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Understanding Domestic Violence
Finding safety from domestic violence can be complicated and dangerous.
One of the first questions people normally ask when they learn someone is in an abusive relationship is
“Why doesn’t the victim just leave?”
This question makes it seem like leaving is easy. In fact, it is complicated and dangerous.
There are many reasons leaving an abusive relationship is not quick or simple to do.
The victim knows how violent the abuser can be. They know how the abuser has threatened to kill the victim or their children. They fear what will happen if they leave, but the abuser finds them.
The abuser will also make the victim afraid to reach out for help:
There are many different tactics an abuser will use against their partner. Many of those abusive actions not only directly harm the victim but affect their ability to leave the relationship.
For example, the abuser may control the family’s money, so the victim doesn’t know how they would be able to pay for housing or food if they leave.
An abuser will do anything they can to keep control of the victim. At times, this could mean making promises to change or even taking action to make it seem like they’re changing, when they’re not.
An abuser may tell the victim that they’ll go to anger management or substance use treatment, but never follow through. An abuser may even agree to go to counseling or a batterer’s intervention program, but not take the program seriously. With these promises, the abuser is not actually committing to change; they’re saying and doing whatever it takes to keep their partner with them.
To be clear, the abuse is a choice the abuser commits.
A victim’s ability to leave, though, may be made more challenging by social and economic factors. If housing is expensive, unemployment is high, grocery and gas costs are rising, etc., then the victim may struggle to see a future where they can stand on their own.
They may also be part of a culture that values family privacy or keeping relationships together, no matter what.
An abuser will damage the victim’s friend and family relationships, so the victim may not have anyone they trust to help them leave.
If the victim does have someone that could help them, that person may not be supportive. They may believe what the abuser has said or tell the victim that their partner deserves “another chance.”
The abuser may also tell the victim that organizations like Hubbard House won’t help them. That is not true. Hubbard House supports all victims of domestic violence with life-saving shelter and services.
The victim faces countless challenges when trying to leave an abusive relationship. We shouldn’t ask why a victim stays. We should ask why the abuser chooses abuse. We should ask why the abuser doesn’t stop the violence.