With all of the recent media coverage of domestic violence and abuse, specifically involving the NFL, one of the most frequent questions is: “Why doesn’t she leave him?”. The answer is more appropriate for a longer article, but a few points are worth highlighting here. Although we hear more about women being victimized, men can be, as well; likewise, women can be abusers. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to the victim as “she”, but bear in mind that I’m referring to male victims, as well. Most victims have been abused in the past, usually when growing up, so that they’re already “primed” to be abused again. The abuser could be a parent, sibling, relative, coach, teacher, neighbor, school bully, or anyone who comes into contact with the victim. Abuse can be verbal, emotional/psychological, physical, and/or sexual. Since her boundaries have been intentionally attacked and broken down, her sense of individuality has been damaged, along with her sense of dignity and self-esteem. After breaking her down, her abuser will let her know that she’s a loser, and lucky to be with someone like himself who’s willing to put up with her. Fear, anxiety, and anger are her main emotions – if she lets herself feel them at all. Later, he soothes her, and tells her he loves her. She becomes relieved and grateful for his little kindnesses. She believes, underneath it all, that he really does love her. She often learns that pleasing him can lessen the damage he’ll do, and that can become the main focus of her life. It’s a survival technique, and often one of the few options she may have at the time. They get to know each other’s quirks, what makes each other different from others, and it becomes one of the things that bind them. But it’s not an equal relationship. The abuser uses this intimate knowledge to further manipulate and abuse her. Their bond becomes a complicated and intricate one, and one of the toughest things for her to weaken and break. There’s no escape, and no place to escape to. But is escape possible? Yes, but it can’t be done by just walking out the door. Trauma treatment, crisis counselors, and safe houses are just some of the options available. But a woman is most at risk when she tries to break away, so this too, depending on the extent of the abuse, can be a complicated process. It takes a woman an average of seven attempts before she can finally break free. There’s an article in the September 12th Leslie Morgan Steiner, “He held a gun to my head. I loved him.” that gives a good first person account that I’d encourage you to read. The link is here.