“If you want, you can leave the perpetrator at any time” – this is one of the most famous myths about domestic violence. Women (and men) who want to end or are ending abusive relationship face a number of difficulties. Most often they decide to stay as there are several reasons to do so at that time, for example:
Fear for one’s life. When the victim tells the partner that he/she has decided to leave him/her, the partner becomes more aggressive as the partner feels that he/she is losing control. The time when the victim takes real action to end violent relationship (tells about violence to third parties or institutions, packs his/ her things, moves out) is very dangerous to his/her health or life because of the possible revenge from the perpetrator.
“Of course, I was thinking of going to some health care centre so they could see my bruises and lesions. But I found out that he will get revenge on my child for that not me” (from a domestic violence victim interview, 2014).
Fear to loose children. The victim fears that after reporting about violence, they might face criticism, condemnation from the child protection services that might move the child away from home. When the victim starts living separately from the perpetrator, he/ she might complain to different child care institutions about the negligent behaviour of the partner and ask for more frequent child visits ultimately aiming to restrict his/her maternity/ paternity rights.
“He told on me to the services that I do not look after my child, that I am a whore, I leave my child unattended and I am not good to be a mother” (from a domestic violence victim interview, 2014).
Dependence on the perpetrator. Emotional dependence on the perpetrator and feelings for him/ her may stop the victim from moving out. Often victims cannot end violent relationship as they have no financial means to rent a flat, take care of the children (family budget is often controlled by the perpetrator).
“I was completely dependent on him, I did not work, I looked after the children, so were would I go” (from the domestic violence victim interview, 2014).
Shame. Victims of violent behaviour often blame themselves and are ashamed to tell about violence they experience even to the closest people – family members or friends, especially when they think that these people would not understand and support them.
“I was very ashamed to tell the family, friends, anyone, that I was beaten, it seemed to me that I am the guilty one, I had asked for it, therefore I did not report it” (from the domestic violence victim interview, 2014)
Belief that the partner will change. By psychologically manipulating the abusive partner may persuade you that he/ she feels sorry for the damage done and promise that he/ she will change. The victim might also believe that the perpetrator will change if she/ he changes the behaviour as required, will adapt to the perpetrator.
“If I resist, he will continue acting violently, but if I submit, maybe he will change and become better?” (from the domestic violence victim interview, 2014.)
Institutional approach. Blaming, condemning victim behaviour from the official point of view deters from reaching for help.
Lack of support and help. In places where support and help, such as psychological support, legal, emotional, crises centres are difficult to access, the victims might not know or not find where to address for help. Without external help and support, it is very difficult to end violent relationship.