Overcome barriers, leave abusive relationships

Published 9:05 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lana Hollerud

Crime Victims Resource Center

A common response to hearing about a person in an abusive relationship is often “why do they stay? Why don’t they just leave the relationship, wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

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Advocates who have worked with people experiencing abusive relationships know there are many reasons why people choose to remain in their relationship, and there are many barriers to “leaving.”

The first barrier is love. The survivor loves their partner and concentrates on the good qualities their partner possesses and feels that there must be a way they can stop the abuse and help their partner be the best person they can be.

Another barrier to leaving is their children. The survivor either feels that they can’t deprive their children of their other parent, or they are fearful that they will lose contact with their children, because that is exactly what the abuser tells them. “If you leave me I will take the children and you will never see them again,” is heard often by parents in abusive relationships.

A very important barrier to leaving an abusive relationship is that “leaving” doesn’t necessarily mean the survivor will be safer. Indeed, the most physically dangerous time for a survivor is not when they are living with their abuser but when they try to leave. Survivors know this because the abuser tells them so — “If you ever try to leave me I will kill you.”

Another reality is that removing themselves from the abuser’s home doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be having contact with the abuser — a large percentage of stalkers are former intimate partners of their victims. And, for those who are parenting children together, abusers commonly use custody or parenting time to maintain their power and control (the core of abusive relationships) over their partner. A survivor may also be concerned about their children’s physical safety while with their abusive parent. People who abuse their partner’s obviously are capable of abusing their children also.

A very realistic potential barrier to leaving is a lack of resources available to them once they’ve left. If they aren’t working, or even if they are, they might not be able to provide a home, food, clothing and day care for themselves and their children.

If you or someone you know is facing these barriers to leaving an abusive relationship have them give us a call at Crime Victims Resource Center, 437-6680, for support, and to talk about options.