The Other Side of Domestic Abuse

Focusing on the abuser's problem instead of blaming the victim

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The Other Side of Domestic Abuse

Let’s try to keep the focus on the abuser’s problem instead of blaming the victim…

-Sherry Boyles

Chris Brown and RihannaAs I read reports that pop sensations Rihanna and Chris Brown may be reconciling, I can predict the reactions, especially if we ever see a repeat. As always, people will ask the same question everyone asks when domestic violence victims stay married or in relationships with abusers: Why doesn’t she leave him? Why is she still with him?

Wrong question. But I’ll address it first anyway.

There are a myriad of reasons that victims of domestic violence stay, I have learned over the years. In Rihanna’s case, she may feel in love with him and believe the violence will stop. While we don’t know what Chris Brown has said or done to make amends, abusers often apologize profusely, make promises and profess their love and devotion, convincing their victims they will change.

For other women, they may feel their religion prevents them from divorcing or they may not be able to financially afford to leave, especially if they have children. Often batterers have gained psychological and financial control, so a victim may feel trapped.

And many are. Women are often most at risk of losing their lives when they leave, so staying with an abuser may feel like the safest move.

In the big picture though, the very fact that we as a society focus on the victim’s behavior is another reason victims stay. We imply through our silence that male violence against women is normal. So it’s also a reason men (men are 99 percent of the abusers) continue to abuse women. By focusing our attention and judgment on the woman’s behavior, we fail to hold men accountable.

Domestic violence statistics will start to shift when our first question is What in the world is he thinking and what’s wrong with HIM? Just how much violence will we as women continue to accept until we decide our behavior isn’t the problem?

I predict that Chris Brown will continue to sell his records, live his pop-star life and get the message loud and clear from all of us that there are not real consequences for abusing women.

Violence against women is the number-one cause of injury for women in this country. Until we start demanding that men change their behavior, instead of wondering why this and why that about her, we as a society send the message to both men and women that the problem lies with the victim, not with the batterer.

Sherry Boyles, an attorney, is former Executive Director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA). She is the founder and president of Texas-based SLB consulting.

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