I’m not sure where to start, here. I guess I’ll begin with the post that got me thinking about abuse several years ago. Skepchick, one of my favorite websites, has a regular feature called Ask Surly Amy. In this post, somebody asked her for advice about helping an abused woman he knows:

I finally got her to leave him. It was tough for her at first, but I did everything I could to help. Things paid off: she got a job and a house. She was proud of herself and had plans for the future. And then she gave up all that and came back with him. Because she wanted to. All this happened TWICE.

He went on to ask why she had done this, and explained that he was frustrated with the situation. I can completely understand how he must have felt: betrayed, helpless, hurt, and frustrated. I would feel the same way in a similar situation. People gave him very good advice, and he decided not to give up on her. The piece of information that resonated with me the most was in the very first comment:

One thing I’d like to add is that most women who leave abusive relationships leave a BUNCH of times and go back before they leave for good. I think the statistic I learned when I was training to work with women in crisis was that most women leave eight times.

Eight times? I looked it up.

That is staggering. I cannot imagine getting up the courage to leave an abusive situation once, let alone more than half a dozen times.

Later, a friend posted a story about young actress, Afshan Azad, who played Padma Patil in the Harry Potter movies. She was attacked and threatened by her father and brother for dating a non-Muslim man, and she did not testify against them in court.

I, of course, can only speculate as to why she didn’t show up to testify against them in court. Perhaps she felt guilty about turning them in. Maybe they threatened her. Maybe she thought it would make things worse for her if she testified. It makes me sad, in any case, that she has gone through this. It’s not the exact same thing as having an abusive partner, but the core situation is the same: somebody who is supposed to love you is causing you harm, on purpose, even if they think they are trying to protect you.

I have heard stories about battered women, from Patrick Stewart’s accounts of his mother’s abuse to a good friend who recently left her abuser. It’s a situation that happens to women and men who never think it will happen to them. There are photographic accounts such as this one and this one. People see and hear about it all the time but know very little about the nature of abuse.

The truth is that every case of domestic violence is different. To judge and assume is not only unhelpful, it can be harmful. Remember this if you are ever found in this situation or faced with a friend who is being abused: it is never the victim’s fault. Get help. Be the help that somebody else needs. Spread information about domestic violence that can give others the tools to offer the right kind of assistance. It is important to understand how to help without making the situation more dangerous for the victim or yourself.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).