Abusers often blame their victims for the violence they inflict upon them. As a society, we are also quick to condemn victims every time we ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave him?”
People who have not been abused by an intimate partner often say that if their partner ever abused them they certainly would leave. “It’d only take one time and I’d be out of there!” – Easier said than done.
Staying in or returning to an abusive relationship is a complex decision that may be a very rational survival mechanism. Domestic violence victims are not always passive – they are employing survival techniques every day to protect themselves & their children.
It is important to remember that leaving is a process.
It takes an average of seven attempts before a woman permanently leaves an abusive relationship. When she decides to leave, she is at the greatest risk of being seriously injured or murdered. 70% of domestic homicides occur after the relationship has ended.
Victim-blaming makes it more challenging for an abused woman to confide in a trusted source or report the abuse to law enforcement because she feels marginalized and shamed. As a result, she may feel it’s easier to remain in an abusive relationship.
There are ways you can help. First, recognize the signs. Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior used to maintain power and control over an intimate partner. The abuse tends to escalate and is invariably part of a larger pattern of control.
“Why doesn’t she just leave him?” is the wrong question and doesn’t hold abusers accountable for their actions. It is not a question we ask of any other crime victim. While it is important for us as a society to educate ourselves on the issues and difficulties faced by victims of domestic violence, we also need to start asking the question “Why does he abuse her?” and stop blaming victims.