Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

Why does he choose to hit her?


YWCA_WAM 10 Year logo_02.02.15It is a question almost always asked of a woman living in the perils of an abusive relationship. “Why does she stay?”

The question not often asked is, “Why does he choose to hit her?”

The first question suggests, in some way, that she has options, that she is in control of the situation. For the woman, the question of ‘why does she stay’ is a reflection of our belief that she knows how to get out of the situation she’s in. That she feels in control and powerful enough to make a different choice. Yet, abuse, by its very nature, is designed to undermine, to tear away an individual’s sense of self-efficacy, to destroy their belief in their power to change what is happening in their life and the options they have to do so.

In not asking the question, “Why does he choose to hit her?” we are placing the responsibility for the abuse solely on the woman. We are suggesting the relationship and all that is happening in it are of her doing. He is just being who he is. He is just doing what he does.

In not asking the second question we make abuse a woman’s issue. Solely.

It’s not.

Yes, she knows abuse hurts. She knows it destroys self-esteem, drives you crazy with it’s crazy nonsense, it’s brutal reality, it’s ugly existence.

She knows abuse is wrong. So does he.

The responsibility for abuse is 100% the responsibility of the person choosing to use violence as a tool to get what they want, to control another through using their physical size and other measures such as control of money to exert power over another.

Why does she stay?

She stays because after years of living in the confusing, terrifying, reality-shifting crazy-making world he creates with his abuse, she’s learned to take it, to withstand it, to lie down to it. She’s learned to believe him when he says, she cannot leave, she’ll be nothing without him. She’ll have nothing without him. He’ll kill her if she leaves.

She’s believed everything else he’s told her. Why wouldn’t she believe he’d do that too?

She stays because of the children. Because she has no money and no control or access to their finances. She stays because he tells her to. Because she believes all the lies he’s told her about why it’s her fault, how she’s the bad one, she’s the crazy one, the one who doesn’t deserve anything other than what she’s getting.

She does not stay because he hits her or because she likes his abuse.

She stays because she believes no one can stop him. He’s told her that often enough. It must be true.

She stays because she not only feels worthless, undeserving, like he is all she deserves, she believes it. He’s told her so many times that she is worthless, a piece of garbage, stupid, ugly, and every other horrible word he can think that will make her believe it’s true. She does. Believe it.

The question is: Why does he do it? What does he lie and manipulate and scream and yell and do everything he can to convince her she is unworthy of anything other than what he gives her?

Why does he choose to hit her?


On September 17th I have been invited to speak at the YWCA Calgary’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fund-raiser.

I am honoured to be able to do so and have been thinking about what I will say. This post is a reflection of some of my thoughts.

Do let me know yours.


Author: Louise Gallagher

I believe in wonder. I believe we are all magnificent beings of divine beauty. I believe we can make a difference in this world, through every act, word, thought. I believe we create ripples with everything we do and say and want to inspire everyone to use their ripple to create a better world for everyone. I'm grateful you're here.

30 thoughts on “Why does he choose to hit her?

  1. I think it was three years ago – Gloria Steinem was in Calgary. I got to attend the press scrum, and meet her. In that discussion she pointed to ‘how we raise boys’, how we accept (or not) behaviors that will repeat later in their lives. It resonated with me – because I know I’ve read lots, heard lots and listened lots to women who’ve been abused (physical, psychological, sexual) and all the attendant causes and effects – but still, I know more than anything my learning about how to treat women began at home, by watching my dad and how he treated women.

    I think it starts there, more than anywhere. If a boy grows up seeing respect, it becomes his norm. If he grows up seeing abuse, that will be his norm.

    Yes, I think Gloria is right – it hinges on how we raise boys.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree and disagree Mark. You are correct that boys usually copy the way their fathers behave. However, sometimes boys who grow up in abusive situations become very protective of their mothers and actually turn into fine young men.


