I have noticed lately that it is easier for people to judge another person too quickly before knowing all the facts. When I read the 50 obstacles to leaving an abusive relationship, I faced 25 obstacles.
We see and hear how people jump to assumptions, judgments, insults, and humiliating comments on various social media platforms and in the news. There is a difference between judgment and discernment. When someone is in an abusive relationship, it does not support the victim when they are being wrongly judged for their actions or lack of actions.
What is discernment? Discernment is the ability to obtain a sharper perception by viewing the situation from all angles or even outside the box. In the case of judgment, discernment can be psychological, involving a person’s morals, values, and integrity. I saw this excellent quote, “without providing for a time of healing and discernment; there will be no hope of living through this present moment without a shattering of our common life.”
You most likely will not know all the facts when someone is in an abusive relationship. It is embarrassing to speak your truth when an abusive partner makes you think and feel that you are crazy. You are not crazy. I like to say that you are confused and misunderstood. If you care about a person, you should do everything in your power to support them in being safe. In writing my book, The Undetected Narcissist, I was shocked to discover that the average number for finally leaving an abusive relationship is 7. I want that number to go way down! That is why I am writing this blog post. Everyone needs to stay safe by ensuring all the obstacles have been considered. I believe victims might return to their abuser because they did not view all the obstacles. Therefore, they were forced to either stay or return to the abusive relationship.
50 Obstacles they can keep you trapped in an abusive relationship
This information comes from an article written by Sarah M. Buel, “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving a.k.a., Why abuse victims stay”. I can relate to many of these obstacles because I did face them during the abusive relationship and even after the relationship ended. Therefore, I share my experiences with the 25 obstacles I met and my mom.
- Advocate: During my abusive relationship and even after, I lacked the right people to be a positive advocates for us.
- Batterer: From my story, I was not wealthy. Yet, my abuser knew who and how he could use other people’s money to pressure, manipulate, and terrorize me.
- Believes threats: The victim believes the batterer’s threats. I did, and it can be terrifying.
- Children’s best interest: I believe this one is prevalent. Society, religion, family, friends, and even some therapists might influence you to have both parents in the home. Especially when you are afraid to tell the truth, and reveal the dark side of your abusive relationship. For me, it was guilt. I wanted to keep the family together. I did not want to be like my dad, who had three failed marriages. Therefore, I tried and tried to make it work.
- Children’s pressure: In my book, I was ready to leave him. I wanted to leave him, yet my daughter begged me not to leave him.
- Cultural and racial defenses: In some homes and countries, domestic violence is the norm. People will take a blind eye to abuse. Slapping a woman and putting her in her place is permitted, tolerated, and condoned. Some might even say that the man has the right and his wife must obey him.
- Denial: I fell into this trap. I thought the abuse would stop if I were a better partner. Family members and even friends might deny that your partner or spouse is abusive because they have only seen one side of them.
- Disabled: It can be hard to leave an abusive relationship when you are disabled and do not have social services to help you escape.
- Elderly: Older adults tend to hold onto the traditional belief that you stay married no matter what.
- Excuses: I fell into this trap. I did believe my abuser’s excuses that he would change.
- Family pressure: My family did pressure me to stay in an abusive relationship. I was judged and frowned upon whenever I spoke about leaving. Eventually, I stopped talking about it because I was not getting the support I needed.
- Fear of retaliation: This is a key obstacle to leaving an abusive relationship. The terror of leaving was so strong for me. I heard comments, “If you leave me, you will never see your son again. If you take my son – not our son – away from me, I will kill you. If you ever leave me, I will kill your whole family.”
- Fear of losing child custody: This was immobilizing for me. In our story, he did everything he could to take our son away from me. He even threatened to take our son away from me when we were together.
- Financial abuse: Financial abuse is a common tactic of abusers. This was my father’s secret weapon when he filed for divorce. He would blindside his soon-to-be ex-wife by withdrawing all the money from the joint accounts, closing all the credit cards, and leaving the poor woman penniless. When he did this to my mom, she went to the Catholic Church for food. He was distraught and wanted to punish her. Therefore, he took the canned food she had stored in the garage. Today, I still remember her crying at the kitchen table because she had no food.
- Financial despair: This is what happened to my mom. He put her in financial despair. She could not feed her three children. He wanted her to be dependent upon him, and she refused. That is why she went to the church for food. The same can be said about medical expenses or promising to split the expense for an item for the children. You can wait and wait to be reimbursed and then find yourself in financial despair.
- Gratitude: You can feel like you owe your abuser because they helped raise your kids from a different relationship or marriage. They might have paid for your tuition, a car, or paid for other expenses. I like to call it guilty feelings of gratitude.
- Guilt: I did struggle with guilt. Guilt that I could not fix it. Guilt that maybe I could have done something else. Victims take the burden upon themselves instead of holding the abuser accountable for their actions, behaviors, and psychological abuse. That is why gaslighting is so destructive.
- Homelessness: We all have basic needs. We need shelter, food, and clothing. It can be hard to leave without meeting those basic needs. There are shelters, but if you do not have access to a phone or what if your abuser is watching your every move.
- Hope for the violence to cease: Many victims in an abusive relationship do hope the violence will stop. The abuser can make empty promises; there can be pleas from a child not to leave, misguided counsel, or even family advice to stick it out.
- Isolation: This happened to me. I was cut off from my main support system when I moved away with him. Isolating the victim increases the likelihood that the victim will stay.
- Keeping the family together: Again, I fell into this trap. Wanting to keep the family together can motivate the victim to stay.
