Some people might watch this past episode of Teen Mom and wonder what is wrong with April. How can she not know if she is going to leave Butch or not? In our society, this is a pretty typical response to survivors who stay in relationships, and it actually shifts the blame to the victim for the abuse, and away from the person who was actually violent. If she would just leave, this wouldn’t happen, right? In this situation, whether April stays in the relationship or not, she doesn’t deserve to be attacked and hurt.
There are a few things going on that many people who make that judgment about survivors don’t take into account. Leaving an abusive relationship is an extremely dangerous time. Abusive partners often escalate their violent behavior when they feel their sense of power and control in the relationship is lessening.
There may be other reasons why leaving doesn’t seem possible at the moment, like not having financial resources to find a new home. Ending a relationship is a complex, emotional process in the best of circumstances. Even though Butch has been abusive and unsafe, April may still care about him and what to see him get help.
There may come a day when she knows for sure that walking away is the right decision for her, but it’s ok if it takes some time for her to figure out what she wants to do.
This excerpt from Advocacy Beyond Leaving by Jill Davies explains this process:
Victims are not masochists bent on suffering, nor are they living in a fantasy world. Victims do what we all do – deal with what life hands us. For some, remaining or leaving is a formal decision, a weighing of pros and cons. For others it is informal, simply coping with the current situation because it seems tolerable or there are no better options or alternatives. Most victims cope with the bad and hope for the better, living with the status quo, making the decisions they must, and doing what they can do to make things better along the way. Leaving is not a simple decision, nor one easily made.
Not knowing if you want to stay in or end an abusive relationship is perfectly natural. However, it’s very important to think about how you can stay as safe as possible while you’re trying to decide.
Think about what happens in your relationship: What can you do to be safe? Who can you talk to and ask for help from? What are the red flags that your partner will become more violent or dangerous? When do you know you have to leave or call the police in order to stay safe?
There are some risks that are often indications of potentially dangerous and lethal situations. Some of the red flags that you may be in an extremely dangerous situation are:
- If physical violence has gotten worse or happens more frequently in the last few months
- If your partner has ever used a weapon or threatened you with a weapon
- If your partner is violently jealous of you and who you talk to
(Campbell, et al, 2009, www.dangerassessment.org)
Remember, you can always talk to a Hotline advocate for support.