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Domestic Violence: "Why Doesn't She Leave?" Is the Wrong Question to Ask

By Amanda Marcotte, Pandagon. Posted March 4, 2009.

Abusers often taunt their victims with just this question, because they grasp the psychological power and the self-esteem erosion behind it.

Confession: Every time I see a feminist write about the reasons women don't leave abusers, and they focus to financial constraints and the physical ability to leave to the exclusion of all other factors, I flinch. I flinch, though I've been guilty of this myself. It's just such an easy, obvious way to get sympathy for women who have very little sympathy in the public, who tend to share 51-100% of the blame for the beatings that they avoid and wish deeply didn't happen. You want to get the question off, "Why doesn't she leave?" and onto the one that people hate asking, "Why does he beat her?", and focusing on the most helpless of cases is the quickest, easiest way to do that. But what it does, I realize, is separates "good" victims who deserve our sympathy from "bad" victims who deserve to carry 51-100% of the blame. You see the same effect when it comes to rape -- the public offers its sympathy to the woman who was wearing a potato sack and a stranger jumps out of the bushes, and we do so in part so we can blame other women for raping themselves by being, and you know the drill, sexually active before, wearing that, stupid enough to drink around men, willing to go out with men she should have known were rapists -- name your "date rape/gray rape" cliches that take the heat off calling it what it is, which is rape.

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