"Why didn't you just leave"?
It's a question I've been asked at least 1,000 times and asked myself even more often. Several weeks ago, I shared my story of the crisis that has been my life. Still, over and over, I've been asked by family, friends, and even police officers "why don't you just leave". "There's so many resources out there to help" is usually the line that follows this incredulous question. As if leaving has never crossed your mind.
My answer: "It's not that simple".
Did you know that it takes the average woman seven attempts before she leaves a violent relationship for good?
Four times I have tried to leave. Four times I packed up myself and the kids and tried to leave. Much to my family and friends dismay, I always went back. Why? For a lot of reasons. I could spend hours telling you all of the reasons I've stayed; the dangers that come with leaving; the lack of resources that are really there for women in this situation, how it feels to be a burden for someone else to have to help you. But I'm not going to do that. You see, in my heart, I know that I did what I knew was best for myself and my children at the time.
Instead, I'm going to focus this post on society's viewpoint of domestic violence. When we ask victims of domestic violence "why don't you just leave", I believe that we're once again, placing the blame on the victim. To think that it's as simple as "just leaving" is choosing to remain ignorant in regard to what domestic violence really is. A woman might have 50 or 1,000 reasons why she stays. Until you've walked through what she's walking, experienced the hurt she's felt or dealt with the psychological trauma she's dealt with, no one on the planet can understand her reasoning or the complex dynamics that makes it absolutely impossible to see or think clearly. If a moment does come that we see clearly enough to find a safe time to make an attempt to leave, the resources needed to do so have to be readily available, or it's even harder to stay gone.
The reality for most abuse survivors is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available. Instead of minimalizing such a complex issue with such a simple "just leave" solution, I believe society should focus on education, awareness, and resources to help prevent abuse in the first place but then to restore, respect, and empower victims of abuse so that "just leaving" isn't such a herculean task.
Until society as a whole makes an effort to not only understand domestic violence and remove the taboos surrounding it for those who've endured it, but to also heal, educate, and restore victims, women will continue to suffer in silence and to me, that's as bad or worse than the original act of violence itself.