Why doesn’t a victim of abuse just leave the relationship?
There are many factors that affect someone who is abused in a relationship. Many times, abusers give empty promises to change and the victims want to believe they are going to make those changes. Moreover, abusers are often financially controlling and victims do not have the resources to leave. When children are involved in the relationship, victims may not feel safe leaving them with the abuser and might not be able to leave the relationship with them. Occasionally, abusers will threaten to kill victims if they leave.
A common suggestion given to those who ask this question is to think about a time in your life where you were very vulnerable and consider if you could have made a life-changing decision at that time. For victims of abuse, leaving their abuser is a huge life-changing decision they face during a time when their abuser is making them vulnerable. For more information on this topic click here or here.
Aren’t victims just as responsible for the abuse as the batterers are?
At Emerge, we believe that the person who commits the abuse, be it verbal, emotional, or physical, is responsible for all of the abusive behavior. Abusers may tell victims that the victims made them act abusively, but this is how abusers avoid responsibility and try to shift blame onto others.
What if the victim uses alcohol or other drugs?
If victims use alcohol or drugs, their batterers may use that fact to control them by either playing on their guilt or discouraging the victim from getting clean and sober. Abusers can have more power if they prevent their partners from getting help. (Click here for more information about domestic violence victims and substance abuse.)
What if the victim attacks first or starts something?
It’s important not to focus on each individual act of violence and abuse but to look at the larger picture. Look at the overall history of the relationship to see who has power over the other person.
The person who initiates a specific act of violence does not always have control or dominance in the relationship. Violence may occur in self-defense, even though it first appears that the victim is not in immediate danger.
Abusers may also encourage the victim to use physical violence as a manipulative tool, so that abusers can blame their future abuse on this incident. Abusers may use a violent response from the victim to justify retaliatory abuse which is severe and ongoing, and which in no way qualifies as self-defense.
Abusers set the emotional tone of the relationship and control the topic of discussions. They may also repeatedly assert their will over their partners, without regard to the negative impact. Abusers often reflect a lack of empathy for their partner, and may feel entitled to get their way most of the time.