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Why Would Someone Stay in an Abusive Relationship?

Written by Ava Mazzye

For those who have not experienced abuse, it is difficult to understand why the survivor in an abusive relationship might stay with their abuser. However, leaving an abusive relationship is much easier said than done. Many survivors of abuse are stuck in cycles of emotional manipulation and physical or sexual violence and exploitation, which are difficult to escape from. The only people that truly understand the complexities of any given abusive relationship are those people in the relationship.

When survivors of abuse come out about their experience, they are often asked this question: “Why didn’t you just leave?” While it may be innocently intended, survivors of dating abuse may interpret this question as demeaning, and may regret coming out about their experience.

So, why don’t survivors of abuse simply leave their abusers? Well, here’s why:

On average, it takes a survivor 7-8 attempts to leave their abusive partner before it is done successfully. Domestic violence experts say that the risk of domestic homicide is at its highest when a survivor attempts to leave an abuser, because an abuser may try to escalate their power and control tactics to force a person to stay.

In youth, the issue could be all the more complicated. For example, if the people within the relationship attend the same school, the survivor may have to switch schools, which would require explaining the situation to one’s guardians. Youth dating is often stigmatized in families, making it all the more difficult for teens to tell their guardians about their experience with dating abuse.

Financial security and shelter are two things which survivors of abuse may need before even thinking of leaving an abuser. If someone cannot obtain either of these, they might have to choose between enduring abuse and homelessness. Separating from an abusive partner while maintaining financial security can involve many steps, like separating assets/bank accounts, finding housing or a way to generate income.

Emotional abuse or threats may stop someone from leaving an abusive relationship. Oftentimes, abusers do not only reserve their abuse for their romantic partners. Leaving an abuser might cause them to threaten pets or the survivor’s children as collateral.

Immigration status or language barriers also pose difficulties for a survivor of dating abuse. An undocumented individual may fear that their partner will report them if they leave the relationship, or otherwise may not report abuse for fear of contact with law enforcement. Language barriers may also hinder one from finding resources.

Isolation is also a major barrier in leaving an abuser. Abusers often utilize the tactic of isolation, pushing away the survivor’s friends and family, in order to assert control over the survivor. Without a support system, a survivor of abuse may not have the resources to leave their partner.

Finally, a person may not leave an abuser because they may not understand themselves to be in an abusive relationship. While New York City middle and high schools are required to include sexual health education in their curriculums, topics of dating abuse and unhealthy relationships are not always taught. In addition to this, youth have warped ideas of romantic relationships due to popular culture, like Romeo and Juliet, Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey.

The notion that leaving an abusive relationship is simple and easy contributes to the shame and isolation that survivors feel when trapped in the cycle of dating abuse.

#DVAM2017 Social Media Posting Guide

Background: Thirty years ago, October was designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) as a way to build public consciousness of a pervasive, but hidden social problem. This year, we invite you to help raise awareness of DVAM among your friends, family, and followers by tapping into your social media networks.

1. Make sure you’re following Day One on social media, if you aren't already!

2. Create DVAM content to share across your social media accounts throughout October.

  • Tell people about DVAM and its significance.

  • Share why DVAM is important to you personally, if you feel comfortable.

  • Share important statistics about dating abuse, IPV, and DV.

  • Have fun! Get creative with text, graphics, and even selfies to help generate awareness.

  • Direct people to the DayOneNY.org website for resources on how to recognize signs of dating abuse/IPV and how to get help.

  • Always mention our campaign hashtag, #LoveShouldAlwaysBeSafe, in your posts. This will help us measure campaign impact, learn, and improve upon our programs.

  • Incorporate other trending DVAM #s to help people discover your posts, e.g. #DVAM2017, #ImAnAdvocate, #WhyICare, #endDV, #NoMore, #ThisIsDV, #31n31, #DVAMTurns30, #PurpleThursday.

3. Like, share, retweet, regram Day One’s posts to help spread the word on what we’re doing. Doesn’t get easier than this!

4. Want to do more? Join people across the country during National Week of Action and share your actions on social media. Remember to include our campaign hashtag in your posts!

