Walking away from intimate partner violence can be incredibly difficult for those who feel like they’re “stuck” in an abusive relationship

I have been a victim of numerous domestic violence incidents throughout my life. Intimate partner violence is defined as domestic violence that happens between romantic partners. This includes (but is not limited to): sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, etc.

Countless times I have been told by people “Just walk away” (friends and family alike). I hate this phrase, with a passion. Especially if the victim has PTSD/CPTD and/or anxiety problems, this can feel like it’s damn near impossible to do. Physically, it is simple. Gather your things in bags, put your hand on that doorknob, get in your car, and drive like Hell away from your abuser. But nothing is ever really that simple, is it?

Imagine the house is suddenly on fire. Imagine there’s your worst fear constantly nipping at your heals. One wrong move, and you are dead. This is what it feels like for people who feel like they are “trapped” in a domestic abuse relationship. Many are also victims of what’s known as “pathological shaming” by others (or they end up doing it to themselves). Pathological shaming is bringing up on a regular basis how you are “ashamed of someone” or putting the blame on them for doing something that they “should” be doing. Pathological shaming often has the opposite effect on the purpose of who is being shamed. Instead of being motivated to do something, it becomes demotivating.

There are a thousand and one reasons why abuse victims stay with their abusers in intimate partner relationships. This includes things like fear of financial debt/ruin; fear of the romantic partner hurting/killing pets, friends, or family members; fear of not being able to stand on their own two feet because they relied on the abuser to build a foundation in life; among so many other legitimate fears.

Statistics show it often takes an abuse victim multiple attempts to pull a successful “escape”. Professionally, we are not well built to handle abuse victims. If an abuse victim ends up in the hospital because their romantic partner physically beat them, then by law the hospital (if told by the abuse victim of how the body injuries actually occurred) must report the abuser. The abuser can easily “skip town” or the moment the victim gets out? They get killed. If asked “do you feel safe at home”, unless the abuse victim is actually in the process of getting away from their victim, they are likely not going to answer “no, I am scared of the people I live with”. The doctors I have worked with in the past have completely agreed with me about this.

Yes, time is of the essence for abuse victims to get away from their abuser. However, we as a society need to stop pathologically shaming abuse victims because they are just going to feel more “stuck” in these abusive relationships.

If you are someone you know are involved in a domestic abuse relationship, here are some resources that can help!

I’m a queer adopted healthcare worker who writers in their spare time. I have a MPH degree.