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Why Domestic Violence Victims Lie

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

In our society, we should be learning from a young age that we can rely on the police for help when we are the victims of a crime. However, the idea of calling the police can feel taboo or frightening. Talking to an officer can feel punitive, even if you are a victim, and have done nothing wrong. Minorities especially can be afraid to talk to the police, after hearing so much on the news about police brutality.

It is important to keep in mind, though, that most officers are just trying to do their job, a large part of which is keeping the public safe.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, you may have had some kind of police contact. A couple of days ago, I was a witness to one such instance in my apartment building. It broke my heart to hear this young woman lying to the police, and telling them that nothing had happened, even where there had been witnesses. When the police left, the couple went on screaming at each other for the rest of the night.

Had the young woman been willing to tell the police the truth, there could have been a different outcome to the situation.

As a previous victim of domestic violence myself, I know how hard it can be to tell the truth to the police, because in some ways you feel guilty and ashamed about being a victim, as well as like it would be throwing your partner under the bus to tell the truth about what has happened to you.

Whether it is telling the police that nothing happened when a victim is first interviewed, or recanting later, this can be something that is common in domestic violence cases, as there is a close relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. The victim may feel a strong sense of loyalty to their partner, which makes this type of cases difficult in the justice system.

According to Find Law:

There's no universal reason survivors of domestic abuse recant statements. The close relationship between the abuser and the survivor usually plays a big role. In some situations, it's the fear of future violence if the victim cooperates with the prosecution. Sometimes this fear also occurs because a survivor worries about how the abuser will behave after spending time in jail. A victim's fear may increase when they know that the state cannot always protect them. Local police lack the resources to ensure survivors are protected when their attackers are released.
Survivors may also face external pressure to recant. An abusive spouse may be the sole financial support for the household. Victims may fear they cannot feed their children if they leave. Pursuing the criminal case will mean living on their own or finding new housing. Recanting survivors may conclude that enduring the abuse is less harmful than housing instability.
Surprisingly, some survivors recant out of a sense of guilt. This is usually prompted when an intimate partner abuser claims to be a "victim" of the criminal justice system. A study of jailhouse conversations between abusers and victims identified a common pattern. At first, the offender would minimize the domestic violence incident. Later, the offender would appeal to the victim for sympathy. Finally, the offender would request that the victim recant, often so that they could be together again.

When you know that you are going to have to keep spending time with your abuser, you will sometimes try to stay in their "good graces" by doing what they ask with regard to the court case.

The first time my ex hit me, I didn't talk to the police. I told them that everything was fine, because he promised it would never happen again. Later, I avoided talking to the police because he threatened to kill me if I did. Abusers will use all sorts of different manipulation tactics to get you to avoid talking to the police. Your fear is a tool that they use against you all the time.

If you are in an abusive situation yourself, there is help and support out there! You don't have to be alone or afraid! Once you file a report with the police, the abuser is required to leave the home in most places, and you will be able to apply for a restraining order. This means, they won't be able to come back or to contact you.

When I got the restraining order against my ex finally, it felt like I could breathe for the first time. I was free of his constant harassment of me. I felt like I was free to live my life after all the that time!

If you are experiencing domestic violence yourself, or have a friend or loved one who is, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or Text "START" to 88788.

For those of you outside the US, there are additional hotline numbers available here.

Remember, no one ever deserves to be abused, in any circumstances! Your safety is critically important, and protecting yourself (and children!) needs to come before the abuser's feelings.

From my experience, abuse doesn't stop until you decide to walk away. It isn't easy, and there are many things to consider such as your housing and your finances. Since many of us suffer from financial abuse in addition to other forms of abuse, finding a way to have your own access to money can help to end the cycle of abuse once you leave.

Making a Safety Plan is a good first step towards making the rest of your life better. You can start yours today by making a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, where professionals are available 24/7 to assist you.

If you have any additional questions you would like me to address in a further blog post, just let me know in the comments!


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