5. Why Don’t Victims Of Domestic Violence Just Leave?

If you were to simplify the issue of domestic violence we could conclude that it is essentially a behavioural problem. Perpetrators behave in an unacceptable manner by abusing the victim however the victim also shares responsibility by remaining in the dangerous situation. In 2016, the age old question that most commonly plagues those who have come forward about their experiences of domestic violence still remains – “Why don’t you just leave?”. The extent to which this question is asked however, reinforces the social ignorance that exists across society where people tend to focus purely on the physical abuse component.

Leslie Morgan Steiner’s 2013 TedTalk corrects such misconceptions that many people hold to be true about victims of domestic violence and highlights the prevalence of emotional abuse within these crisis situations. Steiner describes the notion of a ‘crazy love’ – a psychological trap that is disguised as love, which millions of men and women fall into every year. Many who have experienced ‘crazy love’ are ultimately blinded by the facade which the perpetrator creates and as a result, genuinely cannot identify that they are in a toxic, abusive relationship until much later on. Steiner also stresses how incredibly dangerous the situation eventually becomes for the victim if they were to leave as the possibility of homicide only increases.  

Comparatively, a 2015 article published by the Huffington Post looks into the financial abuse that is also often involved in domestic violence situations. Financial exploitation can involve the abuser building up debt in his/her partner’s name, not allowing the victim to find a job, limiting the victim to an allowance, controlling income or lying about shared assets. Thereby, the promise of financial stability and security ultimately is a primary motivator of victims to stay in an abusive situation as they fear otherwise they would have nothing.

Before we ask “Why don’t you just leave?” it is valuable for us all to gauge a better understanding of the situation and the perspective of the victim. Whilst we have only looked at two reasons to why victims stay in an abusive relationship, there may be numerous alternative factors which are dependent on the context of each situation. In order to help those affected, it is important for us to listen to their problems before we attempt a quick fix or reduce the severity of the situation by alluding to the easiness of leaving a harmful relationship.

Leslie Morgan Steiner’s 2013 TedTalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1yW5IsnSjo

Huffington Post Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/society-for-womens-health-research/why-dont-they-just-leave-_b_7957250.html

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