• Gina Kendall Lusardi

Why Don't They Just Leave?

If you have ever known someone who was in an abusive relationship I’m sure you’ve heard or even said “Why don't they just leave?”

While to someone who has the great fortune to have never been in an abusive relationship that may seem like a question that is as easy as marching into your room, throwing some clothes in a bag and leaving. But that is not the reality of how it really is when you are the victim of abuse.

Globally, an estimated 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime.

Another factor that plays into this is that globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner. Statistically the most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is at the time they leave the relationship.

No human being wants to be hurt and humiliated by their partner yet, 1 in 4 women find themselves in this very situation daily. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, which, quite often, as previously stated, even turn deadly.

While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons while a victim chooses to stay today I will touch on the more common ones.

It comes as no surprise that shame is one of the main reasons why domestic violence victims stay. We have all felt the feeling of shame at one point or another and it didn't feel good at all.

Put yourself in their shoes, many women who find themselves in abusive relationships think that leaving home, breaking up with their abuser or getting a divorce means they’ve failed. Oftentimes, myself included victims of abuse either already have a long list of failures in their life, lived in a home where they didn't feel they were good enough, or the opposite come from a home where you don't leave a marriage for any reason. They cannot allow their family, friends, and community to see the situation they found themselves in and show that they see themselves as weak. We have to change the message that society is putting out there. Leaving an abuser is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength that shows that someone is strong enough to break the cycle and look for a better life.

Abusers commonly tell their victims that they are rude, nagging and that they made them angry because of their behavior. None of these are a reason to become violent, and yet the victims of domestic violence believe what they are told. They feel or have been told the abuse is all their fault, they said something or did something that provoked their partner. This is usually an idea that was put in their head by their abuser. This is in fact a combination of physical and psychological abuse.

Victims who have been in an abusive relationship for any length of time will often experience frequent abuse leading them to have low self-esteem which facilitates the belief that they somehow deserved the abuse. This is also called gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.

They may have left many times before only to return due to feeling they have nowhere to go. When a victim of abuse leaves and goes back, as victims tend to do, they again feel ashamed or they are ridiculed by those who are supposed to love and support them such as family members. This only drives them right back into the abuse they are trying to escape. If they are a victim of financial abuse then leaving the abuser takes away all means of financial support for both them and their children.

Turning to friends is often only a temporary solution, plus they risk their partner coming after them and potentially even involving the friends into the altercation again making the victim feel at fault and ashamed. Victims of abuse are often so isolated that they have no life outside of the home and feel alone with little or no friends they can rely on.

However, they can look for a safe house in the area, seeing as how these institutions often offer housing, legal counsel and therapy, in addition to helping individuals get their life back on track. I get it not everyone wants to go to a shelter for help and maybe the shelter is full or has guidelines that don't fit into your situation. As a child, my mother and siblings often lived in domestic abuse shelters, sometimes for months at a time. It wasn’t fun and it is very stressful for the parent but isn't living in abuse more stressful?

Which leads me to my last point, kids. When there are kids involved, the whole situation is immediately much harder.

The victim usually does not want to run away and leave the kids with their violent partner, while taking the kids and running can pose so many legal problems. Therefore, they are willing to stay in this abusive household to prevent their kids from experiencing the same level of abuse.

On the other hand, if the abuser is not violent towards the children, the victim wants the kids to have a stable family with both parents present, regardless of how painful this is for them. That said, victims often don’t even realize the impact domestic abuse has on kids. I will be doing a more detailed video on this coming up, but you can click the link to see my video on how domestic abuse changes a child's DNA below.

Whether a child stays in an abusive situation or leaves with the victims they often experience detrimental effects on their schoolwork, mental health as well as influence them to enter violent relationships later on in their life.

While there is no way to force someone to leave their toxic environment, we can all work towards creating a better society where we will believe the victims and not let them feel ashamed about admitting to something like this.

I would love to hear your comments regarding "just leave." Have you ever been told to just leave and had no place to go? Let me hear your story.

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