A screenshot from the video for “two beds and a coffee machine” by savage garden, a song written about the songwriter’s mother who was surviving a physically abusive marriage

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear someone say “they escaped an abusive relationship” another person responds with “so why’d you stay that long?” (or any variation of this question). There is a lot of things wrong with this question:

  • Any kind of dependency (clinical or otherwise) can make leaving an abusive relationship incredibly difficult
  • Large financial debt(s) can make leaving extremely intimidating, especially if the survivor doesn’t make much money on their own
  • The abuse cycle where the “honeymoon phase” reins the person back in and this cycle continues
  • Not sure how to handle an escape with children
  • Living in physical fear of the abuser
  • Abuser blackmails the person by threatening to ruin their reputation among their peers (friends, family, co-workers, etc.) and/or threaten to spread sensitive information to said people

There are so many other reasons why it takes so long for an abuse survivor to “just walk out that door” as some people painfully put. Physically, yes, it is not hard to literally pack up the car with as much stuff as you can, drive to the nearest motel, and then figure out your game plan for the rest of the journey. However, psychologically? It can be absolutely paralyzing. Many abuse survivors report having made numerous attempts to escape before having success.

The other pet peeve I have with people making remarks about intimate partner violence (a form of domestic abuse) is when they say something like “Oh, well if they got physically hit so much for so long, maybe they secretly liked it!” (their attempt at dark humor or otherwise).

Physical abuse is a form of intimidation and control and can easily end up killing someone. Some domestic abuse resource website state that a woman who leaves her abuser is 75% more likely to have the abuser attempt to kill her than women who stay with their abusers.

Physical violence leaves scars on the physical level and mental level. Traumatic brain injuries (and other serious head based injuries) are very common with survivors of intimate partner violence because being struck on the head is a common area for physical abusers to hurt their victims.

Some statistics from domestic abuse resources state that up to 50% of women become homeless shortly after leaving their abuser because they don’t have the resources to have their own home, even if it’s a small/inexpensive apartment.

Pathological shaming is also a huge factor in why people don’t leave intimate partner violence situations. Pathological shaming happens when a person is shamed/guilt-tripped on a regular basis to the point where it becomes demoralizing. This phenomenon can commonly be seen in addiction cases where peers will constantly guilt trip the person for using whatever substance the person is addicted to. The same can be said for people who have survived intimate partner violence (family or friends attempting to guilt-trip the person into leaving the abusive partner on a regular basis). People can also pathologically shame themselves because they feel shame for staying in an abusive relationship for such a long time (and/or be an advocate for women in their daily lives and not applying the same things they teach to themselves).

Regardless of the reason for how the person ended up in an abusive relationship, it is so incredibly difficult to leave. There are many tools that can be provided to a person attempting to leave (crisis hotlines, therapy, local group meetings, etc.) but it is a painstaking process in which no one should judge anyone for (and/or make such callous remarks about).

Here are some resources for those currently experiencing domestic violence:

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