Why Do Domestic Violence Victims Stay? And can I Help?
Domestic violence is a term we as society do not like to discuss. It’s often swept under the rug and because its more convenient, the victim is often to blame. This is represented by the questions that are heard in everyday conversations such as, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” “Why did she go back again? Or “Those women need more self-esteem.” All of these are examples of victim blaming. Instead we need to respond with compassion and place the responsibility on the person committing harm. Domestic violence is a very complex issue that even the concept of escape can go against non-involved parties’ logic such as unplanned leaving. Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous. Abusers often go to extremes to prevent the victim from leaving. In fact, leaving an abuser is the most lethal time for the victim of domestic violence especially within the first 48 hours. Other reason victims stay is based on the abuser’s threats to keep them trapped. These threats and actions include the abuser willingness to hurt or kill them or kill the kids, the fear of the loss of custody of their children, harm to pets or others, lack of finances, etc. Victims in violent relationships know their abuser best and fully knows the extent to which they will go to make sure they have and can maintain control over them. The victim literally may not be able to safely escape or protect those they love. In fact, of domestic violence homicides, 20% of homicide victims were not the domestic violence victims themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders. Additional barriers to escaping a violent relationship include unsupportive friends and family, limited knowledge of or access to safety and support or not having housing upon leaving . Often the aftermath of the abuse makes it difficult to leave due to the isolation from friends and families, feelings of being ashamed of the abuse, conditioning that the victim is the cause, and that their abuser’s behavior acceptable because of their stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment. It is because if these reasons we should supports victims of domestic violence with the care they deserve. You may ask how? Look below for 4 suggestions:
1. Understand that are in a difficult and scary situation. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.
2. Do not judge. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
3.Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship. Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.
4.Encourge them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. If you are local area to Pathway Counseling Center in Iowa , Waypoint Services and Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) are free options for you. They provided trained advocates to provide individualize aid. You may also call the national hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to get a referral to one of these programs near you. You can also find a therapist such as Pathway Counseling Center who specialize in domestic violence and sexual assault.
Lastly, to victims and those who are close to them be encourage. There is hope and there is help.
Waypoint Services Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP)
318 5th st SE 322 S. Linn St. #100
Cedar Rapids, Iowa Iowa City, IA
Tiffany Flowers MA, LMHC, IADC
Pathway Counseling Center