Why don't you just leave?
Updated: Jun 6
These are the words that victims of Domestic Abuse dread. There is nothing quite as demoralising as someone, who is not in your situation, making it appear so easy and straightforward when, in reality, it is anything but.
If you suspect that your friend/colleague/relative is experiencing Domestic Abuse, there are several ways in which you can support them. Firstly, just ask! Make sure you are in a safe environment where they feel able to speak freely and ask them if they feel that their relationship is healthy. Often someone suffering from Domestic Abuse doesn’t tell anyone because a) nobody asked them and b) they don’t know how to say it. Once someone has confided in you, never, ever say the words “Why don’t you just leave?”
Statistics show that a person suffering from Domestic Abuse is at the most risk of serious harm when they are leaving, or preparing to leave their partner.
Typical Signs of Domestic Abuse
Domestic Abuse is all about power and control. If someone leaves, or threatens to leave then the perpetrator loses their control over the situation and their victim. They are then much more likely to escalate their behaviour, in a desperate attempt to regain control.
There are countless reasons why someone doesn’t “just leave” an abusive partner. Here are just a few of the reasons they might feel unable to escape the abuse:
Love: Despite the abuse they have suffered, they still believe the perpetrator loves them.
Threats: The perpetrator might threaten to hurt the victim, their children or their loved ones.
Money: Perpetrators often control their victims financially which means that they don’t have the means to leave or to support themselves or any children they might have.
Embarrassment: The victim might have been made to feel it is their fault, that “I asked for it”
The Unknown: Victims often don’t know where to go for help or what their options are.
So we have established what you shouldn’t do; what can you do to help? There are lots of positive ways in which you can support someone suffering from Domestic Abuse. One of the most important things to do is to listen and to believe them. Lots of Domestic Abuse sufferers are scared that others won’t believe that their partner could be abusing them; it could be that in public, their abuser is the life and soul of the party and friendly towards everyone.
Your first reaction may well be to advise the person being abused as to what they should do next. Don’t! They need to talk this through and come to their own conclusion. You can discuss options with them and possible consequences of those options. The average victim of Domestic Abuse will have suffered for a long time before opening up to anyone.
After the initial disclosure is made, make sure you keep in touch. One of the things that perpetrators often do is to isolate the victim from family and friends. If nobody sees the abuse there is nobody to object. Make sure you keep in contact in the safest way possible, whether in person, by phone or even email. This will help the victim know that they aren’t alone in this.
On average someone will try to leave an abusive relationship seven times before they leave for good. Your role as a supportive friend is not to judge them or make them leave before they are ready. 75% of domestic homicides happen when someone attempts to leave, or shortly after they have left. Leaving will be the hardest and most brave thing they have ever done, but they can do it with your support.
Everyone has the right to be safe. There is no excuse for domestic abuse.