- Illiterate victims: If you are illiterate, you can end up relying on your abuser’s support. The problem is they can forge your signature, force you to sign documents, and put you in debt.
- Incarcerated or newly released abuse victims: When you are released, you could be forced to go back home to an abusive relationship with a parent or family member.
- Law enforcement officer: If the abuser is in law enforcement, it can be hard to leave because you might have had past experiences when other officers who know your abuser would not support you in filing a complaint. There is also the fact that your abuser owns a firearm and has ammunition in the house.
- Lesbian and gay victims: I would hope this one would be less likely now that the rights for gay and transgender people are becoming more openly acceptable. It can be difficult to openly share your sexual preferences with certain people.
- Low self-esteem: This is unfortunate, in my opinion. When you are told you are stupid and worthless repeatedly, you eventually believe it.
- Love: This was a trap I fell into. I am all about love, not hate. It was hard for me to come to terms with how I could still love him because we created a child together. I just had to accept that loving him was slowly killing me. I became a people pleasurer, hoping he would change. Still, I had to leave.
- Mediation: As you know, counseling and mediation did not work for us. He did not want to do the work and was still a bully. It was a waste of time.
- Medical problems: You might be forced to stay with your abuser until you get your medical insurance for yourself and your child. You might not be able to get a job because of medical problems or a major illness. So, you are stuck with your abuser or an abusive caregiver.
- Mentally ill victims: This can be very challenging because when you are in an abusive relationship, you might have to take medications for depression, anxiety, PTSD, nightmares, and panic attacks. Then the abuser might use it against you to gain custody of the child or children. It is messed up because the abuser can be the one that gave you depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
- mentally disabled or developmentally delayed victims: This one is heartbreaking for me because our son was a victim of his father’s abuse. A caregiver can be abusive or a family member that expects that child to be normal when the child will never be.
- Military: Many military victims are not aware that they are entitled to a short-term stipend if they report the abuse and lose the soldier’s financial support as a result of reporting the abuse. If you are in the military, I will explore your options further.
- No place to go: This happened to my mom. Her parents would not let her leave my dad by moving back home. I could not leave my ex because 95% of the items in the house were mine. If I left, he would lock me out, sell my stuff, destroy it, etc. I could not pack up the whole house in one day and leave.
- No job skills: This also happened to my mom. My mom met my dad in college. She never graduated. After he almost killed her for the second time, she realized that she had to go back to school and get a job.
- No knowledge of options: This is so upsetting because, in smaller towns, there are fewer options for abuse victims. Even when there are options, some places cannot help you unless there is proof of recent physical abuse. I ran into the problem.
- Past criminal record: If you are on probation or parole, it can be used against you. The abuser can threaten to report you or threaten to put you back in jail. The abuser can claim they are trying to help you, but the threats and demands can keep you trapped.
- Previously abused victims: An abuser can fill your head with garbage by saying, “See, you drove me to hit you. You drive men to want to hit you. Maybe you want to be abused.” Some victims will believe this and will find it difficult to leave.
- Prior negative court experiences: My story clearly displays the prior negative court experiences. Recently and by accident, I drove by the courthouse. Immediately my body had a negative reaction. My stomach clenched, and I felt a rush of anxiety.
- Promises to change: I fell into this trap many times. It is hard because the abuser might try to change. They might stop drinking, love bomb you again, or be nicer to you. Remember, keeping you in an abusive relationship is only temporary.
- Religious beliefs and misguided teachings: Such beliefs can lead victims to believe that they should tolerate the abuse. Let’s pray about it.
- Rural victims: You might lack transportation to leave, your community does not have the resources you need, and your community is so small that you are afraid to talk about the abuse. If everybody knows everybody’s personal business, you could be afraid your abuser might find out that you are trying to escape.
- Safer to stay: When you get death threats or your abuser has a history of stalking you, you might stay because you know how to avoid blow-ups and how to take action to protect yourself or the kids.
- Students: If you are a student, you might not want the abuse on record with the school or college. You might also not want the abuser expelled for fear of retaliation, smear campaigns, and people turning against you. A good example is the movie “Promising Young Woman”.
- Shame and embarrassment: I was stuck in this category. It did prevent me from disclosing what happened behind closed doors to my friends, family members, and even my therapist at the time. When I lost custody of my son, I had to spill the beans about the death threats and attempts to silence my voice.
- Stockholm syndrome: I was stuck in this category because, for a living, I help people. I wanted to help him because I cared.
- Substance abuse or alcohol: If you are struggling with an addiction or did in the past, your abuser could threaten to take the children away from you if you leave them. Using your addiction as a tool to discredit your ability to parent.
- Teens: Some teens flee an abusive home and become homeless. This leaves you vulnerable and more likely to be abused again by a stranger. Some get pregnant and find it hard to leave their abuser.
- Transportation: Lack of transportation can make it difficult to leave your abuser.
- Unaware that abuse is a criminal offense: This one bugs me. I know what my ex did to us was a crime, and he got away with it. I went to legal aid and other places for support. Nobody considered emotional and mental abuse a crime. I even spoke to a few attorneys because they gave us both complex PTSD. That is why I say the laws have to change.
- Undocumented victims: If immigration or being deported is a concern, you need to consider this. It could be a reason why you are staying in an abusive relationship.
I hope this blog post will keep you safe and help you understand that you are not alone. I hope you will have the strength and courage to leave your abusive relationship or share this blog post with someone in need. Be and stay safe!