Domestic violence is not something people like to talk about. In fact, victims are actively discouraged from speaking out.
First, they’re forced into silence by the perpetrators, who by the very nature of the situation are ideally placed to monitor, control and strike terror into the minds of their victims.
Second, they’re not taken seriously by the police as many officers still view the attack on a women’s bodily integrity by her partner to be a private matter. This attitude is enforced by the antiquated idea that the man is the head of his household and that he has authority over his wife and children.
Third, society as a whole would much rather judge the women (and men) trapped in this cycle of abuse than the men (and women) who commit these crimes.*
The levels of victim-blaming that domestic violence survivors face are mind boggling. Questioning the actions and sanity of the victims instead of the perpetrators makes up most of the existing dialogue on this topic.
“Why would she put up with this? Why doesn’t she just leave him? Why does she stay with him?” are the oft repeated questions that come up every time a horrific story of torture and abuse surfaces.
We seldom, if ever, hear people asking “why is he doing this? Why doesn’t he seek help? Why doesn’t he leave her if she makes him so angry that he would resort to violence?”
Once again, as with rape and sexual violence, the onus of responsibility is placed squarely in the victim’s lap.
So it was an enormous social breakthrough when thousands of survivors started sharing their stories on Twitter with the hashtag #WhyILeft #WhyIStayed.
Because while there are a million reasons to leave an abusive relationship, people trapped inside them also see a million reasons to stay.
Don’t you think it’s about time we listened to those reasons, instead of immediately condemning people who act in situations that we know nothing about?
Because the facts are scary. A lot of women stay in abusive relationships because they are threatened with death if they leave. This is not an empty threat.
It is estimated that in SA a woman is killed every six hours by her intimate partner. That is 4 women per day.
This is the highest rate of domestic violence in the entire world.
So maybe it’s time to start taking these stories seriously.
Do you want to share your account? Email us and add your voice to the thousands who are speaking out.
*Domestic violence happens to men and women and is perpetrated by men and women. Tragically, men rarely speak up about it because the patriarchal values of our society condemn and blame men who are victims. In this piece I’ve mostly used “men” as the perpetrators and “women” as the victims because of the much higher occurrence of violence against women.