By Alison Gene Smith
The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho.
The first time Richard hit her, Lindsay was six months pregnant.
Next he broke her nose. But she stayed.
She finally left him when their daughter was a year old.
Lindsay, then about 20, said she wanted their daughter to have her father in her life.
Like many abused women, she wanted to make it work.
“My parents have been married 34 years. I grew up with stability, and that’s what I want,” she said.
The preference toward staying with an abuser for the sake of the family is not only personal, but also drives decisions in the legal system, said Karen McCarthy, a lawyer with Idaho Legal Aid Services in Twin Falls.
“… but he’s a really good dad” is something McCarthy often hears after a victim talks about the abuse. Women refer to an abuser’s parenting skills as a reason to stay with him.
And the law presumes that children benefit from having both parents in their lives, even when one parent is violent.
Religion also can affect a woman’s decision on whether to leave, McCarthy said.
The more devout a person is, the more difficult that decision can be, she said. “You’ve taken vows before God.”
One woman told McCarthy in tears, “I wish my husband was cheating on me and not beating me.” That would be a legitimate reason for divorce in her church.
On the same day, McCarthy met with several pastors, including a Greek Orthodox priest. She asked what advice to give the woman.
The priest told McCarthy to help her get a divorce. “This isn’t a marriage sanctioned in Heaven,” he told her.
Violence wasn’t what made Lindsay leave, though. She said she didn’t look for help, though friends and family often picked her up, battered, outside her house. “I felt so helpless,” she said.