That is the question I dislike the most…I rarely use the word, but I HATE that question: “Why don’t you just leave?”

It insinuates that we have a choice.  It insinuates that we might even enjoy the abuse.  It insinuates nothing good or positive.  Yep, I hate that question.

When I hear it, I know that person has never experienced domestic abuse.

When I hear it, I know that person has no clue that I loved my abuser.  I didn’t want to abandon our marriage.  I was dedicated to helping my abuser see how much he was hurting me and our son.  I believed to my core that my Mission in this life was to keep my abuser functioning between the lines.

Why don’t you just leave?

There are as many reasons to stay as there are women who live in domestic abuse.

FEAR

One reason we don’t just leave is fear. Women are 70 times more likely to be murdered by our abuser while leaving, or within the first few weeks of leaving.  Abuse is about control. If the victim leaves, the abuser has lost control. That is often not to be tolerated.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV.org) posts a rolling counter of people murdered in domestic abuse with a gun.  In mid-April 2018 the counter indicates 183 domestic abuse murders so far in 2018!!  183…and climbing.  That is more than 52 people a month!   More than 1 a day!!!

Fear of living alone (often for the first time ever).  Being fully responsible for our self and our kids, is huge.  We are told by our abuser that we can’t function alone.  We can’t handle money or responsibility.  None of this may be true but we believe it.  These are valid fears.

FINANCES

Especially long-time domestic abuse victims experience financial abuse.  The abuser controls all the money.  The victim has no personal checking or savings account, frequently no personal credit, generally no … I repeat, NO…access to money.

How does a victim move?  Even renting a tiny furnished apartment requires first, last and a deposit.  At a minimum that’s $1,500.  What about utility deposits, the requirement of a good credit rating to do just about anything?  Where does the money to pay a divorce lawyer come from? … they are not free.  Attorney fees are not reduced because the victim has no money.

Make no mistake, even women with advanced degrees and high paid careers face financial fears.  The abuser controls all the money.

What if the abuse victim is the primary financial source; the victim is a doctor, attorney, Ph.D., successful entrepreneur?  Yep, even highly successful professional people are victims of domestic abuse.

Leaving the relationship may be too costly to actually escape.  The cost of splitting property and paying alimony may be too excessive to be practical.  So, she (or he) stays, essentially trapped by the reality of financial concerns.

I talked with one woman who sold her law practice so she could escape her abuser.  She had worked long and hard to create the business.  She walked away from it.  Not everyone has even that option.

CHILDREN

Imagine that you have children living inside your secret, violent, and unbearable abusive relationship.  Even if they are not physically harmed, they are affected emotionally.

Your first thought is probably, “There’s a great reason to leave. Get those kids outta there!”  I agree and I’ll tell you that one of my greatest regrets is that I stayed with my son’s Dad.  He did experience emotional abuse.  He does have horrible memories.

Staying may have been Divine intervention.  I didn’t think about parental visits.  I didn’t think about my son having to spend weekends, holidays, possibly vacation time with his Dad … alone and unprotected.

I recently talked with a woman who stayed with her kid’s Dad…because of the kids.  She stayed because she could protect her kids from their Dad.  She was there all the time.

If she left, their children would be court ordered to spend time, alone, with their abusive parent!

She did not leave, so she could protect the children from ever having to be alone with their Dad. That is a good, thoughtful, well-founded reason to stay in an abusive relationship.

Why don’t you just leave domestic abuse?  For many valid reasons!

Choose not to ask that question.

Instead, ask

  • “How can I help you?”
  • “Is there anything you need right now?”
  • “Would you like to talk? I have no answers but I can listen.”
  • “Do you know that others do know what’s going on?”
  • “You are welcome to come to my house, even in the middle of the night. I am offering a safe place for you when you are ready.”

Even if you have no concept of the hell the victim is enduring, privately, safely, let her know you Know something isn’t right.  Sometimes that’s all that it takes to inspire a victim.  Often, we think no one knows about our abusive reality.  We feel trapped in our own private hell.

Being a friend who will listen is important.