There are two primary questions that victims of abuse are almost always asked. The questions may seem innocent and well-meaning, however, in reality, it is one of the most harmful things you can say to a survivor.
“Why did you stay?” or “Why don’t you leave him?”
I was in several relationships which included emotional and physical abuse. Neither of those relationships started with abuse coming out of the gates.
The first was with someone I dated for several years before he began hurling insults and emotionally abusing me.
The second was with someone that I truly believed to be my soulmate until he rammed my head against a car window after we left a party one night around Christmas.
Looking back, I am able to see the warning signs that I was ignorant of in the midst of the relationship.
So how does the story play out with someone who is an abuser?
First, the abuser will create an atmosphere of trust
At the beginning of the relationship, the abuser will ensure that you feel safe in order to encourage you to open up to them. By doing this, they know that you will share your vulnerabilities and secrets with them which is exactly what they are hoping for.
In a healthy relationship, this would bring a couple closer. But in a relationship with an abuser, it is providing them with the ammo that they need for later on down the road.
Next, they will begin isolating their victim
They will isolate you in such a way you will have no idea it’s their intention. They will present it as wanting to spend all their time with you. Perhaps they will want to move somewhere for a “fresh start.” Perhaps they will whine if you are going to hang out with your friends by saying you aren’t spending enough time with them.
However it happens, it will happen slowly until one day you realize that you are trapped with your abuser and the rest of your relationships have suffered.
The easiest time to believe them is when they hold you and promise that it will never happen again.
The abuse will begin, whether physical or emotional
By the time it begins, you most likely love your abuser with your entire heart. Because of this, you will find that it is all too easy to forgive them and try to look past the pain. The easiest time to believe them is when they hold you and promise that it will never happen again.
But let’s say that the victim reaches the point where they want to leave. Let’s say that they acknowledge they are in a horrific situation and they want to escape the hell they’re living in.
There is something that most people do not understand when it comes to leaving an abuser.
It could put their lives at risk
It is extremely dangerous to leave an abuser.
Over 70% of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has ended the relationship. Not to mention the stalking, slandering, threats towards the victims, and towards themselves…
Imagine wanting to leave a relationship with someone who is hurting you but being absolutely terrified for your life.
Several years ago, I had a friend that was in an abusive marriage. She told me about how her husband had choked her and thrown her against a wall. I didn’t ask her, “Why didn’t you leave?”
Instead, I held my beautiful friend tightly and told her the truth. I told her that she was an amazing and beautiful woman. I told her that she deserved better. I told her that it would happen again as it probably already had, and I told her that I was there for any support she needed.
She didn’t leave him the next day, or the next week, or even the next month.
But she left him the next year and told me that having my support meant the world to her and it helped give her the strength to walk away.
If you know someone in an abusive situation try to do the same thing.
Although the decision to leave ultimately comes down to the victim, remember that your support can provide someone the strength they need that makes the difference between leaving or staying.