People think it should be easy to leave an abuser. It is not. Most victims of abuse face a range of challenges that make leaving tough.
Money is a barrier. Victims are often cut off from finances by the abuser. They are not allowed to work. Those who do work can’t afford to live alone or cover their children’s expenses. Fear of losing custody because of this lack of resources is always present.
Abusers isolate victims. Friends and family get scared and stay away. Few options for support exist. Calling for help can put loved ones at risk. Going to a shelter is full of unknowns. Children often have to switch schools. Transportation can be limited.
Physical violence is a reality for victims. Threats are a norm. The risk of homicide increases when one leaves an abusive relationship. Fear of death or serious injury is real. Family and friends become targets. The circle of pain goes beyond the victim.
Survivors of abuse blame themselves. Sometimes others blame them as well. All victims of domestic violence face social pressures and community judgment. Historical stigmas about divorce create barriers to change.
Abusive partners in same-sex relationships will threaten to expose a partner’s sexual orientation. Victims fear job retaliation and impacts in their personal relationships. The threat of “outing” can prevent a person from seeking services and make them feel that the abuse is deserved because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
Religious practices can be a barrier. Some churches look down on divorce. Certain groups disown those who separate. Church text can appear to defend abuse and define a husband’s role within the family as having more power than a woman’s.
Victims face questions from everyone. People ask them how it happened. Others question if it is that bad. At times, victims feel responsible. They think they have caused the problem or deserve the abuse because of their actions.
Women often believe that it is in the children’s best interest to keep the family together, particularly when the children are not being physically abused. Many women also fear losing custody and not being able to protect the children.
Violence is accepted in society. Movies show it as a normal part of life. Video games include it as a common activity. Control of others is presented as okay. A victim’s experiences and societal norms can lead her to think she should stay in the relationship.