Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Always Leave. {Video} ~ Jennifer Spesia

Via elephant journal
on Jan 26, 2013
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“When I am asked why a man/woman doesn’t leave their abuser I say: They stay because the fear of leaving is greater than the fear of staying. They will leave when the fear of staying is greater than the fear of leaving.” ~ Rebecca J. Burns, “The Last Straw”

I was once involved in an abusive relationship and have faced insensitive judgment and criticism from people who say things like, “I would never have stayed,” as if staying was indicative of their strength and wisdom, and my subsequent weakness and stupidity.

Domestic violence is perpetrated against both men and women, however, one in three American women will be involved in an abusive relationship at some point in their lives, so it is important to understand why they (we) do not walk out the door after the first incident of violence.

Instead of subjecting the victim to further injury by asking them why they did not leave, ask them what you can do to support them in their healing. Compassion goes much further than judgment, and until you walk in someone else’s shoes, please don’t assume you know anything about them or their motivations for staying.


JLS FORT MYERS PIC 3Jennifer Spesia is a yoga teacher, world traveler, psychotherapist, philosopher, seeker, practitioner of Eastern spiritual traditions, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa), human companion to three amazing dogs and eternal student. She will complete her PhD in Psychology in 2013 and is looking forward to having the time to read books for pleasure again soon. You can connect with Jennifer via her Bhadra Yoga Facebook page or her blog.

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


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11 Responses to “Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Always Leave. {Video} ~ Jennifer Spesia”

  1. jim fry says:


    Heartfelt appreciation for your courage in narrating some of your journey and for providing an exceptional presentation link.

    In the video, she provides a much needed nudge towards a perceptual shift which is absolutely required, if we'll commence healing this collective phenomenon. I used the term commence intentionally, since while some recipients of abuse have, thankfully, escaped and rebuilt their lives, from my experience, they are the exceptions (and their progression is often an arduous and long term endeavor). Taking that critical step away is a start, individually, yet we must break the chains of abuse across the generations, to accomplish the family and cultural healing aspects.

    Many of my relationships have been with appreciably abused souls, and for us, all facets of our relationships were impacted by past experiences. So, mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, all must work through the shadows holding these patterns in place (&, sadly, the phenomenon is increasing). I'd write more, except this is your story and I don't want to detract from it (& this topic often results in my excess expressions).

    My final comment is that while I deeply respected her wonderful presentation, she does suggest some absolutes which differ from my experiences, so a few of her statements, and even some of her statistics, *seem* slightly biased (not in a negative or embellishing way, just skewed).

    Deep appreciation to you, and may your journey exceed your most blissful imaginative dreams!

  2. randolphr says:

    Thank you very much for this video.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thank you for posting this and for sharing your personal experience. However, I wish it was not accompanied by that fashion-y, made-up pic of the half-dead-looking model. It is triggering, gratuitous, and disrespectful to survivors who can't walk way and wash their "bruises" off after the photo shoot is over. I realize it must be difficult to find images to illustrate this subject matter, but I think this was a really poor choice.

    Thank you again for sharing your journey and this resource for help & healing! Peace.

  4. […] just read the blog Jennifer Spesia wrote on domestic violence and I was encouraged by her courage to speak out and finding the TED talk that […]

  5. Kate says:

    The photo is an incredibly poor judgement…it contributes to the glamorization of the abuse of women.
    The question should never be "why did they stay?" Instead it should be, "why did they abuse?"

  6. […] the all too familiar case of someone who has been in abusive relationships. They vow, “Never again.” They find someone new and this one is different from the […]

  7. […] He seemed relieved that I chose not to confront him. […]

  8. […] course, it is necessary to be aware of abusive relationships. These are absolutely necessary to sever and the ability to do so will foster another facet of […]

  9. […] I stay with him? Will it ever get better? What will everyone think? Why am I so stupid? If only I had done things […]

  10. Peggy Reskin says:

    This very tough subject of wanting to support but not knowing how to support someone in an abusive relationship is really valuable. Taking the position that people make judgements about the victim of abuse is very accurate, and something I've experienced is those judgements come from cognitive dissonance. People want to feel safe, and those things that threaten the sense of safety-like the disturbing knowledge of violence in intimate relationships, has people create a distance between themselves and the victim. She asked for it, why doesn't she leave, what is she doing that causes his behavior are all ways of saying "it wouldn't happen to me because I would do differently than she in the same situation. The illusion of safety and a sane world live in this line of thinking. But the isolated victim who does speak up is the start of the way out and back, and if we-any one of us-has someone tell us of their being a victim of violence with an intimate partner, we as caring human beings must do what we can. Offer what might help, stay on with the person showing support and trust that they will do the right thing. Really good to be talking about this tough subject.