It’s hard but you know…I’m glad that I left. I made a good decision but I’m still having meltdowns. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go away for a long time. Some days are good and some days aren’t but at least I know I’m in a better place.
— Survivor’s reflection on leaving abusive relationship, Meeting Survivors’ Needs through Non-Residential Domestic Violence Services & Supports: Results of a Multi-State Study by NRCDV (November 2011)
The decision to stay or leave and the level of contact for adults and children with the person who batters is a central factor for our advocacy to enhance victims’ safety plans.
Why does a victim leave? Stay? Remain in contact?
These are difficult decisions driven by many factors. A victim’s circumstances, culture, risks, and resources will determine what decision she makes about her relationship. This context will also determine what advocacy, safety strategies, and resources will increase safety. The level of violence and financial resources are key factors. For many victims living in poverty, there is no real option to leave.
Physical separation and limited or no contact are the basis of many current safety strategies. These domestic violence responses work well when victims leave. They are important and often effective for those victims. But, they may offer little protection for victims, including children who remain in contact.
Victims in contact need advocacy beyond leaving. Advocates must offer strategies that do not rely on leaving or no contact. These will necessarily include an exploration of reducing or stopping violent behavior. As part of this approach, advocates might help victims to explore whether her partner won’t change, will/might change, or poses life-threatening danger.
How much contact will the children have with the person who batters? Is it their father? Match your advocacy and strategies to the level of contact and relationship. Since children are likely to have contact with their father even if their mother has left, they will need the adults in their life to use strategies that do not rely on no contact. As for adult victims, children will benefit if a person who batters reduces or stops the use of violence. They will also benefit from competent and loving parenting. Also, offer information and options that support the child’s relationship with the victim-parent.