Leaving: Not Always An Easy Decision

When survivors stay with their abusers beyond the first clear episode of violence, they are often blamed for both the violence and its continuance.

But staying where there has been abuse does not signify consent or permission for the abuse.

Attempting to leave an abusive relationship can be blocked or punished by an abuser in a variety of ways: increased physical injury to the victim; threats to harm the children or the family pets; shifting the guilt (“If you did this, I wouldn’t have to do that”) to the survivor; and making the victim feel powerless (“You know you can’t survive without me, you’re too stupid to be able to take care of yourself.”)

It can be difficult for someone outside the immediate situation to understand that neither confusion nor submission are consent. Most people endure occasional meanness from a partner because it seems like an aberration that (they hope) won’t be repeated. Only over time, does the methodical nature of domestic violence become obvious. Many try to change their own behavior to end the abuse, long before realizing that it’s the partner’s behavior that must change.

Blaming the victim perpetuates the myth that the victim is the one at fault. Blaming the victim only increases the trauma of abuse while obstructing the process of validation that’s critical for the change and personal growth that contribute to healing.

“I thought if I kept the perfect home, dressed a certain way, made the requested meals and bought the right brand of snacks, things would be better,” said one survivor. “But the rules kept changing and I finally realized I could never please this person or ever do the right thing.” After time and with no network of support to encourage resistance, it becomes a way of life.