Domestic Violence: Why Can’t They “Just Leave”?

Love hands

Prior to becoming fascinated about the dynamics of domestic violence, I remember thinking: “Why don’t women/men in these relationships just pack up their bags and leave?” or “Why don’t they just go to a shelter?”

Initially, I understood very little about the complexities of walking away or the complexities of staying.

According to NY Times author Mireyah Navarro, “Women/men who walk away from their abusers are often walking away from having homes. Once in a shelter, victims often have little resources to find other places of living …or income.”

Even if a victim does have the means to find a new home, there’s also the issue of anonymity; Trying to find an apartment without catching the abuser’s radar (especially in the same neighborhood) is often difficult. Public housing options are overrun. Consequently, many options are still plagued with violence in the home and outside of it. Victims stay with their partners for many reasons: immigration status, finances, keeping their children, love, denial and struggles with addiction. Unfortunately, sometimes there is also a bond through trauma that keeps the victim in that environment.

Instead of asking “why don’t they leave?” Better questions to ask are: How can we make it easier for people to leave? How can we offer more support for keeping the unity of their families? How can we help those who leave with the after-effects and trauma of leaving?”

Domestic Violence could happen to anyone. It can be insidious and undermine the best of people. I hope we are able to have empathy and continue to support efforts to prevent, protect, and help those struggling with domestic violence.

Jenny Helms, LCMFT

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