Why Don’t You Just Leave

It is tough when we care about someone who has become stuck in an unhealthy relationship where there is domestic abuse; it causes great pain, upset, and confusion. Often, the only thing you want to say is: “just leave”… it is unfortunately just not that simple.

It is essential to understand that when someone finds themselves in such a relationship, the abused might not even recognise that. One of the familiar hallmarks of an abusive relationship is psychological abuse which means that someone believes that the only person who really has their best interest at heart is their abuser. Also, it can be hard to know the difference between love and abuse when you are in the middle of it; the abuser said sorry, or they say they didn’t mean it, they will have excuses why they lashed out; often laying the blame onto others such as their abused partner. And it can be hard to see the abuse for what it is, which is certainly not healthy love.

There are many reasons why someone might not pack their bags and go, such as they might:

  • Feel it would be “unfair” on the children,
  • Worry about where they end up,
  • Have concerns about money,
  • Fear that if they were to leave, their pet might be killed,
  • Be blackmailed with threats that if they were to leave their abuser, their abuser would kill themselves or be blackmailed with incriminating video or images online,
  • Not see a way out with children (or pets) in tow,
  • See themselves as a carer of their abuser who would be able to survive without them,
  • Think no one would help them or believe them,
  • Feel they just have to “accept” their lot in life due to people often being cut off from friends or family by their abuser and no one caring.

There are so many untruths about the above for the objective, caring outsider, but this is why abuse is traumatic; it strips people of confidence and often also a sense of reality. This is why being a lifeline to some is so vital if you know they are in an unhealthy relationship

How to be a lifeline:

  • Try and stay in touch with them and if appropriate, ask them what a good and safe way to communicate is. Staying in touch can be a simple as asking how the kids are or general chit-chat; there is no need to talk about abuse all the time – the important thing is to be there for them for when they do want to talk.
  • Encourage them to create a safety plan for themselves, so when it does “kick-off” at home, they can get to safety quickly. Info on safety planning is available here.
  • Remind them that you care about them and that support, such as Rotherham Rise, is available when they’re ready. This support can be for relationships, individuals alone, and refuge.
  • Try not to judge but believe them.
  • Remember it is OK to say: “I am not sure you know, that healthy” when discussing abuse or “No one ever deserves that” or “It’s never your fault.”
  • Don’t force people to leave by setting ultimatums such as “unless you split up, I don’t want anything to do with you…” the decision to leave takes incredible courage, takes time and can be extremely risky, and someone needs support in the first instance – be that support regardless of “leave” or “not leaving” decision.

Just remember domestic abuse is not a private matter; it is harming and killing people – it needs to stop! All too often, people still say it’s other people’s relationships are not our business, and this is detrimental in the case of abuse at home. If you are aware someone is in danger, call the police.

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