Why People Stay
There are many reasons a survivor of domestic violence will stay in an abusive relationship.
Abusive partners often repeatedly threaten to hurt or kill their partners, children, pets, family members, friends, or themselves. The most dangerous time for survivors is when they try to leave.
Lack of housing options
The fear of becoming homeless is one of the main reasons survivors stay. National programs report that if survivors of domestic violence can’t secure safe housing after separating from their abusive partners, 60% will return to their partners, 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.
Economic abuse occurs in up to 99% of relationships, and often survivors are financially dependent upon abusive partners. Survivors may not leave because they lack the money or resources to leave or support themselves and their children.
It is very common for a person to stay with an abusive partner because they don’t want to break up their family. Survivors may fear losing their children to their abusive partner or social services.
Religion and faith communities can be an incredible source of support for survivors and their families. Unfortunately, people can also use religion to maintain control of their partner. A survivor may also be held responsible for keeping the family together and may fear being cast out from their community if they separate from or divorce the abusive partner.
A partner may refuse to file the papers necessary to legalize their partner’s immigration status, withdraw already filed papers, destroy important papers, or threaten to report the partner to ICE or Immigration Services. If English is not a survivor’s first language, an abuser might isolate the survivor from others who speak their language or prevent them from learning English. If survivors don’t speak English, they might have difficulty accessing resources in their home language or finding culturally and linguistically appropriate help.
Many abusers isolate their partners from their friends and family to gain more control. If and when a survivor decides they want to leave, they may feel like they have no one to turn to and nowhere to go.
Distrust of systems
Survivors, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ individuals, may distrust law enforcement, the criminal justice system, or social services. BIPOC survivors are more likely to be criminalized by the legal system instead of helped. For example, Black women are routinely arrested at higher rates than other women when police respond to domestic disturbances.