What Keeps us in Abusive Relationships
Resilience Case Management Team
It’s the question that almost every survivor of abuse has heard at some point: “Why didn’t you just leave?” For those that have never been a victim of intimate partner violence, this may seem like the logical, easy answer. But – as many survivors will attest to – it is never as simple as “just leaving”.
Leaving the relationship is the most dangerous time for victims of abuse. Abusers will often go to great lengths to prevent their victim from leaving. One study found in interviews with men who have killed their partners that either threats of separation by their partner or actual separations were most often the precipitating events that lead to the murder.* When a victim leaves or attempts to leave, the abuser feels a loss of control and becomes easily escalated. Abusers can become unpredictable and will often do things we never believed they would follow through on.
Consider the following factors that survivors must consider when leaving an abusive relationship.
Internal factors may include:
We love our partner and hope they will change.
We have been isolated and have nowhere to turn.
We might think a 2-parent home is better than a single parent home.
We feel at fault for abuse and believe we can fix things.
We believe them when they say they won’t do it again.
We might feel alone.
We believe that if we change, the abuse will stop.
If we grew up in abusive homes, the abuse may seem normal.
We don’t want to admit what’s happening.
We rely on our partner financially.
We fear we won’t be believed.
External factors may include:
We fear the very real consequences of leaving. There are many fears associated with leaving our abusive partners – will the retaliation be worse? Will I be able to support myself and my children financially? Will my partner go to jail for a long time? Where will my partner go when they leave? Will my partner accuse me of being abusive? Other fears include the involvement of Law Enforcement, Child Protective Services, or Immigration.
A lack of support outside of the relationship. We may not have access to transportation, friends, income, or childcare. This can be especially prevalent in rural areas, where survivors are more isolated and have less access to safety measures.
Our partner uses control tactics to prevent us from leaving. This often includes isolation, dependence on finances, threats of harm or towards family, or limiting access to phones.
We may be unaware of resources. We may not know that there are agencies like Resilience that can help with life-saving actions such as emergency shelter, safety planning, or obtaining a Personal Protection Order.
We aren’t sure how others will react. We may hesitate to reach out for support due to feelings of shame, embarrassment, and criticism. It may be difficult to trust others or we may feel that we don’t want to involve other people in our personal lives.
We’ve been encouraged to remain in the relationship. There may be societal, religious, or cultural beliefs that prevent us from leaving our abuser.
We think it’s not that bad. We might minimize or excuse our partners behavior, attributing their controlling tactics to a way of showing their love for us. We may feel that even though we’re being abused, others have it worse or that it could be worse. Some survivors believe that they are “stuck” in the relationship or that it is safer to remain with their partner than attempt to leave, which would likely result in increased anger.
The reasons we stay in an abusive relationship may seem valid in the moment, although, over time our self-worth diminishes and we remain unsafe. We understand the reasons for staying in an abusive relationship varies with each individual situation.
We must empower a person’s choice and not mandate specific paths of action, as the person in the relationship knows the safest way to navigate their situation.
Resilience has advocates and volunteers ready 24/7 to assist survivors with tips on staying safe, preparing to leave an abusive relationship, and what to do once you’ve left. Resilience can still help you, even if you aren’t sure you want to leave. You do not have to leave the abusive relationship in order to receive support from Resilience.
For immediate support, reach out to us at:
24-Hour Help Line: 1-800-848-5991
Hablamos Español: 1-866-728-2131
Safe E-mail: GinnyP411@gmail.com