He hurts her. Why does she stay?

It’s natural to wonder why a victim goes back to an abuser.

Bree Adams Bill hates that question.

“You’re asking the wrong question,” said the domestic violence advocate. “The right question is, ‘Why does he keep abusing her?’, not ‘Why doesn’t she leave?”

Adams Bill says there can be all kinds of reasons for staying. One of the biggest might be: it’s too dangerous to leave.

“There’s a 75% increase she’s going to be physically assaulted,” explained Adams Bill,

“Because in a battering relationship, it’s all about power and control. If he feels he’s losing her, he’ll escalate. He’ll use extreme physical and sexual violence to regain control. She knows this.”

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Adams Bill said she approaches victims — those who welcome her help and those who don’t — without prescribing what they should do.

“My biggest thing when I’m speaking with a woman is ‘I’m never going to judge you ever. I don’t have any expections,” said Adams Bill. “All I want you to know is that I’m here. 24 hours a day. There’s help when and if you ever need it.”

This story profiled the house calls Adams Bill makes with St. Paul Police officer Mike Dollarschell to victims of domestic violence the morning after a violent incident.

Adams Bill said a woman may have a plan to leave. Maybe she’s waiting for a child to get into school, or lining up a job or place to stay. “We need to trust this. Maybe she has a plan.”

And perhaps what’s most difficult for outsiders to understand is, “Women stay because they love these people, they have children with them, and hopes, and dreams. It’s hard for people to get that. These are their partners.”

Right before our series aired, Adams Bill sent this note:

“If any of your listeners/readers ask what they can do, please consider sharing with them that they can donate and solicit cell phones to be used as 911 cell phones for victims of domestic violence. If they’d like to donate, they can contact Bridges to Safety 651-266-2201. Just a thought.”

  • Anne

    And women frequently stay because the perpetrator has destroyed her financial resources, has estranged her from friends and family, has threatened to harm or kill a pet or child, has threatened murder-suicide, has detroyed her sense of self, has created such a sense of fear or terror that she can’t think clearly….the list (unfortunately) goes on.

    Leaving isn’t a one-time event, it’s a process. A dangerous process since violence often escalates during this time. And women can only succussfully leave if they have access to financial resources and have a safe place to go for an extended period of time. Often they don’t. Until we understand all of these factors, people who are victimized will continue to be further victimized by these additional questions that blame them for the abuse rather than holding the perpetrator accountable.