October 2019 – Supporting Survivors Who Stay
When we are worried about someone we love, we react. In trying to protect our loved one experiencing abuse, these reactions sometimes include panic (“you need to get out now!”), tough love (“you made your bed, now you have to lie in it”), anger (“I’ll give your partner a piece of my mind!”) and guilt (“think of your children!”). When we react in those ways with someone experiencing abuse, we can activate feelings of shame and fear, and, intentionally or unintentionally, alienate our loved one from confiding in us about the experience they are living through.
Many domestic abuse survivors love their partners. As a community, we have spent decades helping survivors get out of their abusive relationships—and we’ve spent very little time helping survivors stay safe within their relationships. Because of this dynamic, we’ve created a taboo for survivors who don’t want to leave their partners or their families—and created shame about wanting to stay.
Rather than jumping to demand a specific behavior from our loved ones, the question becomes how we can best help a loved one be as safe as possible, even when they choose to stay in the relationship. Let’s open the discussion with our loved one to include many options, driven by the survivor experiencing the abuse.