Abusive relationships are complex because each survivor’s story is unique. People who stay in violent relationships undergo gradual steps of reasoning to reconcile the violence in their lives. Since domestic violence is not always physical, it may even take some time for the survivor to realize that they are in an abusive relationship.
Abuse is about power and control, and leaving an abusive relationship is often the most dangerous time for survivors. They should be empowered to take control of their situation in order to maintain agency in their lives.
No victim should be shamed for a situation that they did not create or cause. Abuse is always the abuser’s fault, but common reasons why people stay in abusive relationships include:
- Desensitization to abuse
- Shared custody of children
- Immigration status
- Lack of resources
The best way to help survivors is to be supportive by listening or providing resources. If a survivor of domestic violence comes to you for help, that is not the time to blame them for not leaving the abuse sooner. Rather, this is a time to ensure that the survivor knows the resources that they have access to when they are ready/wanting to flee an abusive situation.
You can provide emotional support by simply just listening, or you can help them create a safety plan. You can also help survivors of domestic abuse locate resources that can help them when they are wanting to leave.
If you are unsure about how to talk about domestic violence with someone you think may be in an abusive relationship, here are some things to say/ask:
- You deserve safe and healthy relationships.
- Your children deserve to feel safe.
- You are not responsible for your partner’s violence, and you are not alone.
- I believe you.
- Do you want to look at resources that can help you?
If you or somebody else is in immediate physical danger, please call 911.