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Domestics: Why don’t they just leave?

In many cases, they stay because victims can sense the ever-present specter of their death

You could ask any patrol officer with a bit of dust on their locker to name the ten most dangerous moments in their career and it is highly likely that at least three, maybe five of those moments will have happened at domestic violence calls. The inevitable question a police officer asks at some point in a career is, “Why doesn’t the victim just leave?”

Here are some answers to that question to ponder.

Financial Reasons
As the relationship develops, abusers will take control of all of the finances. Even when the victim makes the money, they often will relinquish control of it. Victims will perceive that they face financial devastation if they leave their abuser.

They Feel They Will Be Alone
As abusive relationships play out abusers will gradually isolate victims from friends and family. The process of isolation may take years, but at some time in their lives the victim will discover they feel they are all alone. The chronic abuser is usually very jealous of the attention of the victim, who will find themselves in an emotional solitary confinement.

They Feel Guilty
Abusers will often become accusers. Victims will be blamed for their own beating. The abuser will say that if only the victim would have done this, or not have done that the beating would never have occurred. They will be told they are breaking the family apart. Responding officers will often hear an abuser share, “She really knows how to push my buttons!” In time victims will believe they are at fault. Abusers will often try to convince officers called to the scene that it is all the fault of the victim.

There is not another call that officers will be dispatched at which such a high degree of possibility exists that the victim of the crime may be arrested. An understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence as well as a thorough investigation will prevent this from ever happening to you.

“I Still Love Him (Her)”
The singer Adele sings, “Some time it lasts, in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.” These violent relationships officers are called to, begin with love. It seems odd to others, who are on the outside looking in that a victim, who is beaten, abused and emotionally tortured on a regular basis could still love their abuser, but this is their reality.

The abuser often has a Jekyll-Hyde personality. They will transition quickly from delivering a merciless beating to delivering warm kisses, flowers, candy, and soft murmurings. The victim will often become a prisoner of their own heart’s irrational love.

They Hope the Person They Love Will Change
Often the victims stay, because their abuser will promise to change and even make overtures to do so. At times they will attend treatment, for anger management, drug and alcohol abuse (often court ordered). In some cases this may help, but in others it only prolongs the victim’s suffering.

Having hope that a chronic abuser will change brings truth to the words of Benjamin Franklin, for he said, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting,” and in this case violently.

Another Often-Asked Question
When they do manage to leave, why do they so often find another abuser?

While spending a career in law enforcement it is hard not to notice that victims, who manage to leave one abuser, often find themselves in another abusive relationship. It is natural to wonder out loud, “Are they looking for it?”

It is important to note that abuser’s don’t always look like an abuser at a glance. Who would have guessed O.J. Simpson was a monster? Even after ample proof was given to a jury that he was, he was still acquitted. It can be argued that this happened partially because O. J. did not look to the jury like an abuser.

On the other hand, an abuser can spot a victim at a glance. Abusers are attracted to persons they can control. That is why victims are often repeatedly victimized.

A Specter Looms
According to those who count such things, it takes a victim and average of 6.5 attempts to successfully leave an abusive situation. In many cases they stay because victims can sense the ever-present specter of their death. It looms just outside their door for themselves and sometimes even their children if they ever attempt to leave. The truth of this can be found in the crime scenes stored forever in the memories of cops; for these graphic mental images are strewn with the bodies of victims, who tried to leave.

Victims know they are at greatest risk, when the try to leave. Many are living with a, not so unique kind of domestic terrorist, who maintains power and control through fear.

They Didn’t Leave Yet
The fact remains victims choose to stay, which means you will be called to the residence over and over again. Just remember it does not matter how many times you have been to the house and successfully resolved the problem. The abuser wears many masks to hide the rage that lies just beneath the surface. When you picture “domestic violence victim,” most of you conjure up the image of a crying, beaten and badly bruised woman, but many victims of domestic violence wear a badge.

It is said, “Never say never and always avoid using the word always,” but this seems to be the exact circumstance for use of the words.

Never get complacent at a DV call. Always investigate your domestic violence cases thoroughly as if someone’s life depends on it, because to some of the most vulnerable people in your bailiwick... it does!

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.