Editor’s note: In order to protect the privacy of the individuals interviewed, the Bureau County Republican has given different first names to those who participated in the interview.
PRINCETON — Why does a woman remain in an abusive relationship?
What are her biggest concerns about leaving?
And what exactly is abuse?
On Thursday, Freedom House’s shelter advocates, Michelle Spears and Amber Killian, sat down with five of the shelter’s clients to discuss domestic abuse from a survivor’s standpoint.
For “Tammy,” the decision to leave her abuser was complicated by money.
“I didn’t want to lose everything I owned, so I had to wait for a storage unit to be able to put everything in there,” she said.
Spears said leaving an abusive relationship can be easier for victims who have money of their own.
“He wouldn’t allow me to work,” Tammy said. “He always complained he wanted me to work, but then when I went out and looked for jobs, I had to turn down four jobs.”
Tammy said she had left an abusive situation before and lost everything she had.
“Almost everything is replaceable, but there were some things that were not,” she said.
“Sarah” learned about Freedom House from a former client.
“She was saying how good they were, and they bend over backwards for you,” she said. “She’s got her own place, now. She’s got a full-time job, and she’s got a vehicle.”
“Renee’s” three children were the biggest roadblock for her in making the decision to leave her abusive relationship. She said the children’s father was a good parent and didn’t abuse their children.
“I didn’t want to take my kids from their dad, and I didn’t want to take them out of their normal environment, even though it wasn’t so normal,” she said.
Spears said many abusive men are not abusive to their children directly.
“That’s what makes for the situation to be even harder for the mom when she knows her kids are relatively happy. They’ve got their school; they’ve got their friends; they’ve got their room and their toys; and this is their life. But she’s still being abused,” Spears said. “That is still abuse to the children.”
Renee said she didn’t want her son to think it was OK to treat women like that, and she didn’t want her daughters to think it was OK for a man to treat them like that.
“I didn’t want my kids growing up thinking that’s how things were supposed to be done,” she said. “I didn’t want my kids to think it was OK.”
Not all abusers are men.
“Samantha” said the person she trusted the most hurt her and isolated her from the rest of the family.
“This person is my mother,” she said. “It seems like all my life the people that I trust, especially the people that I trusted the most — my family — are the people that hurt me the worst.”
Samantha said she felt she needed to leave because her mother was verbally abusive to her and her child, but she was scared about going to a shelter.
“I’ve never been in this type of situation before,” she said. “I like to be in a comfort zone and coming outside of that is something scares me.”
Comfort is a big reason many women stay in abusive situations.
“The abuse can be comfortable, normal, because at least you know what to expect from him,” Killian said. “You know he might be good for a couple of days, and then he might abuse you for a day or two.”
Abuse can take many forms. Some women are beaten, while others are abused mentally or emotionally.
“Mine was verbal, but I’d much rather have taken a punch,” Tammy said. “Words hurt and sting a lot worse.”
Spears said many women feel that way.
“So many women come in here and say, ‘I wish he would hit me because then people can see that,’” she said. “They can’t see when you’re just degraded and made to feel like nothing.”
“Victoria” said her abuser would threaten to not pay her cell phone bill if she didn’t do what he wanted her to.
Victoria is now a transitional client at Freedom House, and said she is comfortable with her life.
“I feel like for once I’m on my own, but I’m not because I’ve got help if I need it,” she said. “I like feeling that security.”
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