“Is leaving your abuser worth it?”

What is the cost of freedom from domestic abuse? Women weighing-up whether to end an abusive relationship grapple with the (often unspoken) question, is it worth it?

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Original photo by ivanferrer

‘Is leaving your abuser worth it?’ was one of the search terms that brought someone to my blog this week. The query struck me immediately, as in my head I replied with a resounding ‘Yes!’

But then I realised that not so very long ago, I didn’t know the answer. I felt trapped in an abusive relationship (my second, actually) and was trying to weigh-up whether my freedom was worth the price I’d pay to leave.

Safety fears

We are at greatest risk of being murdered at the point of leaving, or after we separate from our violent partner (Lees, 2000).

I was afraid for my personal safety – and, even more acutely – that of our child and my family. My abuser was clear about what he would do if I tried to leave. I felt that by staying I was keeping them safe. I was afraid that if I left, he would have nothing else to lose. I was a hostage.

However, my child was witnessing the abuse. Daddy didn’t care if Baby was in the room. I wasn’t protecting my child by staying. The best protection I could offer was to get us out, and do whatever I must to keep us safe after that. When I made my exit, my abuser swung into action. A failed hoovering campaign turned into stalking. But, realising that I wasn’t able to handle this alone, I involved the police. They took my situation seriously.

Though he chose to ignore their directives to stay away – culminating in him being convicted of harassment under UK anti-stalking laws – my child, my family and I have so far remained safe.

Leaving an abuser is dangerous. For this reason, a safe exit plan is essential – as is action to ensure your continued safety on the outside.

Love and attachment

One of my biggest arguments against leaving, was my passionate belief that I loved this abusive man. This convinced me that I couldn’t live without him, and that it would hurt too much to leave. Unfortunately, I realised that at the same time, it was agony to stay – and every day I stayed, more of myself leeched away. I resented him for the hurt he so willfully caused, and that he resisted all of my attempts to help him.

Leaving him ripped me to emotional shreds. But, researching domestic abuse, I came to realise that it wasn’t love that bound me to him. Rather, it was an intense emotional (and, some argue – physical) attachment formed directly out of the abuse.

Understanding trauma-bonding will help you work through the avalanche of confusing feelings. In time, the bond will weaken.

Splitting up the family

Photo by juliejordanscott

Photo by juliejordanscott

My abuser regularly reminded me that our child needed their daddy. Even though he ignored his parental responsibilities – leaving parenting to me whilst he concentrated on drugs and gambling – I believed that too, for a while.

Children are always affected by domestic abuse. To my abuser, our child – whom he undoubtedly loved, in his selfish way – was primarily a tool through which he could consolidate his control over me.

I had to decide whether I was willing to let him use our child in this way, and whether I was prepared to allow both of us to continue living this way. I wasn’t.

A father figure is important. But only if that father is also a good dad.

Financial worries

I was the main breadwinner, and we didn’t share any property. I was lucky. Many women find themselves financially dependent upon their abuser, who has systematically eroded her independence in every way they can. Others find their resources and savings depleted by their partner, who refuses to share in financial responsibility and has no scruples about saddling her with a mountain of debt.

However, there is a way out of financial abuse – using careful planning to build a secret escape fund, and cutting all the purse strings that we can. Domestic violence services can also provide practical advice and help us to access support with finances.

If we share a tenancy or co-own a home with an abuser, police services in some countries can put in place an order to make him leave and forbid him to return. Refuges and emergency accommodation offer sanctuary for women fleeing domestic violence.

Despite financial challenges, it is possible to leave an abusive relationship – and there is support out there to do it.

Yes, it is worth it.

In weighing up whether it is worth it to leave our abuser, we all make our own judgements. Many abusers act in similar ways, but no situation is exactly the same. We all face unique hurdles – but the only barriers are those that exist in our own minds. Hurdles are there to be climbed over or demolished. They are not brick walls.

The decision to stay or go is one of the biggest that any women in an abusive relationship will face. It is also the most significant, because, in choosing to escape we are telling our abuser and (most importantly) ourselves that we are worth so much more.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Which factors did you weigh-up in your decision to live with abuse, or forge an abuse-free future?

