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#WhyIStayed: Why women stay in violent relationships

Just under half a million women were the victim of domestic violence in Australia last year, but a reported lack of facilities and support options suggest women are more at risk of staying in abusive relationships.

The suffering experienced by domestic violence victims is often silent and unseen. A neighbour, a colleague, the woman who serves you at the supermarket, perhaps even your friend — anyone of these people could be a victim of domestic violence, but too afraid to speak out or ask for help.

Domestic violence doesn’t just occur at the hands of men towards women, either, but can take a suffocating grip on people in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and can be committed by both men and women. Unfortunately, though, the majority of incidences are committed by men towards women and domestic violence experienced by men is often, but not always, at the hands of other men.

Women in situations of domestic violence often feel they have nowhere to go. And while there are crisis accommodation facilities and public housing options, experts say there is such a lack in availability that women often feel forced to remain in, or return to, violent relationships as a result.

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According to, the lack of crisis housing has resulted in women being placed in motels, away from support networks and ongoing help. A senate inquiry has resulted.

“Due to systemic bottlenecks, state/territory-wide phone crisis services have limited referral options and, as a result, women are increasingly placed in expensive motel accommodation,” the Domestic and Family Violence Crisis Line says. “Undoubtedly, (this will) increase the rate of women and children returning to the perpetrator.”

A report released by the Department of Social Services says women return to violent relationships for various reasons, including not having any other housing alternatives.

“Reasons given for returning to a violent partner included that the partner had promised to stop the violence, for the sake of their children, having no money or financial resources, having nowhere else to go and fear of the partner,” the report says.

Or, scarier still, they return out of fear of being killed: More than 70 per cent of domestic violence murders occur after the victim has left the relationship.

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The Mayo Clinic advises ongoing support is critical to domestic violence victims seeking help in order to stay away from their abusers in the long term. “The only way to break the cycle of domestic violence is to take action — and the sooner the better,” the article reads. “Shelters and crisis centers typically provide 24-hour emergency shelter, as well as advice on legal matters and advocacy and support services.”

People have taken to social media to share in the public debate on domestic violence using the hashtag, #WhyIStayed.

The public discussion became particularly popular after victims of domestic abuse attempted to explain why Janay Palmer went on to marry NFL player, Ray Rice, even after a video released showed her knocked unconscious at her then-fiancé’s hands. Victims of domestic violence have begun sharing their own stories of why they stayed in violent relationships, but also how they managed to leave.
The #WhyIStayed hashtag was created by Beverly Gooden, a writer who experienced domestic violence herself at the hands of her former husband. Gooden revealed on her website that, often, leaving isn’t as simple as moving.

“Leaving was a process, not an event,” she wrote. “And sometimes it takes a while to navigate through that process.”

For information about how you can report or learn more about domestic violence in Australia, visit the Our Watch website.

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