What are the right questions?

When giving presentations on violence against women to various groups such as high school students, professionals (e.g. police, teachers, unions, etc.) I could count on one question always being asked and that was: “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”   And of course I would explain the reasons why “she couldn’t JUST leave him,” over and over again.   Finally I realized that we had to change the direction of the conversation, so when asked that question I would come back with “Do you think that is the right question to ask?” “Do you see where you are putting the responsibility for the abusive behavior?”  “Do you see by asking that question who you are blaming the victim for the abusive behavior?”   Inevitably we would have a great discussion on victim blaming and we would get to the questions that we should all be asking.

What can we do to help her?

There is a prevalence of victim blaming in our society and very often people do not even realize that they are participating in putting the responsibility of the abuse on the woman. When looking to understand violence in a relationship we often will try to distance ourselves by looking for reasons and sometimes the easiest way is to just say, “well, if it was that bad, she would leave.”   Or, “that would never happen to me, I wouldn’t put up with it.”

Victim blaming takes the responsibility away from the abuser and lets him off the hook when we search for those easy answers. He alone is responsible for the abuse and violence.