Why does he choose to hit her? #MyActionsMatters

It 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 its crazy nonsense, its brutal reality, its ugly existence.

She knows abuse is wrong. So does he.

She knows he could kill her. 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 not stand up to it but instead, 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 kill her if she left him?

Why does she stay?

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 real questions, the ones we don’t ask, the ones we shy away from, the ones we don’t yell out and insist he answer?

Why does he do it?

Why does he lie and manipulate and scream and yell and hit 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?



This is a repost from August 17, 2015. I am honouring the 16 Days of Activism by making my voice and my actions matter in the vision to End Gender Based Violence. #MyVoiceMatters #MyActionsMatter @WomenCanada #EndViolence #GBV

7 thoughts on “Why does he choose to hit her? #MyActionsMatters

  1. OMG! Your questions brought it all back. The total helpless, hopeless, wish I could just die feelings. Those feelings never disappear. Even after 40 years of escaping in the middle of the night with two babies. Even after 40 years of another beautiful,loving marriage to my soulmate. Just the mention of the ugliness makes my stomach begin to quiver. I’m glad you asked the question. I will ask it to. Out loud and often. Perhaps if we all keep asking we can make it stop. Thank you for a powerful article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I honour your presence and your willingness to be vulnerable Elaine. It is good to ask the question — for me, there is a deep place of knowing — I teach people how to treat me — and when I accept ‘wrong’ I am 100% accountable for what I accept into my life. In “The Gift of Fear” Gavin DeBekker writes that the first time someone hits us, we are victims. The next time, we know what they are capable of — and we participate — no matter how bruised, broken or battered, I am still a participant in what I allow into my life — that was one of the hardest aspects for me to fact — owning my own stuff. Much love and many hugs to you! We are victors. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m afraid I might be treading a mine field here, but I feel the question and the answer might be circular. For a long time I wondered how my mom could stay in an abusive relationship that threatened not only her life but her children’s as well. It took me years, decades actually, to realize that she lived the way the had learnt to live and that was to endure whatever came her way. It took me even longer to realize that my stepfather had his own history of abuse. Total cliché. But one that was true. So where does responsibility start and where does it end? I find it hard to find a response that does justice to both, the victim and the perpetrator, as sometimes people are both.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not a minefield at all — it is true — as I commented to Elaine in the comment above — owning our own stuff can be challenging — but our stuff is in there too. All of it. Thank you for your powerful comment — it is all important in the conversation that brings all of abuse into the light.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m very touched by your response to Elaine’s post. How hard it must be to own your stuff, especially when it might have affected your children, too. The process you describe from victim to participant to hopefully victor is something that I wish for all women in abusive relationship to manage go through til the (happy) end while keeping the middle stage as short as humanly possible. So much damage is being done there. And so much better stuff can come out of the last stage, if only they reach it. It takes a lot of courage. And strength and self-worth, precisely at a time when all of it is being squashed. I bow to the women who find it within them nonetheless. My mom did. Finally. Thankfully.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a brilliant post more often that question needs to be asked and not only asked but we need to demand they answer the question, but sadly too many men think it is ok to hit women and wouldn’t be able to answer the question.

    Liked by 1 person

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