This question, even when asked with good intentions, can actually do more harm than good. It puts the blame on the victim by asking why they won’t leave when we should be asking the abuser why they continue to hurt and abuse someone they claim to love. Why is it more acceptable to blame the victim instead of putting the blame where it should be – on the person who is abusive?
Unfortunately, it’s not always safe or in the best interest of the victim to just pack up and leave their situation, at least not right away without some essential safety planning, help with logistics and non-judgmental support from others. For a lot of victims, their abuser has manipulated and threatened them so much to where they feel extremely isolated and trapped, fearing for not only their own lives, but the lives of their families, children, and their pets. People typically have a tough time understanding the victim’s situation or their thought processes. From the outside, it may look like there’s an immediate, obvious, and rational solution. To the victim, it is much more complicated. It can be difficult to comprehend the extent of coercive control and problematic hurdles victims face in getting out, not to mention the complex feelings they have to work through constantly. There is a multifaceted list of reasons as to why a victim might not be willing or able to leave their abuser. For starters, victims know and are acutely aware of what their abuser is capable of, and any thought of escaping feels like a death sentence. In fact, the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when a victim is attempting to leave. That is when he or she is most likely to be killed by the abuser. One particular study found men who were guilty of murdering their wives, did so because their wives threatened to leave them, or the actual event of separation preceded the murder. Victims also worry about the wellbeing of their pets, the custody and safety of their children, suffering financial ruin, and so on. Here are a few other invisible barriers which keep victims of domestic violence from leaving their abusive situations: