Why People Stay
After years of physical and sexual abuse, Savannah decided it was time to move herself and her children out of their home and leave her abuser.
“I couldn’t risk having my children face the same abuse I had to endure,” said Savannah.
Over several days, Savannah packed up her and her children’s things and began her move to a safer home. However, just as Savannah was packing her last bag and heading out the door for good, violence struck once again.
Savannah’s partner grabbed her, threw her to the ground, and began violently kicking her. It was over an hour before he finally let her go.
Savannah sustained serious injuries as a result of the beating, requiring her to get surgery to prevent her spleen from rupturing.
Unfortunately, Savannah’s experience is not unusual. Leaving an abusive relationship is often the most dangerous time in a relationship. Women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship.
There are many reasons a survivor will stay with their abuser, including:
- Fear: Abusers often repeatedly threaten they will hurt their partners, their children, a pet, a family member, a friend or themselves. Abusers may even threaten to kill their partners or themselves if their partners leave. Abusers of immigrants can also threaten to harm family members back home. Risk of harm and/or death increases dramatically in the process of leaving or after leaving for all survivors of domestic violence.
- Money: Economic abuse occurs in up to 99% of relationships, and often survivors depend on their abusers for financial support. They may not leave because they are afraid they will not have enough money to support themselves – a fear that gets worse if they have children.
- Children: It is very common for a person to stay with an abusive partner because he or she does not want to break up the family or make it harder on their children by leaving. The survivor may be afraid that the abuser will take the children away or that the abuser might hurt the children if the survivor is not there to protect them.
- Religious beliefs: Religion and faith communities can be an incredible source of support for survivors and their families. However, abusers can also interpret religious text to maintain control of a spouse or partner. A survivor may also be told he or she is responsible for keeping the family together and may fear being cast out from their community if they separate from or divorce the abusive partner.
- Lack of housing options: The fear of becoming homeless is one of the main reasons a survivor will stay with their abuser. National programs report that if domestic violence victims can’t secure safe housing after separating from their abusive partners, 60% will return to their abusers and 38% will become homeless — living on the street or in their cars. Right here in King County, the supply of affordable housing units can meet only 25% of the need of low-income families.
- Immigration issues: An abuser may choose not to file the papers necessary to legalize the partner’s immigration status, withdraw already filed papers, destroy important papers or threaten to report the partner to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If English is not the survivor’s first language, an abuser might isolate the survivor from people who speak his or her language, prevent the survivor from learning English and not allow the survivor to have access to information that may help them. If the survivor does not speak English, he or she may not have access to resources in their first language or know where to find resources to get help.
- Doesn’t know help is available: Many abusers isolate their partners from their friends and family in order to gain more control. If and when a survivor decides he or she wants to leave, the survivor may feel like he or she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go.
If you or someone you know is seeking to leave an abusive relationship, contact LifeWire’s 24-Hour Helpline at 425-746-1940 for information and support. Our trained staff can help with crisis intervention, safety planning, emotional support and information about your options.