The most frequently asked question survivors hear is, “Why did you stay?” However, for the victim, the question is realistically, “How can I leave?” There are so many factors in the answer to that question. Anyone living in a domestic abuse situation is faced with low self-esteem or self-worth, fear, uncertainty and other debilitating emotional issues. There are always others to think about first, because victims do not believe they have as much value as others. Children, pets, and other family members are frequently used to threaten the victim against leaving.
Financial abuse is involved in 98% of cases, making it the number one reason victims stay. Abusers are controlling, taking over the finances in most cases. The victim is frequently given no access to financial resources and assets are in the abusers name. Often an “allowance” is allocated for groceries, household items, or necessities. Victims are told they are too stupid to make it alone. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families due to survivors having limited or no financial support.
I stayed because I went through periods of time believing that I was not wanted anywhere else. When I believed I could leave, and made attempts in the early years, I would hear statements like “I know where every person in your family lives and I have guns” or “I will not let anyone stand in the way of getting you back”. Later it was threats that he would take our children and run and I would never see them again. There were frequent death threats against me as well, often with details of how he would dispose of my body so no one would know. Leaving is the most dangerous time for a woman. They are 70% more likely to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving than at any other time during the abusive relationship.
Domestic violence is so much more than being physically beaten by an intimate partner. It is emotional abuse which knocks a victim down to a level of not believing in themselves. It is financial abuse leaving them feeling unable to cope with the simplest basic means of living. It is sexual abuse making a victim feel unworthy of a loving, caring relationship in the future. It is manipulation, humiliation, and a sense of hopelessness.
However, I am proof that there is hope. I got out. I took my kids and left with very little. I had to start over and it was not easy, but it was worth it! Every day that I wake up and am free to make my own decision about what I wear, how I do my hair, what makeup I put on, is worth the uncertainty that I experienced. When I see the diploma that I earned, I am grateful for all of the help I received. When I see my beautiful daughters I know it was worth the risk. I am free and there is nothing sweeter!!