Ste. Genevieve County hosted a lunch-and-learn on December 11 on the topic of domestic violence.

Mary Ann Robertson of the Safe House for Women and associate Amy Vinsin were the featured speakers.

The event was open to the public but drew primarily those professionals — including law enforcement — who often come in contact with situations where domestic violence takes place.

The first topic was a discussion of why people involved in such relationships find it hard to get out.

“The main reason women don’t leave their abusers is because they have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Robertson said. “And they have already lived through so much trauma that they are kind of frozen in their steps, and because of the trauma that they’ve already been through, it’s hard for them to say, ‘I want out; I need to be away from my abuser,’ even when a police officer shows up to help them, because they don’t understand how they can get out of the mess that they’re in.

“They may have one or three children they have to take care of. They may have a cultural influence. Many places that have European ideas that are so strong … feel like staying with your family situation is more important than your own self-protection.

“We have a European idea of ‘king of the castle’ and what the man says is going to happen. … We have people in their 70s and 80s who were abused for 50 and 60 years.”

Robertson said abusive relationship may include religious factors as well as cultural.

She said those who are abused have feelings of fear, of fleeing, and of being frozen in the moment.

“Women who call us have already been traumatized,” she said.

The Safe House for Women has been around for 27 years, she said. But she said the facility has developed significantly in the last decade and now offers outreach programs for those women trying to leave the shelter and move on with their lives.

Robertson and Vinsin said they do see a number of women who return to the shelter from time to time.

Often, those who are abused don’t have a concept of what love is, which Robertson defined as “a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.”

See complete story in the January 8 edition of the Herald.