Barriers to Leaving
“Why doesn’t the abused person just leave?” This question shows a misunderstanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, puts responsibility on the victim and reveals a tendency to blame the victim. A more appropriate question would be: “Why does he abuse her?”, “Why does she abuse him? or “Why can’t s/he be stopped from hurting his/her family?”
Reflect on your own life. Have you ever maintained a relationship with a difficult relative or friend? Or stayed too long in a job with an difficult manager? People in an abusive relationship face even more difficult choices when leaving.
FEAR… Of being killed, of the abuser committing suicide, of not being believed about the abuse, of being stalked by the abuser, of placing their kids at risk via unsupervised visitation with the abuser – note that 75% of domestic violence homicides occur during or after the victim has left the abuser
ISOLATION… By the abuser often results in a lack of a support system for the victim including helpful friends or family members, a job or money, transportation, childcare, housing, and social services
ECONOMIC REALITY… May be that a victim is not able to support her/himself and the children without the abuser’s income, may not possess marketable skills, may have limited access to government assistance, may dread welfare, and due to an abuser’s control of money may have no access to cash, checks, or important documents
CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES… Of living in a home where abuse was perpetrated by one parent against the other may leave a victim feeling that abuse is unavoidable in relationships, or that it is okay to abuse people you love when they have done something wrong
BELIEFS ABOUT THE ABUSER… Often include strong feelings of love and emotional connection, as well as the belief that the abuser is all-powerful and will be able to find the victim anywhere, or due to compassion or pity a victim may feel that s/he is the only one who can help the abuser overcome problems
BELIEFS ABOUT THEMSELF… Over time include an acceptance of responsibility for the problems in a relationship, due to repeated blame placed on a victim by the abuser, as well as low self-esteem due to repeated acts of abuse and a feeling that abusive behavior is all the victim deserves.