When people hear about domestic violence situations, they may respond with questions such as, “why didn’t she just leave?” Questions like this are a way of blaming the victim for the dangerous situation they’re in. The reality is that leaving an abuser partner is so much easier said than done. Here are 13 reasons why victims of abuse can’t just walk away from their situation:
Victims of abuse often are unable to leave their home if they do not have the financial means to do so. An abuse victim may feel that they only have two choices: remain in a dangerous home or become homeless.
Lack of support
People may think, if an abuse victim doesn’t have the financial means to leave, why not stay with family members or a friend? It’s not that simple. As a way of controlling the victim, abusers may try to isolate them from their friends and family. That way, they will have no one to turn to.
Leaving is the most dangerous time
When an abuse victim decides to leave the home, thet violence escalates. It is during the period right after a victim leaves that they are at the greatest risk of being killed by their abuser.
Still in love
It can be hard for victims to admit but often times, they are still able to see the good qualities in an abuser that they knew before the abuse started. Abuse occurs in a cycle with a tension stage, escalation stage, and honeymoon stage. During the honeymoon stage, abusers will often apologize, make promises to get better, plead for forgiveness, etc. It is during the honeymoon stage that abuse victims may feel like their abuser will change, or that they still have good in them that makes it worth staying.
Lack of transportation
Even when abuse victims want to leave, they won’t be able to without transportation that can bring them to a safe place away from their abuser.
Lack of communication
Without a phone to call for help or technology to find out where a shelter might be located, abuse victims may be totally unaware of where they can go or who they can reach out to for help.
Not sure if their situation is “bad enough”
It’s common for abuse victims to not realize they’re being abused if the abuse isn’t physical. In these cases, people might feel like their situation is not “bad enough” to be considered abuse. But abuse comes in many forms – psychological, emotional, financial, and more. All of which can eventually lead to physical abuse. This may come as physical intimidation such as punching a wall, controlling behavior, constantly putting them down, or pressuring them into sexual activities they don’t want to partake in, just to name a few. Check out this article for more information on other forms of abuse.
Stigma for male victims
Male victims of abuse are less likely to report it than female victims as they often feel embarrassed or shameful. They’re less likely to seek help due to the fear of being seen as “weak.” In reality, it takes a lot of courage to come forward. There is absolutely nothing weak about reporting abuse or seeking help.
If the victim leaves, the abuser could have child custody
If a victim leaves and doesn’t have proof of the abuse or the financial support to raise kids on their own, they may fear that the abuser could end up with custody over the children. Some victims may feel that because of this, leaving would ultimately put their children in greater danger.
Religious pressure to make a marriage work
Some religions (or factions of a religion) teach that divorce is wrong and people should do whatever they can to make their marriage work. Therefore, people may feel they have a religious duty to stay in an abusive marriage. As a Christian, I don’t think Jesus would want someone to remain in an abusive relationship for the sake of “making marriage work.” At this point, the marriage has already stopped working.
Social pressure to make a marriage work
Aside from religious pressure, victims may worry that their friends or family members will judge them for getting a divorce, especially if it’s not their first marriage.
Fearing for the safety of their pets
Abuse victims may not leave if they’re unable to take their pets with them. It’s not uncommon for victims of abuse to fear that the abuser will then take his or her anger out on their pet(s).
Manipulated into thinking the abuse it their fault
Abusers may try to break down their victims spirit by constantly suggesting that their bad behavior is due to the victims’ actions. They may say things such as, “I wouldn’t hit you if you didn’t …” or “I only acted out because you provoked me.” The truth is, abuse is never the victim’s fault. Victims of abuse are not hurt because of the decisions they make. They are hurt because of the decisions made by someone else. Period.
If you feel that you might be in a dangerous situation, or even if you’re not sure if your situation is considered abusive, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). For those that would prefer not to talk on the phone, their website features a free online chat.