  • Sunday, October 15, Conversation Sunday: Start conversations about DV with friends, family, colleagues, or even your followers. Sample Talking Points.
  • Monday, October 16, Media Monday: Challenge misconceptions about DV that you’ve seen perpetuated on social media. Also, share tips for how to stay safe online.

  • Tuesday, October 17, Tie-In Tuesday: Join the national Twitter chat from 2-3 PM (ET). @DayOneNY will be a co-host, and this year’s theme is #Safety4Survivors.

  • Wednesday, October 18, Write-In Wednesday: Write a letter to the editor to call attention to and share your perspective on DV. See tips for writing an effective letter and an example letter to the editor.

  • Thursday, October 19, #PurpleThursday: Wear purple to show your support for survivors and for ending DV! Post a selfie, sharing three words for what real love means to you. For those working on the front lines of change, the color purple has come to represent courage, persistence, honor, and the commitment to ending DV.

  • Friday, October 21 - Film Friday: Host #DVMovieNight! See movie ideas and movie night conversation guide.

  • Saturday, October 22 - Shout-Out Saturday: Celebrate the people you admire who speak out for survivors and use their voices to make a difference.

Value in Variety: Reflection on Day One’s You(th) Already Know! Conference

by Eleanor Crawford

I first heard about Day One’s You(th) Already Know! Conference during a phone interview I had for an internship at Day One.  I was already excited about the position, but became even more enthusiastic after learning that part of my job would be helping to plan a youth centered conference on intimate partner violence (IPV).  Day One’s dedication to include youth as participants in the conference, but also to empower them through leadership, education and creative input opportunities felt inspiring!  

Once I started working on the conference, my excitement grew as the specifics came together (finding a caterer caused an especially notable amount of excitement).  When we made decisions about which workshops to include, we realized that we had received an incredible variety of workshop proposals.  We had always intended to offer a diverse selection of lessons, but receiving so many unique submissions made it possible.  The featured topics didn’t cater to one type of person, but instead catered to the diverse interests of NYC youth.  How cool is it that we were able to include a lesson on “Domestic Violence and Immigration,” as well as the lesson “‘Oh My God, Becky:’ How Body Policing, ‘Thot’ Culture and Other Forms of Misogyny Impact Teens” at the same time during the conference?!  We thought it was pretty cool.

As a part of my Community Education Internship, I created a workshop to present at the conference titled: “From Flirting to Sex: The Importance of Consent in Every Stage of a Relationship.”  Workshops at the conference were supposed to discuss the intersections of IPV and other identity-based oppressions.  During a workshop brainstorming session I came up with the idea of exploring the connection between dating abuse and other issues I’m passionate about.  I’ve done a lot of work around consent and sexual harassment in school, which is why I chose to focus on sexual violence in relationships.  During the conference I led discussions and activities that got participants thinking about how getting consent is not thought of as part of flirting, starting a relationship, being in a relationship or having sex, when it really needs to be.  I was also able to discuss sexual abuse, as well as elements of power and control, because of what I learned at Day One.  The workshop had many moments where participants and I were talking about different norms in relationships and exclaiming, “how do people think this is okay?!”  (It was great though, because we then got to go deeper into this and actually talk about what makes people believe those things are okay and generate ways we can change that.)

The You(th) Already Know! Conference gave me an opportunity to combine multiple issues in order to educate an audience on a complex topic.  My internship with Day One has expanded my knowledge on IPV exponentially, which was very beneficial to my workshop and will continue to impact me throughout my career.  When I first started at Day One, I thought that coming in without extensive knowledge of dating violence would make me a less valuable employee.  The conference helped me to see that this is not the case at all!  I observed how valuable it was to have workshops on many different topics and saw that my workshop contributed to this variety.  The specificity of my knowledge, just like the expertise of every other amazing conference presenter, added resources to the day that wouldn’t have been there if everyone had taught an overview on IPV.  Day One is special because the organization brings together people with different experiences and focuses who have the shared intention of combating dating violence, which was especially apparent at the You(th) Already Know! Conference this May.