Trigger warning: Descriptions of domestic violence.
“Why did she stay?”
It is one of the most common questions asked in reaction to cases of domestic violence. We want to know, “If things were so awful, why did not she leave?
And for people who have never experienced domestic violence at the hands of a partner, the question seems reasonable enough. But it’s not that simple.
The question is loaded with implications. What if someone stays with a person who hits them once, it’s their fault if they’re hit again. That the person being abused is deserving of the abuse because they don’t try to help themselves by getting out of the situation. That people who suffer from abusive relationships have the option to leave whenever they want.
But people who have experienced any of the many forms of domestic violence – physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological – know leaving an abusive relationship isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
For one thing, between 50 and 70 percent of domestic violence homicides happen when the abused partner tries to leave, or after they’ve already left. So often, women stay in violent relationships because it is actually safer than leaving.
In addition to this, many women do not even realize they are in abusive relationships, because the abuse itself is often masked as love.
Because asking someone why they did not leave a violent relationship is not only victim-blaming in its purest form, it also ignores the complicated nature of intimate partner violence.
To highlight just how problematic this question is, here are the reasons 9 women give for staying in abusive relationships…
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