Why Do Victims Feel Trapped? Why Don’t They Just Leave?
Many people who are abused by their intimate partners don’t want the relationship to end. They just want the violence and abuse to stop.
Even under the best of circumstances, it is not easy to end a relationship with an intimate partner. Love, family, shared memories, and commitment are bonds that are hard to break. Cultural or religious beliefs may be barriers to ending a marriage. Immigration status may be another obstacle. While ending a relationship is hard for anyone, women who are abused face the added risks of physical, emotional and psychological harm. There are risks that come with every decision a victim of abuse makes.
Why do they stay? There are many reasons why it may be difficult to end a relationship with an abusive partner. The choices victims are faced with are not risk-free. Leaving is not always the safest or best option. The real question should be: “Why doesn’t the abuser just stop being abusive?”
Risks of Getting Help or Deciding to Leave
Risks of Physical Violence and Psychological Harm
- Increasing threats and violence, resulting in harm to victim, children, friends, family, or pets;
- Continued harassment, stalking, and verbal and emotional attacks, especially if the abuser has ongoing contact (such as during court ordered visitation);
- Serious physical harm and/or death; suicide threats; and
- Rape or sexual abuse.
Risks to Children
- Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; possibility of increased risks to children if the abuser has unsupervised or poorly supervised visitation;
- Concern about children being kidnapped by the abuser. (Be aware, if you flee with your children to protect them, the legal system may consider you to be breaking the law.); and
- Negative impact on children as a result of “breaking up the family.”
Risks to Relationship
- Losing your partner, losing the relationships with partner’s family and friends;
- Losing help with children, transportation, household; and
- Losing your caretaker (for older people or people with disabilities).
Risks to Relationships with Family, Friends, and Community
- Receiving negative responses from friends, family members, and helping professionals;
- Not being believed or taken seriously, being blamed, being pressured to take actions that don’t feel right;
- Being judged as a bad spouse, partner, or parent;
- Worrying that people will feel uncomfortable about “taking sides” or not wanting to get involved;
- Worrying about being a burden to friends and family by asking them for help;
- Being pressured to stay in the relationship because of religious and/or cultural beliefs or because the children “need a father”;
- Worrying that actions of people trying to help may actually make the situation more dangerous; and
- Losing custody of children, and/or having to share unsupervised visitation with the abuser.
Risks to Finances
- Concern about being able to pay legal fees;
- Reduced standard of living - possible loss of home, possessions, or community;
- Loss of income or job - possible loss of partner’s income, may have to quit a job to relocate or to take care of the children alone, may be fired from jobs because of threats and harassment; and
- Damage to the victim’s credit, withdrawal of funds from shared accounts, maxing out credit cards.
NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline
English & español, Multi-Language Accessibility National Relay Service for Deaf or Hard of Hearing: 711
CONFIDENTIAL 24 HRS/ 7 DAYS
In NYC: 311 or 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)