October is Domestic/Partner Violence Awareness Month. A lot of times we ask ourselves why victims stay in an abusive situation. Why won’t they just leave? Why would you stay in this relationship and end up dead? If that was me, I would have already been gone.

Domestic violence is far more complex than we can grasp. In today’s society, domestic violence is more common and happens in all social classes, ethnic groups, cultures, and religions. Many times the warning signs are not seen because most victims keep quiet about the abuse that is happening behind closed doors.

More than 70 percent of domestic violence injuries and murders happen once the victim decides to leave. It is so hard sometimes for a victim to leave an abusive situation if it feels a lot safer to just stay. According to a report from the North Carolina Department of Justice, in 2013 there were 108 domestic violence related homicides, which averaged around two people dying per week.

For some, there is simply no exit to leave an abusive relationship or the victim may be locked into a domestic violence cycle of abuse. Sometimes the door can be wide open and the victim simply cannot leave. There are various reasons why a victim can’t just leave an abusive relationship. The reasons that a victim stays can sometimes be very complicated. This can be accompanied by a range of emotions. Some of the reasons that victims stay in abusive relationships might include:

Fear — sometimes victims may fear that if they leave the abuser will harm them or come after them.

Love — more often than not the victim truly loves their abusive partner.

Promises — a lot of times after an abusive incident the abuser will make promises that the abuse will not happen again and perhaps even shower the victim with gifts.

Abuse is love — sometimes the victim may be confused about what being loved entails and being controlled by their abuser.

Guilt — often times the victim is blamed so much by the offender for “causing” the abuse that they actually begin to believe it. They may come to believe they are almost as much to blame as the offender.

Not being believed — too many times we hear stories where a victim will fear that no one will believe their story if they decide to speak out against the abuse.

Low self-esteem — a victim may often think that they cannot do better than the current relationship that they are in.

Financial — many victims depend on their abuser to provide money, pay bills, goods and other day-to-day living expenses. If they leave, they fear being cut off financially or becoming homeless with their children.

There are many reasons why both men and women stay in abusive relationships. If you have a friend or know of someone in an unhealthy relationship, do your best to support them by understanding why they may not be able to leave when you think they should.

There is also help available at the Fort Bragg Family Advocacy Program hotline. The hotline is available 24/7 at 322-3418. Once you call the hotline you will be able to speak with a professionally trained victim advocate to assist with making a restricted or unrestricted report as well as provide a host of resources that are available in the surrounding areas.