• November 2014

How Can Women End Domestic Violence?

Who she is: Writing her new 2014 book, Ending Domestic Violence Captivity, was a compulsion for Dr. Ludy Green, an expert on US domestic violence and human trafficking issues.

What she does: “I simply had to tell this story,” explains the woman who founded Second Chance Employment Services to help at-risk women find stable employment, assisting them in achieving financial independence.

Why she does it: An advocate for women and children for more than 20 years, Green has served as a US delegate to Vietnam and Chile. In 2009, she was appointed by the US Department of State to serve as cultural ambassador of the United States in Human Trafficking to Jordan and Syria. She also served as a US delegate to Malaysia (2013), Turkey (2011), Chile (2009), and at the Global Summit of Women (Vietnam, 2008). And in November 2013, she was a presenter at the Qatar International Business Women Forum in Qatar.

In 2006 she was appointed by the US attorney general to the Advisory Council of Domestic Violence Against Women. Dr. Green was also appointed to the board of trustees for the Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia; elected to serve on the Commission of the Status of Women in Virginia; and elected to the Economic Development Commission in the District of Columbia. Her PhD is in Industrial Organization Psychology.

All of that, she insists, was but the lead up to this book.

In 17 chapters, the 185-page hardback dives deep into the dramatic issue of domestic violence by dividing it into two parts:

Part 1: The Core Problem—Domestic Disempowerment

  • Chapter 1: From Inner Void to Inner Choice
  • Chapter 2: The Direction of Dreams
  • Chapter 3: Why She Stays … and Why We Ask
  • Chapter 4: Contrary Theories
  • Chapter 5: Domestic Captivity
  • Chapter 6: Domestic Tyranny
  • Chapter 7: True Stories of Domestic Captivity
  • Chapter 8: Forms of Abuse
  • Chapter 9: Forms of Abuse Continued—Economic Abuse
  • Chapter 10: Domestic Disempowerment
  • Chapter 11: Processes of Disempowerment
  • Chapter 12: Human Trafficking

Part 2: A Solution That Lasts—Power in the Pursuit of Dreams

  • Chapter 13: The Meaning of Empowerment
  • Chapter 14: The Purpose of Employment and the Employment of Purpose
  • Chapter 15: In Practice—Operations of Second Chance
  • Chapter 16: Mounting Up on Wings—True Stories of Lasting Freedom
  • Chapter 17: The New VAWA and the Second Chance Provision

Stay tuned for our upcoming interview with Ludy Green on InkandescentRadio.com.

And scroll down to read an excerpt from Chapter 3 of “Ending Domestic Violence Captivity,” entitled, Why She Stays … And Why We Ask.

What people are saying:

“By telling the stories of real women in real situations, Dr. Ludy Green not only isolates the reasons why domestic violence victims choose to stay in abusive relationships, but shows innovative ways in which they can move forward.” — Arianna Huffington, founder, The Huffington Post Media Group

“Dr. Green’s book speaks to the millions of families whose lives are affected by domestic abuse, as well as those in social services, academia, government, business, and nonprofit organizations interested in helping abused women regain their lives. A must-read!” — Sen. Bob Dole

An excerpt from Chapter 3

Why She Stays … And Why We Ask

By Dr. Ludy Green, author

Why does she stay? It must be among the most frequently asked questions about domestic violence—perhaps second to, Why would she go back? Another is, What attracted her to such an abusive person to begin with?

These questions are practically unavoidable in conversations about domestic violence. They have been for decades a topic of intense interest in academic and scientific studies. They are questions that were raised in the very first book published in he United States on the subject of domestic violence, Del Martin’s groundbreaking 1976 book, Battered Wives.

In 1989, in an article, “Helping to End the Assaultive Relationship,” P. Lynn McDonald pondered what she called the “intellectual puzzle” of why abused women have trouble ending violent relationships.

In considering the question, there is a common thread of belief that the victim bears some part of the responsibility for her own predicament.

In their excellent book, It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay, Ola W. Barnett and Alyce LaViolette summarized a number of earlier studies showing public opinion about battered women. The authors conclude that popular beliefs about domestic violence “rest upon widely held and false assumptions.” The studies are useful in documenting popular confusion about victim staying behavior.