  2. Very true Mark — and part of that is how we each learn to control our impulses, or not…


  3. I was in an abusive relationship when I was younger. Thankfully after 2 years I was able to walk away.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is so interesting to me! Okay so you know that you and I kind of clicked because of my story which I’ve shared in a fictional version on http://kerisjournal.wordpress.com but it all actually happened and I just changed the names in created it in another genre to protect all involved. The funny thing is… I know. I know why I stayed and I know why he hit me. He came back into my life four years ago to tell me. Or actually he came back to find me. He was going through a men’s mentoring group at his church and one of the “steps” was to go back in your past and ask for forgiveness. I think that group should have taken more control and counseled those involved to not go in and interrupt someone’s life if they were married in the guise of “making it right” You know?
    I could barely say his name after we broke up. I think what made me go back in time and dig things up was when my young daughter started to date. He’d only been a bad memory in the back of my mind but I needed to share my story with her so that she could add to her “list” of what to look for in a mate would be to be slow to anger. She encouraged me to write my story to help other young girls. And she is engaged today to an amazing man who is very slow to anger plus all the other ten qualities on her list that she strictly followed. (Great advice, for young moms with young girls… ask them to write ten things that they imagine in a man they want to spend the rest of their lives with and not to sway from it!)
    Anyway, when my first love friend requested me on Facebook, I am not sure what caused me to click ACCEPT. In going back and drudging up all of my memories, a year earlier I’d had a meltdown in the shower (a place I have to think with no interruptions) as the water beat down on me I thought about “him” hitting me and I began to cry and feel the pain and literally ended up in a ball on the floor of the shower crying in my head “he hurt me, he really hurt me.” No one was home and I eventually got up and out and forgot about it. But I’d never really even to that day, made myself admit he’d hurt me. I’d brushed it off and excused him so many times to others, I’d ended up lieing to myself. But I guess the reason I accepted was out of curiosity and to say my script I’d penned in my head if I’d ever had the opportunity. (If he’d ever seen me in a crowd and ran in for a hug) It went something like this… “Don’t think that this is going to be some warm, fuzzy reunion, you hurt me and it wasn’t okay and it’s not now.” Or some dumb dramatic thing that doesn’t even sound great writing it now and definitely didn’t seem appropriate through our back and forth chats on Facebook.
    We caught up slowly after three decades. He apologized and once again I brushed it off saying “We were just kids.”
    WHAT the hell?! We were just kids????!!! All this time I’d waited to let him have it and Pouf* I was so mad at myself. I contintued the exchange, moving it to email and eventually we ended up seeing each other.
    I was married and my husband knew about the exchange. NOT about us seeing each other until later, and I almost lost everything twice because of this guy.
    Thirty years later, you’d think that I’d have learned. What I did learn is… his mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. She tried to kill herself 17 years and actually did when we were dating. (Lucky me, yet another horrific memory I carry) He’d later share his memories of living with her during our reconnection. I feel his mother contributed a lot to his anger problems. When we finally said goodbye for the second time, he wrote me a letter bullet pointing every wrong he’d done to me and why he was at fault. I think that, that letter is my validation, better than a block of gold, affirming that none of it was my fault, and it was all about him. Today he is taking anger management classes. Though he returned in my life appearing to have it all together. I think that to answer the question here… It is not about the one being abused provoking anything (I thought each time was my fault, next time I’d be better or less stupid.) It is ALL about them. The glitch in us that stays is more than just our circumstances, it is a lot about being co-dependent and trying to fix things that we feel we didn’t fix in our past. NOW I know why I stayed for so long and even went back through a door I’d shut for so long only to explore a bit more. I know now I am right where I need to be. But it took some crazy moves on my part and eventually a book will hopefully arise from my experience to help others as you are helping them by sharing the knowledge you have gleaned. There is something about you up on a stage that brings our souls to our knees. Sorry this was so long but I felt led to share. Every once in a while your posts rock me enough to share so much that I should have just posted my own blog of the day. But I can share here more than I could on my blog where people I know in my real life read too. Hopefully you can use some of this. 🙂 Thanks for letting me hog your blog!

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is a lot about being co-dependent Di but even there, that is learned behaviour and our co-dependency is predicated upon the lies we learn to believe about how we cannot live without them. It is a vicious circle.

      I don’t feel like you ‘hogged my blog’. I feel like you shared important information about your experience so that others could learn through your vulnerability and strength.

      In 12 step programs, one of the things they teach is that the ‘amends’ to another do not need to be shared — the amender must discern if their contacting the harmed person will create more trauma. I am glad for you though that you got the letter — it helps to keep the door closed I’m sure!

      Much love to you dear friend. You are brave.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you that the abused often feels somehow it was their fault, when it is not. Feeling ‘codependent’ or ‘trying to fix things’ falls into that category. Thinking those actions were wrong still puts the ‘blame’ on the abused shoulders. Those things you did in ‘trying to fix things’, if directed at a loving caring non-abusive person would not have made you feel that you should not have done those things. It is a feminine trait that we care, and we try to help, and we try to fix things. These are not things wrong with us. These are things that can be twisted by an abusive partner into us thinking that we should change those parts of our very generous caring inner most parts of who we are.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Louise, you said it perfectly. I wouldn’t add a thing, except to say that your wisdom needs to be shared more often: “Stop blaming the victim!”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Its such an important topic Louise. I agree, that its time to look at the abuser’s perspective more. You ask the question “Why does he choose to hit her?”
    Sometimes it may not be a conscious choice, but a conditioned response learned from childhood or uncontrolled rage without any self awareness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tragically, that is so true Val — it is the rage without self awareness that is dangerous.

      for me, it is the asking of the question that is important — not because of the ‘why’ but because it expands the conversation beyond focussing on the woman into the realm of the perpetrator. People are asking the question, and men’s groups are forming so that men can become aware. This is good!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I think it is a shame that so many people focus on the victim and not the abuser, maybe if more people stepped up and said to the man why do you feel the need to hit her, why do you feel the need to speak to her in such a manner then maybe the abuser will think maybe not but you never know, also something that annoys me is how much we talk about the female victims of abuse and never seem to think about all the men who are abused by women

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s exactly what it is, victim shaming/blaming. If so many other men agree that men should not abuse women, they should be peer shaming abusers. That is the only way for an abuser (at least a male) to pay attention.

