. Evidence of the gravity of separation violence is overwhelming. One study revealed that 73% of the battered women seeking emergency medical services sustained injuries after leaving the batterer. Another study showed that over ¼ of the women killed by their male partners were attempting to end the relationship when they were killed.
Although leaving may pose additional hazards, at least in the short run, the research data and experience demonstrate that ultimately a battered woman can best achieve safety and freedom apart from the batterer. Leaving requires planning and legal intervention to safeguard victims and their children. Victim advocates and battered women must work in partnership to assure that the risk of violence is minimized the separation process. Getting out of an abusive relationship is not easy, but it can provide an opportunity for you and your children to live a life free of violence. Seeking counseling and support when you end a violent relationship is crucial for you and your children.