Domestic Abuse Awareness Month: Understanding why it can be so hard to leave an abusive relationship

October is National Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. The aim of this month is to raise awareness about the signs of domestic abuse, how to report abuse and most importantly to encourage individuals to speak up.

The government defines domestic abuse as “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, or threatening behaviour between individuals.” Domestic abuse can present itself in many ways such as: psychological, emotional, sexual, physical, financial, or coercive behaviour that influences another person within a relationship or family relationship. Whether the abuse is verbal, emotional, or physical, it is not right, and there is help available so that you don’t have to tackle this kind of situation alone.

For victims of abuse, day-to-day life can be daunting as they try to navigate the changes in their partners emotional state, as an attempt to keep themselves safe. Being in a state of ‘high alert’ can have a massive impact on an individual, and not just mentally but physically too. If the body is in a constant state of anxiety and stress, this can have a knock-on effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.

Hannah Bunyan, a paralegal in Bromleys Solicitors, based in Ashton-under-Lyne, explained why it isn’t always so easy to just walk away from a difficult relationship.

Understanding why it can be so hard to leave an abusive relationship

Despite these negative effects, in cases of domestic abuse it can be extremely difficult for victims to get out of this toxic cycle, especially without help. Each case of domestic abuse is different and complex, meaning there are many reasons why someone might be unable to leave the relationship. Some of these reasons may include:

  1. Some people may not realise that their partner is abusive. This can be influenced by society’s habit of normalising unhealthy behaviour, causing a lack of understanding when it comes to domestic abuse within the relationship. When you treat abusive behaviours as if they are “normal”, it can be difficult to find a reason to seek help.
  2. Some people are worried about what may happen to them if they do leave. It can be very dangerous for a victim of domestic abuse to leave the relationship, sometimes even life-threatening. After a break-up, the abuse can continue and even become worse, manifesting itself in ways such as stalking, death threats, guilt tripping and harassment.
  3. Gaslighting is very common in abusive relationships, making the victim question and blame themselves for the abuse. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to plant self-doubt and confusion in their victim’s mind, making it easier to control them. This can result in the victim feeling responsible for their partners behaviour and they stay in the relationship in an attempt to ‘fix’ their own behaviour.
  4. Some victims believe that their abusive partner will change. A lot of people stick around because they love their partner and remember the good qualities that attracted them to their partner in the first place. They may also believe that their partner is struggling or going through a bad time, making excuses for their behaviour. It is also common for the victim to think they will be able to change their partners behaviour in time.
  5. Marriage, children, and financial assets are often huge reasons why abusive relationships continue. Some people believe that they are breaking up a family if they decide to leave the relationship or scared that they may struggle on their own financially. This feeling is even magnified in cases where the abuser is responsible for the bills and leaves victims feeling trapped.

Why it is important to provide support

There are many different reasons that may influence a person’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship. As an outsider looking in, it can also be very difficult watching someone you care about to live through something like this. However, it is important to remember that whilst someone may have used bad judgement by staying in a dangerous situation, it does not mean that this person is responsible for the abuse carried out against them.

Victims of violence and controlling behaviour do not have a specific face, gender, or race. Anybody at any time can be impacted either directly or indirectly by domestic abuse. Not only does this impact the victim, but it also effects their friends and family, who naturally worry trying to work out how they can help without putting the victim in danger. Children are particularly at risk and can suffer long term emotional harm or even immediate harm to themselves.

This is why it is crucial to provide the upmost support and help for someone who is suffering from domestic abuse. If you are a victim of violence, please do not suffer in silence. There is help available and there is a way out. If you find yourself struggling to confide in loved ones, or make the first step to reach out, contact us – we can listen to you and help in the best way that we can.