One of the most commonly asked questions about someone living with domestic violence is, why doesn’t the victim just leave the batterer? What many don’t realize is that the victim—or survivor, as we prefer to call them—is subjected to constant emotional and financial abuse and isolation that gradually chip away at his or her self esteem, resources and ability to bounce back from constant assaults, stress and fear. What’s more, survivors are often encouraged by family, friends, and others in the community to “go back and try to make the marriage/relationship work,” “try harder not to make the batterer mad,” and “just accept that type of behavior as a normal part of marriage.” What all of these responses miss is that domestic violence is NEVER acceptable behavior.
When domestic violence is present and the survivor has left the violent home, he or she and the children may be in immediate need of intervention by trained professionals. There is NOTHING the survivor can do or not do to change the batterer’s behavior. Domestic violence is not caused by the survivor’s behavior, but rather by the batterer’s power and control issues. And domestic violence is NEVER a normal part of a relationship. Abuse is not love.
There are many other barriers that may initially prevent domestic violence survivors from leaving an abusive situation.
Some of the barriers are:
> Fear of death
> Fear of harm to or losing custody of children
> Economic issues
> Past injuries or threats when trying to leave
> Psychological manipulation by batterer
> Institutional responses that may encourage the survivor to remain with the abusive partner
> Values and beliefs
> Any number of other special circumstances can affect a victim’s willingness to leave, including the fear of not being believed.
Instead of questioning why a survivor does not leave the abusive partner, perhaps a better question to ask is, why should a survivor be expected to abandon his or her home to escape attacks by a criminal?