I just read an article in the Mirror, UK, about a woman who was raped, beaten, attacked with a knife by her partner. Francis Drummond is currently serving a 6-year jail sentence for raping and beating Lisa Mulligan. Last October, Lisa, (she has chosen to waive her right to anonymity) was left scarred for life by Drummond. A few weeks before that she had been violently beaten by him and he was ordered to serve a 200-hour community service order. Last month at his trial she said, “Six years is not enough. He’s changed my whole life. He’s a danger to women and that won’t change.”
But here is what makes this story “news” in a society where one in three women experience some form of domestic violence: she now forgives him and says “He’s my man”.
Last month she was pleased that a jury had convicted him of raping and battering her. It took them just over an hour to make their decision even though he denied all the charges. Today she says, “He said he was sorry, that it would never happen again and I believe him. He’s my man and I’m going to be waiting for him when he comes out.”
So why did she change her mind? Why would she give him another chance? How does a person go from “I thought I was going to die” last month to now posting on Facebook “I had a brill day. Went to visit my man”?
In her own words: “I think drink had a lot to do with what happened, so we have to take care not to be using alcohol all the time. I really believe he’s a good man at heart and i love him, so I believe we can be happy.”
During the trial, Lisa saw no signs of remorse from Drummond. So she felt she had to visit him in prison and look into his eyes; to try and understand why he attacked her. Now she blames alcohol for his actions and believes he can change. She forgives him and is looking forward to standing by him if his sentence is reduced after appeal.
After seeing her post on Facebook, even her friend was disgusted that she would be willing to love the man who behaved like a “beast”.
Yet, research shows that Lisa is not an exception. Victims of domestic violence often chose to stay with the perpetrator.
“Why would a woman stay?”
This is a question that gets asked a lot. Women who have never experienced violence themselves often cannot understand why a woman who has been a victim of domestic violence would remain with the abusive partner. The problem with this question is that it suggests that the victims can control the violence. Perhaps, we should be thinking of what the abuser should or should not be doing. The victim is not responsible for the actions of the abuser. For the abuse to stop, the abuser needs to make a decision to stop, to change. Victims cannot control the violence; the ones in control are the abusers. They have made a choice to abuse another person.
Shouldn’t we be asking them to take responsibility for their actions?
If it were easy, many women would leave their abusers. There are many compelling reasons for a victim to choose to stay with the abusive partner. Many of us would be aghast at the thought of forgiving, much less returning to live with the man who raped and battered us.
The truth is, one cannot begin to comprehend the extent to which a victim of domestic violence is manipulated, undermined and controlled by the perpetrator. Drummond cannot physically attack Lisa from prison but this hasn’t stopped the abuse. His words manipulate her and continue to exercise control over her. His apologies and blaming alcohol for his actions all serve to ensure that she does what he wants her to do: making her choose to stay in a relationship with him.
Pat Craven, author of ‘Living With the Dominator’, was a Probation Officer who ran courses for male 'perpetrators’ of violence against women and children. She says that for two years she sat among groups of men who had injured, raped or killed their victims. She soon realized that abusive men use a range of tactics to control women. She created The Freedom Programme, which examines the roles played by attitudes and beliefs on the actions of abusive men and the responses of victims and survivors. The denials of abuse, then the apologies and blaming alcohol, etc. are all ways in which a man “dominates” his victim.
We don’t know whether Drummond is truly repentant for his actions. What we do know is that many men who drink alcohol never abuse, rape or batter their partners. By believing him when he says he’ll “never do it again”, we can see that Lisa wants to believe he is sorry; that he cares for her enough to want to change. The years of manipulation and abuse, as well as the love she has for him, prevent her from seeing how she continues to be controlled by his actions, his words.
Earlier this year, a video showing a famous US athlete punching and knocking his then-fiancée unconscious went viral. People were shocked, confused angry that the victim was now his wife. Twitter became the platform for many thousands of women who are themselves victims of domestic violence to express their opinions with the hashtag #WhyIStayed, started by Beverly Gooden. She writes in a series of tweets that leaving is “a process, not an event.” Her tweets explain why it was so hard for her to leave:
Her abuser would sleep in front of the door to prevent her from leaving
A Christian minister told her that God hates divorce
Her husband said he would change and she thought her love would help him do so
She had no money and nowhere to go
She was isolated from friends and family
Beverly and Lisa’s stories are common stories. Their reasons for staying with their abusers are compelling yet common. It takes enormous courage for them to even talk about their situations. It is a misconception that when a woman is a victim of abuse, she has the choice to leave. This is obviously often not the case.
Statistically, the time when a woman is most at risk of being harmed is when she is trying to leave the man who chooses to abuse her. So, leaving can be a very dangerous thing to do. Perhaps, it is not surprising at all that Lisa Mulligan chooses to forgive the perpetrator and stand by him. It requires immense compassion and education to even begin to comprehend the insidious nature of Domestic Violence.
Rather than be disgusted with Lisa’s decision to stand by Drummond, we should be horrified by the extent to which her abuser continues to manipulate her.
She was and still is a victim of Domestic Violence. His conviction hasn’t changed that.