Why doesn’t she just leave? This is a question we hear over and over again. The short answer is, if it was that easy, she would. But, for those of us who have been in an abusive relationship, or know someone who has, you know that it is not that simple. Ending an important relationship, regardless of how bad things get, is never easy. In most cases there are extenuating circumstances making it even more difficult such as forced isolation from your family and friends, being psychologically beaten down, financially controlled, or physically threatened. The presence and involvement of children further complicates leaving as does having family pets the abuser is threatening to harm or destroy. The answer is not easy. There are always barriers to overcome; barriers that may be situational, emotional, personal, cultural and/or faith based. Each presents its own challenge. And, each needs to be overcome.
- Lack of alternative housing; other than a shelter, victim has no where to go.
- Social isolation; lack of support from family and friends.
- Economic dependence; lack of financial resources or job skills or challenge of raising & supporting children.
- Fear; greater physical danger to herself and her children if they try to leave, being found and suffering a worse beating than before, anxiety of the unknown.
- Survival; based on threats, knowing her abuser will find and kill her and/or her children.
- Concern; apprehension of emotional damage to her children.
- Coercion; based on threats, fear of losing custody of children
- Resources; time needed to plan and prepare to leave.
- Pets; believing the abuser will harm or destroy family pets.
- Loyalty; believing it is just a sickness and committed to staying and caring for abuser.
- Insecurity; being able to cope with loneliness and of being alone with children.
- Hope; believing things will get better.
- Unfounded optimism; believing the abuser will change.
- Denial; believing that things are not as bad as they really are.
- Shame; does not want anyone to know of the abuse.
- Low self-esteem; believing that she deserves the abuse and will never find anyone better.
- Love; remembering what life used to be before the violence started and knowing how loving and lovable the abuser can be.
- Misplaced pity; women are socialized to put others’ needs before their own.
- Rescue complex; believing if she stays she can save him.
- Suicide threats; based on threats, believing abuser will kill himself if she leaves.
- Guilt; believing the violence is caused through some inadequacy of her own, feeling responsible for the failure of the marriage/relationship.
- Simple exhaustion; being just too tired and worn out from the abuse to leave.
- Parenting; wanting a co-parent for the children.
- Religious/cultural pressure; needing to keep the family unit together, commitment that marriage is forever.
- Cultural; believing this is how partners relate.
- Responsibility; believing it is up to the woman to work things out and save the relationship.
- Immigration status; fearing deportation or resolving immigration issues.
- Chemical dependency; use of drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with the abuse may leave the victim less mentally and/or physically strong.
- Lack of support; receiving pressure from family and friends to stay in the relationship.
- Identify; believing they need a partner to be complete or be accepted by society.
- Ties; personally connected to her home, neighborhood, and/or personal belongings.
The Invisible Victim
Over 3,000,000 children will
witness violence in their
homes this year.