It seems to me the question, Why did she stay? is driven by two other unstated questions.

First, is she telling the truth? And second, if she is, is she partially to blame? Another question within Why does she stay? has to do with principles of freedom and responsibility.

Notably, surveys indicate that no one thinks a victim’s decision to stay makes the batterer any less blameworthy for his crimes. The moral principle involved, however, is that a person generally does not gain the right to take the law into his or her own hands by choosing to stay in harm’s way. So, if her life was in danger, and she could get out … she has a duty to do so.

Case in point: the 2011 trial of Barbara Sheehan.

A victim of domestic violence, Sheehan was thrust into the national spotlight when she was tried for the second-degree murder of her abuser, her husband, Raymond Sheehan.

Although Sheehan admitted to shooting him multiple times at close range as he stood shaving, to the charge of murder she pled not guilty.

Her plea was based on what is commonly known as the “battered-woman defense.” For more than 20 years, he had terrorized his wife with atrocious physical and psychological abuse. The jury heard detailed evidence of the brutality of the slain man, including testimony from their two grown children—such as throwing a pot of boiling liquid at her, smashing her head against a cement wall, punching her in the face, pointing a gun at her, and threatening to kill her.

The prosecution argued people are not permitted to take the law into their own hands. In theory, there was nothing to stop Sheehan from escaping the danger posed by her husband by leaving the house and calling for help. The fact that she did not leave was evidence that the testimony about the existence or severity of abuse loomed large in the case.

Sheehan claimed that his conduct was so violent that her life depended on killing him.

Although the Sheehan case may help illustrate the reasons why we ask the question, it seems we made no progress in actually finding the answer. But the outcome of the case points us in the right direction. For in spite of the powerful arguments offered by the jury, it found Sheehan had acted in self-defense. On the charger of murder, it returned a verdict of not guilty.

Does the verdict have any significance beyond the Sheehan case?

There are reasons to think it does. Because domestic violence is mostly hidden from public view, perceptions of victim behavior may be based on subjective experience, gossip, something read in a novel, seen in a movie or on TV, or other popular misconceptions.

The Sheehan decision supports two general principles.

  • First, staying in the relationship does not automatically mean the victim is exaggerating or lying about the severity of the abuse.
  • Second, a victim who stays with the abuser should not be presumed responsible for her circumstances or her own injuries.

The Sheehan verdict, and others like it, gives us strong grounds to doubt certain popular ideas about victims’ staying behavior.

To succeed in my mission, I had to fight the right one.

My passion to find a lasting solution was also from the beginning linked to a need to understand the reason why so many women at the shelter were going back to the abusive households.

The innovations of the Second Chance Employment Services system, and our track record of success, is a product of the answer we’ve adopted.

My approach departs from popular beliefs about victim behavior like this reflected in the commentary on the Sheehan case. If I had accepted those as a starting point, Second Chance would not have made its goal permanently ending domestic abuse.

Again, I’ve always rejected the idea that the victim makes a free-will decision to stay in or go back to the abusive relationship. So at Second Chance we exclude from consideration the role of some hidden desire or willfulness on the part of the victim to stay and be beaten and terrorized; we focus instead on empowering her to leave.

I should emphasize that my approach does not come from naiveté about victims of violence, or from regarding them as models of perfection who never make mistakes or do anything wrong.

The victims are as prone to err as anyone else, and like, everyone, have unique strengths and weaknesses. The challenges they face are intensified as a result of years of recurring assaults and cruel psychological oppression.

In looking at what prevents the termination of violent relationships, the victim’s shortcomings are not in my experience a core problem that needs to be addressed. It is neither a lack of desire nor motivation on her part, nor a moral deficiency that causes her to stay.

As tempting as it can be to conclude otherwise, personal flaws are not, in any relevant sense, the reason why she stays.

Why does she stay?

Despite appearances to the contrary, the decision to stay is not a decision at all. She stays because she lacks the power to leave. In the end, my answer to the question may be distilled to these two words: domestic captivity.

Click here to learn more about Ending Domestic Violence Captivity.

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