Victims ask this question because leaving can be a high risk, high stakes decision. They ask because — as difficult and painful it is to stay — for some victims, leaving will make life worse.
Leaving can mean the escalation of violence, loss of home, income, job, health insurance, faith community, immigration status, and even the support of family and friends.
For many victims, leaving will make things better. The power and control of an abusive partner is reduced or eliminated. New lives are built. Adult and child victims heal and flourish.
It is often a fluid decision that changes with life circumstances, the behavior of her partner, advocacy, and domestic violence responses. Some victims remain but have long-term plans to leave.
Victims’ concerns and hopes for their children are often central to this decision. Often victims leave to remove their children from the violence. Yet, some victims remain because it is the only way to provide for their basic needs. Others are afraid to leave because they cannot trust the legal system to make parental custody/access orders that will keep their children safe. And, there are those victims who suffer the violence to ensure their children grow up in an “intact” family, believing that is what is best.
The success of leaving as a safety strategy for some victims has led to an expectation that leaving is the answer to domestic violence and that all victims SHOULD leave. When leaving is not the best option, this has serious and negative consequences for victims.
Even victims who leave are likely to have some contact with her ex-partner, particularly if they share children. Children are likely to have contact with their father, even if he is no longer their mother’s partner.