Advocacy Beyond Leaving

With the support of friends, family, and professional advocates, survivors of partner abuse may be able to leave abusers.  There are times when survivors of partner abuse or sexual assault are not ready or able to safely leave their abusers.  Sometimes a survivor may choose not to leave an abusive relationship.  They may feel that the violence will escalate if they attempt to leave the relationship or they may not have the financial resources to be able to leave their abuser and start a new life.  A survivor may believe there is not another option beyond their current relationship.

As a friend or family member of a survivor, it may feel frustrating or difficult to understand why your loved one would stay in an unhealthy relationship.  It is important to know that leaving an abusive relationship is a process and survivors may attempt to leave many times before they are able to leave their abuser permanently.  During the time a survivor is thinking about leaving their abuser, there are many things the survivor can do until it is safe enough for them to permanently leave an abuser.  Friends and family members may be able to help survivors create a safety plan.

It is always helpful for a survivor of abuse to have a safety plan.

This website can help survivors find tips about how to stay safe if they are not ready to leave an abusive relationship.  A safety plan is designed to help an abuse survivor take precautions that help them stay safer a potentially dangerous situation.  Following the tips to help a survivor create a safety plan is one of the most helpful ways to support someone who is in an abusive situation.

It is not a survivor’s fault.

No matter what the situation is in the survivor’s life, even if the survivor chooses to stay, they are not responsible for the abuse.  The abuser alone is responsible for abusive behavior.  Remind a survivor that they are not responsible for and do not deserve the abuse.

Do NOT attempt to force someone to leave an abuser.

Survivors are wise and know if it is not safe to leave their abuser.  A survivor should always choose to leave when they feel safe and confident to do so.  Abuse often escalates when a survivor tries to leave, and a survivor may have already seen evidence of this.

Recognize that the survivor may stay due to a desire for love.

Family and friends often wonder how a survivor can possibly love someone who treats them terribly.  It is important to remember that family and friends never know all the details of a relationship, or, for that matter, all the ways an abuser is controlling a survivor.  It is common for an abuser to convince the survivor that they won’t be loved or wanted again by anyone and that the abuse IS love.

Continue to be supportive.

It may seem like the survivor will never leave.  However, just because the end of the relationship is not in sight, this does not mean family or friends should give up on a survivor or stop listening.  It might be possible to gently encourage actions or thoughts that empower the victim, being careful not to push too much.  Always allow the survivor to discuss their feelings about the abuser.  Family or friends might consider pointing out the frustration or fear that they hear, such as “It sounds like your partner really scares you” or “I can tell how frustrated you are that your partner is so controlling.”

The best ways to help a survivor are to listen to them non-judgmentally, believe them, help them create a safety plan, and remain aware of resources that are available to survivors.