"Why didn’t she just leave...?"
As a Domestic Violence survivor myself I’ll tell you why.
I’ll put that pathetic victim blaming question to rest right here and right now.
Hold onto your hats, this list is long but by no means is it exhaustive.
Many of these were my thoughts prior to ending my DV marriage, others are simply what I know other women to have thought prior to leaving their relationship. Which ones are which remains my personal story.
She didn’t leave because...
- Her fear was real
- Her self doubt was raging
- She worried the violence would escalate
- She thought he would change
- She thought she could fix him
- She thought he would see the error in his ways, eventually
- She was terrified of leaving and terrified of staying
- She didn’t want to face public scrutiny
- She didn’t want to ‘break’ the broken home
- She held onto the tradition of marriage
- She was manipulated into believing no one else would ever want her
- She was being cyber stalked, her every move monitored, so she was scared
- She wanted more opportunities and financial stability for her kids
- She thought her kids deserved a ‘normal’ family
- She had little to no access to her own money, it was all “his”
- She had no family support
- She was worried he would try and use the courts to have the children removed from her care if she left
- She was worried he would manipulate everyone into thinking she was a bad mother
- She was worried he may try to abduct her children and flea overseas with them, never to return
- She feared copping backlash from her family as their culture frown upon divorce
- She was scared no one would believe her because she wasn't covered in bruises
- She just didn’t know where to start
- She didn’t know how she could survive mentally, emotionally or financially
- She thought he was just going through a rough patch and that things would improve
- He threatened to harm their children if she left
- He promised her he’d never do it again
- She didn’t want to be become a single Mum
- He threatened to kill himself if she left
- She didn’t want to join the Centrelink queue
- She had nowhere else to live
- She worried about losing her job
- She had no friends to turn to
- He played inescapable power games
- He wore a mask that no one else saw so she thought people would call her a liar
- She was worried about possibly losing mutual friends
- She knew leaving wouldn’t stop the violence, only change it
- She didn’t want to navigate the legal system
- She was afraid of possible bankruptcy stemming from a messy separation
- She was struck down by shame and embarrassment
- She didn’t think SHE should have to leave her home
- She was afraid of losing her assets
- She thought she wouldn’t fit in socially after a separation or divorce
- She couldn’t face losing time with her kids if they had to go between two houses
- She failed to understand that she deserved more
- She was connected to him via a web of money, employment and housing and unraveling that seemed impossible
- She didn’t realise living in chaos wasn’t normal
- She thought this went on in all ‘normal’ relationships because it was what she grew up in as a child
- She was convinced by outsiders that it wasn’t “that bad”
- She couldn’t stop replaying the “what if’s?” in her head
- She figured better the devil she knew than the devil she didn’t
- She was told she couldn’t so she didn’t
- She didn’t know who to turn to for support
- She worried she wouldn’t be able to work enough hours around caring for kids to support herself and the kids financially if she left
- She believed she couldn’t, so she didn't
- She was told “he’s only doing it because he loves you”
- She was let down by Police and Lawyers who failed to see her reality
- She didn’t want to be forced to face the offender in court
- She didn’t want to relive her story over and over again to everyone
- She was laughed at and told to “get over it” whenever she tried to talk about it
- She thought she was all alone in this horror when in fact millions shared her story
- She was terrified he would hunt her down if she got a new place to live
- She didn’t want her kids moving into a shelter
- She felt physically sick at the thought of breaking away, anxiety filled her
- She had her family turn against her because of the lies and manipulation of the offender
- She didn’t want her kids having to grow up in two houses
- She didn't want her kids having to change schools if she had to move
- She didn't want her kids sleeping rough because of her choice to leave
- She thought she was too old to start all over again
- She didn't want to contemplate growing old alone
- She tried to leave once, but he found her, so she went back in fear
- She didn't want her kids to have to choose which parent to live with
- She didn't want to lose extended family or in-laws as a result of leaving
- She was overcome with trauma induced mental health issues
- She gave up trying to get out, it was just too much
- She lived in a small town or remote area where resources were limited
- She was raised to believe that in her culture women should just accept violence from their male partner
- She was pregnant
- She was EXHAUSTED
- She thought dying would be easier than escaping
- She was afraid he would kill her if she left. Or if she stayed.
Didn’t realise her own strength
Didn’t give herself the credit she deserved
Didn’t realise how much the right people really care
Didn’t know how much support was really out there for her
Didn’t have the ability to focus on the new and amazing life she was able to create once free of violence and abuse
For me personally, one day I realised that ANY life I could create beyond this life WAS worth all the pain, suffering, turmoil, distress, fear, risk and torture of escape.
“She” could be anyone. Your Mum, sister, friend, cousin, aunty, colleague, next door neighbour, boss, tennis coach...
Even your DAUGHTER.
Respect her. Listen to her. Protect her. Believe her. Support her. Empower her.
And give her hope.
Next time you see coverage in the media about another woman dying at the hands of a current or former partner... I IMPLORE YOU to show some compassion and NOT ask this question. Not even rhetorically. I also encourage you to share this perspective of mine with others so together we can put an end to the victim blaming that rages in our current society.
The day someone finds me another crime for which the VICTIM is so often blamed is the day I will eat my words.
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!