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Kane County domestic violence experts discuss why victims return to abusers

‘The promise of hope that love springs eternal. He promises to change’

When a domestic violence survivor goes back to her abuser and gets physically injured again, the response should not be that she was asking for it, executive directors of Kane County’s two domestic violence shelters said.

A victim with an order of protection against her boyfriend in a previous domestic charge last spring willingly went back to be with him this summer – and then ended up getting beaten and kidnapped, according to police and court records.

Multiple felony charges are pending against the boyfriend, Shawn G. Strahota, 39, listed as living in St. Charles, Geneva and Yorkville in police reports, is currently being held in the Kane County jail on $120,000 bond, records show.

While not commenting on this case specifically, Michelle Meyer, executive director of Mutual Ground in Aurora, and Maureen Manning, executive director of Community Crisis Center in Elgin, both cautioned that being in an abusive relationship is complicated and dangerous.

“The reasons survivors return to abusers are myriad – fear, family, financial,” Manning said. “The promise of hope that love springs eternal. He promises to change, ‘It will be different this time.’ … Abusers are not abusive 100% of the time. This is the person she initially met and fell in love with.”

The abuser’s behavior is unpredictable. There is no way to tell when he will be kind or when he will be mean and the survivor takes that chance, Manning said.

“The chance they take can be very harmful,” Manning said.

Meyer said on average, it will take a victim seven times to attempt to leave before she actually, finally leaves.

“You really can’t judge a person because you are not in their shoes, you’re not in the same situation that they are,” Meyer said. “We’re talking about human emotions. … Nobody gets into a relationship knowing that there is going to be domestic violence. There is something about that other person that you end up loving. So when that person becomes abusive, it’s not as easy as people think to just let go and leave.”

So when someone does leave or gets an order of protection, “that is the scariest time for them – that is when domestic violence gets fatal – when the abuser loses control,” Meyer said.

Manning agreed.

“An order of protection is a wonderful advancement in the field. But unless he pays attention to that piece of paper and enters counseling – we’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of men over the years who have changed their behavior,” Manning said.

“If someone does not respect that piece of paper and is not getting counseling – the most dangerous time for the victim is immediately after she has left the abuser,” Manning said. “He will do anything to restore the power. ‘I want it my way. I want it now.’”

Another aspect of domestic violence that results in criminal charges, the accused often call the victims from jail to bully them into dropping the complaints, Manning said.

“Society has a tendency to blame the victim,” Manning said. “At Mutual Ground, it’s very important for us to meet people where they’re at and provide judgment-free help.”

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