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Myths and Misconceptions – Why doesn’t she just leave?

Myth: Women stay and tolerate abuse because they like it.

Reality: No woman likes being hit, insulted, manipulated, and betrayed. There are many complex reasons they stay which I discuss in my book, Home Should Be Safe: Hope and Help for Domestic Violence,  in Chapter 6, “Why Don’t They Just  Leave?”

 Many times over the years I have heard the question asked, “If the violence is so bad and she is in such danger, why doesn’t she just leave?” There are many reasons why a woman will not or can not leave her abuser. There are economic reasons, social reasons, personal reasons, family reasons and a variety of other reasons. When people use to ask me this question I responded a bit antagonistically.  I would respond by asking them questions. “Are you going to help her leave? Are you going to help her find a place to live? Are you going to help her find a job? Are you going help her connect with Social Services or legal assistance?” I had many more questions for any who would listen. I felt that unless someone was willing to help a victim of domestic violence in some way they had no right to judge or criticize her.

But, in a training session with Choices Domestic Violence Shelter, I watched a video where a survivor of abuse answered that very question.  Her response was much more telling and effective. She said, “Why should I have to leave? It’s my home too and he’s the one who broke the law.”

The use of physical abuse to injure, kill or coerce a person is never acceptable. If it happened in public by a stranger it would be called assault and battery but for centuries society considered abuse in the home a “family affair” and no one interfered with what happened behind closed doors. As a society we need to take a stand against family abuse. We need to ensure that abusers, regardless of gender or age, know that if they injure someone they will face legal consequences just as if they had injured a stranger in public. Abuse is a crime and we must treat it as such.

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