Why domestic violence victims do not leave; how they can

Continuing The Note series, many questions surface for us when trying to understand domestic violence


VISTA, California May 18, 2015 – Her shiny black, Mercedes Benz was parked next to a row of hotels. Walking to the driver’s door wearing a black and grey, pinstriped, skirted suit and matte, grey pumps, Janice opened the driver’s door and tossed her briefcase on  the passenger seat.

Her long, wavy, chestnut hair blew in her face as she jumped in and shut the door. She tossed the locks aside, noticing a folded piece of paper sitting on the console that had not been there before. Janice picked up the note and saw an address not far from where she was parked. She decided to find out what this was about.

The man at the front desk didn’t seem surprised when Janice approached the counter. He told her to go to room 104. The faint echoes of a woman praying bounced through the hallway as she knocked on the door. The sounded subsided as Tina answered the door. Janice introduced herself as an attorney; though fear overcame Tina, she invited her in anyway.

Each sat on one of the two chairs in the room and discovered how they had been connected with each other.

Read the first installment in this series: The note: Escaping domestic violence

With a bruise on her face and humiliation haloing about, Tina told of leaving her abusive husband with only her “go bag” and a small amount of cash. Two immediate challenges faced her. She had nowhere to go and little money to get there.

Janice could see she had suffered physical injuries and asked whether a police report had ever been taken and whether her husband had ever been arrested. Yes, the police had come to Tina’s home a number of times, although her husband had never been taken to jail.

Janice had a resolution to the dilemma.

Many questions surface for us when trying to understand domestic violence. One of the most common questions about victims is, “Why don’t they just leave?” This may appear to be a simple question with an easy solution; however, it’s far more complicated than just packing up one’s belongings and breaking off the relationship.

Victims face many factors that contribute to staying in an unhealthy relationship. For example, religious beliefs may be a deciding factor. A victim who is married may feel strongly about the vows made to her spouse as well as to God. Another element many victims face is children. There can be concern about breaking up the family unit and how it would affect the children.

Having a safe, stable place to go can also be a problem. The victim may not want to tell family or friends about the abuse and may not know what resources are available. Regardless of what reason a victim stays, the root emotion is fear.

Let’s look at the fear in these examples. If the reason is religion, the fear associated with that might be, “If I leave and get a divorce, I am committing a sin.” This can equate for some to “I won’t go to Heaven.”

For those who stay to prevent breaking up the family home, the fear may be their children will blame them for the destroying the family and being taken away from the other parent. Money can also be an issue. It could also be fear of not being able to care for the children financially. Many victims keep their abuse a secret.

Fear of what family or friends might think of them can block the ability to leave an unhealthy relationship. Going to a “shelter” can muster a number of fears; the aggressor could find out, or if others find out, it could ruin their reputations.

One of the best methods in helping ourselves and those who are involved in a domestic violence situation, or any other, is addressing the fear and finding a solution to it. Talking to a clergy member about the relationship may provide insight and options for the victim. Talking with the children or a professional about how to address the fear of handling the situation may alleviate some of the preconceived notions we have.

Leaving can also be scary if there is nowhere to go.

Finally, when it comes to the fear of not having enough money, or any other fear, knowing the resources that are available can mean the difference between life or death.

There are a number of organizations that offer assistance to those experiencing a traumatic event. We will talk about two.

The first is the National Center for Victims of Crime. This organization can connect the victim of a specified crime to assistance tailored to that victimization. Here is the link to their Connect Directory. This organization has what is called a “National Compassion Fund” for disbursement to victims of a mass incident type of crime.

The second is the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards. This organization can assist victims who need to pay for health services, loss of earnings and relocation services, if it occurred as a direct result of the crime.

There is a national directory of states that have a compensation fund, with an average amount of disbursement in the range of $25,000, though there may be some states that provide much less and others more. One must check his or her state to learn more about the requirements and what amounts are given.

Janice told Tina about the support available to help her meet her challenges. Tina walked over to the dingy desk in her hotel room, picked up the hotel pen and flimsy notepad of three miniature pages and handed it to Janice. Janice jotted down the website of the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards.

After Janice left, Tina went to the hotel desk, asked to use a computer and researched the information. Hope began to diminish her fears. Now it was time to follow the instructions. Tina went back to her room, grabbed her “go bag” and set out to meet with a victim’s advocate. She walked out of the hotel to a nearby bus stop. When the city bus finally pulled up, and opened its doors, she stepped up to the glass fare vault, inserted several coins and walked to the back of the bus.

Tina sat down, pulled out the paper with the website address Janice had given her, folded it and placed it on the seat next to her. When her stop arrived, she exited the bus, leaving the note behind.

*The opening and closing of this article are fictional.

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