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WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST LEAVE?

Whenever I share with someone for the first time what I do for a living the first question is inevitably, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” And it’s not a simple question to answer. This is primarily because there are so many different answers to that question. I’ve come across many reasons for why someone will stay or go back.

Abusers are very good at keeping victims in the relationship.  They may apologize and promise it will never happen again.  Or they will minimize the abuse and make it seem like the victim is overreacting to what happened.  They are very adept at making it seem like it’s the victims fault.  If he can make her believe that she caused the abuse to happen then she also has the power to prevent it from happening again. The victim has hope that things will change. Hope is a powerful reason why some victims choose to stay or go back to an abuser.

Another reason is the fear that the victim cannot survive on her own. The abuser may not have allowed her to work. He may have isolated her from friend and family support. If the victim does work the issue may be that of child care. If there is no child care then the victim cannot work and support herself and her children. When the options are to stay and endure the abuse or potentially end up homeless with your children one can see where the choice to stay or leave is just not that simple.

Fear is a paralyzing emotion. And that is something that most victims live with daily. The risk of leaving is sometimes too great for a victim to even consider it.  In fact, the most dangerous time for a victim is when she is in the process of leaving or after she has left.  Her risk of being killed greatly increases. She knows this. He may have threatened it even. He may have threatened to take the kids or hold the kids hostage. If the victim has no source of support because he may have isolated her from those sources then it becomes very difficult and dangerous indeed for her to leave safely.

Just even asking the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” implies that she has some choice over what is happening to her. And it perpetuates the idea of blaming the victim. A better question for people to be asking is, “Why does the abuser choose to abuse?”