ALSO SEE: A woman worries that she can’t leave her abusive husband in, “Maybe I just don’t have the strength to get out.”

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14
https://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com

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12 responses to ““Is leaving your abuser worth it?”

  1. You’ve been reading my mind. 🙂
    I’ve struggled over the last few days with whether or not leaving was a good idea. I know it is, things can sometimes weigh heavy. I know that I would have the same problems plus 1000 other problems. It does help to be reminded. And I’m just being honest.

    Like

    • Honesty is one of the many things I admire about you Teela. I think we all second-guess our decisions from time to time, when we hit those low moments.

      You are right to point out that living with an abuser amplifies existing problems – I guess, especially because most of our energy is spent coping with the abuse rather than dealing with other things.

      Like

  2. I think people need to be reminded it is NOT easy leaving an abusive relationship. It is scary, possibly dangerous, and there are so many factors involved. Although I have never been romantically linked to an abuser, both of my parents were psychopaths and leaving the house was one of the most terrifying times of my life. I had to carefully plan a safe exit. Thanks for excellent post 🙂

    Like

    • You’re so welcome, and you are right too. One of the bravest things that survivors do is to escape – it is extremely dangerous, and of course all the other factors come into play too. I’m glad to hear that you planned for a safe exit. Even if we think we won’t use it right now, it is so important to have a safe exit in plan (an abusive situation can escalate very quickly).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I came to realize that I had to make a decision of who I loved more-him or myself. I knew that or relationship wasn’t normal and even though I loved him, he was making me hate myself. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t want to hate myself. Slowly I started standing up for myself, questioning his authority. The violence got worse and I got wise. He would never stop.
    I secretly made all the arrangements to move across country-got a new job(over the phone interview), got a place to stay(sister), got my plane ticket and sold all my(our, but I paid for it so-mine) furniture. I did all of this in 3 days. He never saw it coming.
    After I moved he talked me down and threatened to kill me. Said he would kill me and himself and we would be buried together in one coffin. I watched my back very closely for a long time but eventually he left me alone.
    So I think it ultimately comes down to deciding who you love more-yourself or him. Once that voice is made, the rest falls into place.

    Thank you for your courage-both to leave him and to talk (type)about it.

    Like

    • Hi ptsdfrozen and thank you for your comment. You make a really important point about the real decision at the heart of all this – do we love our abuser more than ourselves? Are we prepared to sacrifice our lives to abuse?

      Many congratulations to you in your courageous decision. You show just how much can be achieved with careful planning. Your ex sounds truly horrific, so I am glad that you are out and safe.

      Like

  4. When I left my ex, I just thought I would rather be murdered by him than continue to date him. I was so exhausted. I just wanted it to be over. But I don’t have kids and was also the primary earner, so in a way, I had it easy. And being in therapy is helping me work through why I keep getting into these relationships, so I can stop.

    Like

    • Hi ideationms, and thank you for sharing. It sounds like you were in a terrible situation, so huge kudos to you for getting out. Even without financial ties and children, it can never be overstated how challenging (and worthwhile) it is to escape.

      I’m so pleased that you are finding therapy useful. Actively striving to recover from domestic abuse and empowering ourselves to recognise and avoid abusers is absolutely vital.

      Like

  5. my ex nearly broke my back 5 years ago. I stayed an extra 17 months and continued to be physically and emotionally abused. I left with my kids after a huge fight and put a restraining order on him. I had been with him 17 yrs before and left him pregnant for the same reason he was beating me and my son. 9 yrs later we got back together and got married. My kids had never seen violence before. I’ve been divorced from him over 3 yrs now but he is always in my mind, my dreams and my thoughts. I am on a disability pension because of the damage he has done to my back I lost my 7 yr job because of it. I’ve tried to press charges but he has lied and too much time has gone buy and the police don’t want to do the work. I’ve been for a lot of counselling after I left him. But I think because of the constant severe pain I’m in he is always on my mind. I need help

    Like

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