Leaving is not easy. On average, it takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good. Exiting the relationship is most unsafe time for a victim. As the abuser senses that they’re losing power, they will often act in dangerous ways to regain control over their victim.
We know victim’s frustrations with feeling like the abuse is somehow their fault. If only they’d leave, right? Wrong. We know better. In fact, we’re taking a closer look at 50 reasons why it may be near impossible to leave. To answer the often-asked question “Why don’t you just leave?”
Follow along on this week blog as we discuss 10 different obstacles to leaving an abusive relationship.
1. Advocate: The victim doesn’t have an enthusiastic supporter on their side so may feel discouraged or hopeless.
2. Batterer: The batterer is wealthy, famous, powerful in the community, etc., and can afford to hire private counselor and pressure decision-makers.
3. Believes Threats: The victim believes the batterer’s threats to kill them and the children if they attempt to leave.
4. Children’s Best Interest: The victim believes it is in the children’s best interest to have both parents in the home, especially if the abuser doesn’t physically abuse the children.
5. Children’s Pressure: The children put pressure (independently or by the abuser’s influence) on the abused parent to stay with their partner.
6. Culture and Race: Because of differences in race or culture, the victim worries about being treated unequally by the justice system if they come forward, or believes stereotypes about acceptable actions in their own culture.
7. Denial: The victim is in denial about the danger, instead believing that if they could be better partners, the abuse would stop.
8. Disabled: Victims who are disabled or physically challenged face obstacles in gaining access to court and social services, and may be isolated from basic info about resources.
9. Elderly: Elderly victims may hold traditional beliefs about marriage and believe they must stay, or are dependent on the batterer for care even in the face of physical abuse.
10. Excuses: The victim believes the abuser’s excuses to justify the violence, blaming job stress or substance abuse for example.
It can be so frustrating and heartbreaking to see someone you care about remain in an abusive relationship, and many people want to immediately go and “rescue” their loved one or convince them to “just leave.” But unfortunately it is not that simple; doing this could be very dangerous or make the situation worse. In order to truly help a person in an abusive relationship, it’s important to try and understand what they are going through, why they might stay in the abusive relationship and how you can support and shift power back to them.
Victims of abuse are in a world of mental and emotional pain and confusion. Abusive people can be extremely romantic and persuasive in the beginning of a relationship. They will do and say anything to make the victim fall for them. Once the victim becomes attached or dependent, the abusive behavior becomes visible with words or through physical action. One tactic that abusive partners often use is to blame their partner for their abusive behavior. The victim begins to believe that it is their fault their partner has “changed” because “they used to be a great person” before the abuse. It’s so difficult to see that their partner, whom they love and care about, is actually manipulating them.
How Can I Help?
First and foremost, try to keep the lines of communication open with your loved one. Abusive partners will often try to isolate the victim from family and friends so they can have total power and control without any interference. An abusive partner might tell the victim that no one loves and cares for them like they do, and if the victim has no one to reach out to, they may believe the abusive partner is right.
Try not to speak negatively about the abusive partner. This may put the victim on the defensive because they have already been manipulated to believe that the abuse is their fault. Alternatively, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed that they “allowed” the abuse to happen. It can be very difficult to admit to friends and family that the person they once thought was wonderful is actually abusive. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Try to listen without judgment and tell them you’re concerned for their safety. By treating them with kindness and respect, you remind them that they are worthy of such treatment.
Lastly, avoid telling your loved one what they should do. It can be confusing and puts an enormous amount of pressure on the victim. They are already in a situation where someone is exerting power and control over them. Instead, you can help shift power back to them by trusting that they know their situation best and letting them know you are there to provide help and support. Create a safety plan with them, and let them decide what will make them feel safest, whether that includes leaving the relationship or not. You might also consider sending short, positive texts or emails (if they have indicated it is safe to do so) to let the victim know you are there for them, such as, “Just wanted to say hi and know that I love you and I am always here for you.’’ These small gestures can be very encouraging and go a long way.
If your loved one is experiencing abuse, Safehope can help. Whether you need support, information or assistance with creating a safety plan, call 316-283-0350