Strange, your sister (mother, client, friend, fill in the blank) has not been returning your phone calls…Actually, now that you think about it, she started cancelling plans, electing out of gatherings, pulling “no shows.” This all seems to relate back to when she began seeing her new boyfriend. Then you witnessed an altercation, after a holiday dinner, as you headed out to the parking lot. You could not hear what was being said, but he struck her, brutality. She fell to her her knees. You see little trace of the woman you had known. “Why doesn’t she leave,” you keep thinking. It seems so simple to you JUST GO! Call the police, do SOMETHING!
The answer to that question is a complex balance of the practical and the emotional, spiritual, and mental. This affects millions of people in United States every year.
Leaving is not so simple; in fact it is very hard.
It often feels – and is - physically unsafe to leave an abusive relationship which leads to one of the primary reasons one stays. Women will leave and return to an abusive relationship on average 7 times before making the final move out and away (Many return fearing greater violence if they do not return.) The two-week period beginning when a woman leaves an abusive relationship is the most physically hazardous. More women are killed within that time period than any other time frame.
In addition to the above, even if they walk through the fear and leave, many victims of intimate partner abuse lack resources. They are less likely to have a stable source of income, often have no control over their finances, even if they are the primary breadwinners. Encouraging the victim to gather together some basic resources PRIOR to leaving will help to ease the emotional stress after they leave. Putting together the following:
a. Debit/Credit Cards
b. Checkbooks/Bank/Financial Records
2. Documents (Yours and Children’s)
a. Birth certificates
c. Driver’s license, any other form of identification
d. Social Security Cards
3. Other Docs
b. Deed to Home/Rental Agreement/ Lease
c. Marriage License
d. Family/Personal Will
e. Separation Agreement/Divorce Papers
f. Custody Papers
g. Loan Information (car loan, mortgage information, etc…)
h. Car Registration & Insurance Cards
i. Health Insurance Information
j. Life/Long Term Disability/ Insurance documents
k. Medical/Vaccination Records – List of prescriptions & Doctor’s names and telephones numbers
l. Dental Records
a. Keys (House, Car, Office, Safe, Safety Deposit Box)
d. Cell Phones and chargers
e. Change of clothes
g. Computers/charges/emails/USB drives/portable hard drives/backups
h. Service vehicle/gas/oil changes/tires/etc…
5. Where are they going?
Item #5 is the next obstacle to leaving an abusive partner. One of the hallmarks of intimate partner abuse is isolation. As a victim is drawn further away from their support systems, the harder it is for them to leave their abuser. While shelters solve the practical problem of where to go, remember the isolation is a very deep issue. This issue typically requires coaching and/or therapy to resolve.
More to come on regarding to better understand “Why doesn’t she just leave?”