Domestic Violence Why Women Stay Term Paper

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¶ … Domestic Violence Research: A Qualitative Examination of Why Women Stay in Violent Relationships

The purpose of this study will be an investigational analysis of why women who are battered stay in violent relationships. The researcher will examine the current literature available and previous studies conducted of domestic violence in the hopes of gathering insight into the key issues influencing women's mental states and psychological well being when they are subjected to violence. The researcher will also conduct field research in the form of a survey questionnaire, and combine the information gathered from the literature study with the field results to provide a grounded theory that identifies what factors contribute to a woman's inability to leave a domestically violent situation.


One of the most pressing questions that exists with regard to domestic violence is why don't the victims simply leave? (Davis, 1998:2). This intent of this paper is to examine why exactly women who are victims of domestic violence stay in potentially life threatening situations. There have been several theories related to the subject. Davis (1998) suggests that the mental state of victims becomes altered, preventing them from leaving without help. He further suggests that victims particularly women do not display psychologically normal mental states, and states that women are often left "intellectually incapable of making rational decisions" regarding their relationship, which may prevent them from leaving (Davis, 1998:2).

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For purposes of this research proposal the researcher will attempt to answer the following questions: (1) what factors impact a women's mental status when in a domestic violence situation, (2) does the level of support a woman receives influence her ability to leave a violent situation, (3) what common demographic variables are evident in women who stay in violent situations. The researcher intends to combine information gathered from the field with information gathered from previous studies related to domestic violence in order to develop a theory that is grounded in scientific data.

Term Paper on Domestic Violence Why Women Stay Assignment

Statement of Problem

The purpose of this study will be to examine domestic violence in an attempt to identify what factors are likely to influence a woman's decision to stay or leave a violent relationship. There have been numerous studies which support the potential theory that women who lack adequate social support are more likely to stay in a domestic violence situation than those who have adequate support (Thompson, et. al, 2000; Bogat, et. al, 2004). While there have been several studies that examine the impact domestic violence has had on women (Bogat, et. al, 2004; Thompson, et. al, 2000) few have actually identified what specific variables contribute to a woman's decision to stay in a violent relationship.

Identification of these critical variables is necessary is it may result in thousands of lives saved each and every year. If researchers can determine what factors encourage a woman to stay in a relationship, counselors and other social workers can work on better understanding a victims psyche and develop new methods and support options that may allow them to leave a potentially life threatening situation.

Background to the Problem

Domestic violence is a problem that is commonly ignored in part because the victims remain silent, and in part because the public simply wonders why the victims of such abuse don't simply leave relationships (Bogat, et. al, 2004; Kantor, n.d.). There are likely several different reasons that contribute to a woman's victimization and feelings of helplessness when she is in a violent situation. All or none of these factors may influence her decision to stay in a violent relationship.

Many women who are victims of abuse live in a state of denial that can prevent women from seeking out help when needed (Kantor, n.d). The most common form of domestic violence includes physical violence, though psychological violence including verbal abuse is not uncommon and equally as detrimental to women's health and well being (Kantor, n.d.). Among the risk factors for abuse include a history of violence or victimization (Bogat, et. al, 2004; Kantor, n.d.).

Women who are victims of domestic violence are much more likely to suffer form severe injury and even death if they do not get out of a domestically violent situation (Bogat, et. al, 2004). Much of the research conducted in the past suggests that a number of factors including demographic variables may influence a woman's decision to stay in a violent relationship (Thompson, et. al, 2000).

Theoretical Framework

This paper will attempt to demonstrate and describe what factors are most likely to influence a woman's decision to remain in a domestically violent situation, taking into consideration that social support may be a tremendous factor related to domestic violence. The researcher will then attempt to establish a social support theory related to domestic violence and provide a theoretical framework for describing why women remain in violent relationships.

Currently there are two primary theoretical frameworks that relate to the cause of domestic violence, the first of which suggests that the causes of violence include characteristics that focus on the individuals involved in abuse; these causes may include individual problems that are psychological and social in nature including poverty, substance abuse, unemployment, lack of education and even stress (Kantor, n.d.). Another theoretical framework suggests that domestic violence is caused by society at large, whose ideas are influenced by the 'pervasiveness and acceptability of family violence' (Kantor, n.d.).

The researcher proposes that women may fail to leave a domestically violent situation in part because of a lack of adequate social support due to several demographic variables, and in part because she fears humiliation and embarrassment at the prospect of leaving her committed relationship (Thompson, et. al, 2000). The researcher will also examine the notion that women may truly believe that their partner will change with time, which may prevent them from leaving their situation even in the face of violence.

Literature Review/Studies Analysis

Domestic Violence Defined

Before one can understand why women might stay in a domestically violent situation, they must first understand what exactly domestic violence is and who domestic violence impacts.

Davis (1998) defines domestic violence as the violence "that occurs between couples who are living together or once did live together in a conjugal-styled relationship" (p.2). There is adequate evidence to suggest that more than half of all married women or approximately 27 million women at any one time are beaten during their marriage, and approximately 1/3 of women are battered or abused repeatedly (Davis, 1998:3). Other studies suggest that 3 to 4% of families will admit that severe violence including kicking, punching or other forms of abuse exist within the confines of a relationship (Donzinger, 1996:156).

There is some evidence that suggests that victims of domestic violence have an altered mental state that becomes culturally conditioned to the violence, preventing them from leaving (Davis, 1998). There are others that argue that unconditional love is to blame, that "people really believe that love will fix everything" (Hart, 1997: A12).

There are many that have a difficult time empathizing with victims of domestic violence, which may influence an individual's propensity to leave their situation (Davis, 1998). Some studies suggest that women fear shame, humiliation and embarrassment thus are more likely to keep silent about the abuse that is occurring in their relationship (Donzinger, 1998). The extent to which these variables influence a woman's decision to stay in a relationship has not been adequately examined (Hart, 1997).

There is evidence suggesting that some people are more likely to become the victims of domestic violence than others (Schmit & Sherman, 1993). Violence can be considered a learned behavior, and ones reaction to it can be conditioned over time (Davis, 1998). Given this theory it is possible that some women are conditioned to stay in a violent relationship, whether as a result of learned behavior or as a result of variables that place them in the violent situation to begin with.

There is some evidence suggesting that interpersonal violence more often occurs in neighborhoods where a high concentration of poverty exists in neighborhoods (Gjelsvik, Pearlman, Verhoek-Oftedahl & Zierler, 2003).

Demographic Variables

There are numerous studies, which have been conducted which show a relationship between demographic variables including socioeconomic status, race and gender and victimization (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003; Miles-Doan & Kelly, 1997). Many report that higher rates of domestic violence exist for black and Hispanic women, and significantly higher percentages of black women report victimization than white women (Gjelsvik, et. al. 2003).

Poverty is found to be a factor that influences victimization (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003). Poverty may also be a factor which influences a woman's decision to stay in a violent situation (Miles-Doan & Kelly, 1997). If a woman fears that she will not have adequate shelter and lacks social support, whether due to economic factors or other factors, it is more likely that she will stay in a potentially abusive relationship if for no other reason she may feel like she has nowhere else to go (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003). Poverty may be associated with a number of other… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Domestic Violence Why Women Stay" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Domestic Violence Why Women Stay.  (2005, April 30).  Retrieved November 28, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Domestic Violence Why Women Stay."  30 April 2005.  Web.  28 November 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Domestic Violence Why Women Stay."  April 30, 2005.  Accessed November 28, 2020.