This week all the fuss about Mel Gibson made me really sad. Not only the waste of what was once a good man who seems to have taken a wrong turn but also the messages it sends to people who have suffered from abuse.
I listen to talk shows and hear many men and women who talk about people that live in abusive situations, the comment is always, "Well, they should leave", I do not disagree with this, but what I hear is a lot of people who have not suffered saying things like, "I would never let a man treat me like that", "Why on earth would you go back to that?".
What is happening is that the abused person is getting a double or triple dose of abuse, first from the abuser, second from themselves for going back and third from the media and everyone who wishes them well and does not understand the dynamics of the situation.
There are many reasons why people don't leave an abusive situation.
1. Fear - they have tried to leave and been threatened and or beaten.
2. The children - leaving or taking them is always a problem. We constantly hear that children do better with both of their parents.
3. They do not beleive in divorce. - old fashioned but not as uncommon as you think. Some partners are really committed.
4. Love - never under estimate the power of love, the power of forgiveness and the belief that things will get better. Beleiving that the abuser will never do it again.
5. Denial - when things are going well they are great and it is easy to forget the bad times - until all of a sudden it happens again.
6. Money - some people do not know how they can survive without the partners income, they may have no training or a lack of recent job experience or a poorly paid job that will not support them and the kids.
7. The economy - is this really the right time to voluntarily make yourself homeless?
I would never advocate staying with an abusive partner because things can and often do escalate to a point that can be dangerous. What I am saying is that it we should not blame people that opt to stay in an abusive relationship, life is hard enough. Self esteem is low and then instead of helping the injured party we are just adding another blow to their confidence.