People frequently ask “why does she stay with him when he beats her up? Why doesn’t she just leave?” On the surface it seems so easy, just leave. Get a restraining order. Prosecute him. Get away and stay away from him.
Unfortunately, there is an emotional condition called “Stockholm Syndrome” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome or “trauma bond” http://www.abuseandrelationships.org/Content/Survivors/trauma_bonding.html which makes it emotionally difficult for a victim to separate themselves from the abuser. Elizabeth Smart http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart_kidnapping and Jaycee Dugard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidnapping_of_Jaycee_Lee_Dugard both stayed with their abusers without being tied or confined. They both had opportunities to escape, to find someone to tell their plight to and yet they didn’t even try to get away after the initial period of time.
The first time I heard the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was back in the 1970s when heiress Patricia “Patty” Hearst was kidnapped, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patty_Hearst and eventually joined the captors in a bank robbery. She was caught and sent to prison for attempting the bank robbery, and eventually given a presidential pardon and released. I think her plight brought to light to the general public this condition. There still remains a general lack of public understanding about this condition however.
Dr. Patrick Carnes’ book The Betrayal Bond, Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships , http://www.amazon.com/The-Betrayal-Bond-Exploitive-Relationships/dp/1558745262 is an excellent book about how people who are involved in abusive relationships form a bond to their abusers, and where the lack of immediate abuse is felt to be caring. The continual attempts to try to appease the abuser, the thought that somehow it must be their own fault, and if they would just do what the abuser said, then all would be well.
Exploitive relationships can create trauma bonds–chains that link a victim to someone who is dangerous to them. Divorce, employee relations, litigation of any type, incest and child abuse, family and marital systems, domestic violence, hostage negotiations, kidnapping, professional exploitation and religious abuse are all areas of trauma bonding. All these relationships share one thing: they are situations of incredible intensity or importance where there is an exploitation of trust or power.
In The Betrayal Bond Patrick Carnes presents an in-depth study of these relationships, why they form, who is most susceptible, and how they become so powerful. He shows how to recognize when traumatic bonding has occurred and gives a checklist for examining relationships. He then provides steps to safely extricate from these relationships.
Dr. Carnes also lists points that demonstrate the fourteen factors in a betrayal bonded relationship (you can read these in the book preview introduction on Amazon, it won’t let me copy them here or I would link to them directly.)
I am amazed that the young women that Ariel Castro held captive for so long made an attempt to escape, that fortunately for them was successful. I’m amazed that the three of them were not so trauma bonded to him that he could have thrown away the chains and locks. There are some people who seem immune to the trauma bond, and frankly I would like to know why some are immune to it, and others not.
I think that I am not immune to it as I let my “bond” to my son and my continual attempts to change his abusive and offending behavior and kept up the fantasy that if I could just find the right words to reach him he would change, be loving and kind. Or at least not abuse me.
Sometimes though some particularly tragic event will catapult the abuse victim to rebel, the slave to escape, to reach a point in which there is a threat to their lives or psyches, something that compels them to run for their lives or to fight back.
It is an unfortunate statistic though, that women who are in abusive relationships and do fight back and kill their abuser are many times more likely to do “long” terms of imprisonment than men who kill the wives they abuse. The thought, legally speaking, seems to be “she could have just left.”
It was only the realization that Patrick had sent a really bad man to kill me and my entire family and community, even my church, except for my son Michael, siding with the abuser that I finally realized I had to flee, to get away and hide, maybe for the rest of my life. That realization that he truly would have me killed threw me into a tail spin and I was almost at the end of my emotional rope before I could face leaving my home.
J. Reid Meloy, PhD, in his book Violent Attachments makes the point that many women stay in abusive and violent relationships due to fear of financial ruin, or providing for their children, as well as many other excuses of why they need to stay to protect their life style and to keep them trauma bonded to their abuser.
The frequency with which abuse victims leave and then return to their abuser is well known and h as been for some time. This tendency for returning to the abuser generates little empathy from the public at large. Such women are discounted and devalued because they “don’t just leave.” I think there needs to be more education of the public at large to this issue still to be done before real changes are made either in the care of these victims, or the prosecution of their abusers. It is estimated that 75% of domestic abusers are fully qualified psychopaths according to Hare’s PCL-R so the likelihood of them changing is very slim, if the first victim does get away, they will find another.