      As to why did she take it?…Maybe it’s like boxing wherein you have to persevere to survive, then choose your moment. Maybe she thinks if she’s taking the brunt of it, she’s saving others from it. And when her moment reveals itself she may realize that a TKO (in the form of getting out, getting safe, and reporting the jerk) is how she triumphs. Then, over time, she finds her inner strength and realizes how weak a man must be to hit a woman.

      And some abusers do the Walk a Mile. They attend the after party, get too drunk, call up that girl that ultimately does the above as a result of the violence. A few years and many figurative miles away, she may never forget the Walk as the anniversary. But this year she has found something to look forward to that will dull the pain more than time alone has. A true chance to triumph that has nothing to do with some jerk and everything to do with the strong woman she found within.

      (Don’t worry, I haven’t re-subscribed or anything. I came across it elsewhere. I know how popular my opinion and personal stories are here. ~ sarcasm ~)

      Liked by 1 person

    • There are male victims too Joanne — and are in the minority. We need to ask the question — why do we as a society condone hitting, violence, war…. no matter our gender.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You are going to be amazing and inspiring when you speak Louise! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I agree with Diana. You will shine beautiful light on this topic. I too love the question.

    First off, I have to be on record to say there is no excuse. Violence is never the answer, especially when it is the physically stronger against the weaker.

    However the question “why does he choose to hit her” is still important. First to understand if the man indeed did choose, or acted out of some subconscious emotion. But what comes next is the surfacing of those emotions so that at least the root of the question “Why did he hit her?” can be explored. The answers will be illuminating … almost certainly based in some internal feelings of inadequacy … of “I’m not enough” that results in a surge of anger.

    I don’t say this out of support for the behavior or of making excuses. But until the question is explored and answers brought into focus for him, he will likely continue to be an abuser instead of working to substitute new, more acceptable behaviors.

    There are victims of such violence in my family, and I’m angry about it too. But the practical part of me knows we need to find a different way, and Louise’s question is a good starting point.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Much work remains to be done Ian.

      Gavin deBor (sp?) in his book, The Gift of Fear, writes that, the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim. The second time, she knows what he is capable of and becomes a co-conspirator. Unwilling, conditioned, but she knows he will/can do it.

      I believe the same is true of men. The first time he strikes a woman, he is in some ways a victim of his own subconscious emotions driving him to strike out. The second time, he knows what he is capable of — finding help, addressing the root cause is vital to stop him doing it a second time.

      And as you sai, violence is never the answer.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Before the violence comes the rage. Before the rage comes the anger and verbal abuse. Some people never resort to physical violence as their own upbringing would never allow that, and yet they engage in chronic verbal attacks on loved ones which is commonly referred to as ‘verbal abuse’ but is in reality ‘verbal violence’.
      ‘Violence’ is defined by the World Health Organization as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation”. That definition therefore covers situations in which the escalation to physical abuse has not taken place; and it covers the situations of threats and psychological harm. It is a first step to recognize that violence does cover those situations as the emotional trauma can be as horrific as physical violence.
      So the first question, I believe, should be ‘why are they angry?’ The second question is ‘why do they allow anger to escalate into rage?’ The third question is your question, or more completely to include all abusive situations ‘why do they choose violence?’

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It always seems to me like two incredibly wounded people who are magnetized by some recognition of how they’ll fulfill each others worst fears and expectations. I know the man in such cases has often been abused, but it bugs me that somehow it”s become PC to excuse the behavior because of it. Putting the focus on the woman and making it somehow her fault seems like just one of the many ways in which feminism hasn’t changed things enough.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree wholeheartedly Leigh. Putting the focus on the woman and making it somehow her fault seems like just one of the many ways in which feminism hasn’t changed things enough.

      We must not excuse abuse. We can find compassion for the abuser without excusing his behaviour because of his past. In our compassion, we can allow for behavioural change through ensuring we do not shame people into believing this is all they are capable of.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Powerful Louise! And you will be just brilliant. What an inspirational soul you are. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: The Sunday Wrap: August 23, 2015 | The Seeker's Dungeon

  13. This is a very powerful and much needed post Louise. I have no doubt that your talk will be well received. You are relaying important information and that additional question is so important.


  14. Pingback: The Sunday Wrap: August 30, 2015 | The Seeker's Dungeon

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