One of the most difficult aspects of domestic violence to understand is why victims stay in abusive relationships when their physical and emotional health and well-being are at high risk. When in an abusive relationship, most victims feel helpless, embarrassed, and worthless, and they are most likely scared of what may happen if they leave. Below are the most common reasons victims of domestic violence remain in abusive relationships.
- Fear. Fear is the most common reason victims stay in a harmful relationship. Whether or not the relationship involves physical abuse, fear is a justified feeling. Abusive partners that threaten or attempt to kill their partner are serious about their intentions and an escape plan must involve careful planning and resources.
- Economic dependency. If the victim of domestic violence is not financially independent, leaving an abusive relationship can lead to poverty, homelessness, and economic despair. It is important for victims of domestic violence to understand that there are public assistance programs available to help them survive independently after leaving an abusive relationship.
- Lack of support. The cycle of domestic violence often isolates a victim from important family members and friends that may be able to help the victim.
- Children. Children complicate a domestic violence situation because leaving an abusive relationship will involve raising children alone and stressful, and sometimes unjust, custody battles.
- Shame, guilt, conditioning, religious beliefs and societal norms. Victims of domestic violence may feel any and all of these feelings, causing them to stay in an abusive relationship.
If you are a victim of domestic violence and have made the brave decision to leave your abusive relationship, remember that safety should be your first priority. If you are concerned about your safety, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for advice and call the police. If you can, work with a trusted friend or family member to create an escape plan. Remember, it is likely that your abusive partner will take action against you. Take the following information, documents, and belongings with you:
- Legal documents: birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s license, passport, car title, insurance documents, mortgage, etc.
- Evidence of abuse: journal or written documentation and photographs.
- Financial means: cash, credit cards, and debit cards.
- Contact information: crisis hotline, support group, domestic violence shelter, trusted family member or friend, and an attorney.
- Any personal belongings that you can take that have sentimental value.