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Why Someone May Stay With an Abusive Partner (and How to Help)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. It is a time to recognize the impact domestic violence has on our communities and the continued work needed to support victims and their families. Domestic violence can be defined as any form of verbal, emotional, mental, physical, sexual, or financial abuse.

According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in three women and one in four men will experience some form of domestic violence. Nationally it accounts for 15% of all crime. In Nebraska and Iowa, domestic violence accounts for 20% of all crime, which is higher than the national average.

What Victims Feel

One of the biggest questions we tend to ponder is “Why do they stay?” It’s a question that could have many answers that vary depending on the situation. Many victims feel external pressures such as having children with the abuser, financial dependence, and overall lack of support.

It’s important to remember in these situations, the victim has been under extreme emotional and mental abuse. It is likely they’ve been isolated from their families and made to think they are not worth helping.

It is also important for us to understand that ending the relationship, thus leaving the abuser, is not always a safer option for the victim. During this time, we see an increase in behaviors such as stalking and intimate partner homicide. Statistically, domestic violence scenarios account for 72% of all murder-suicide cases in the United States. This can be a very extreme reaction to when the abuser feels they have lost control over the relationship and their partner.

While it can be well intentioned that we want our loved ones to leave an abusive situation, we have to account for these factors to ensure they are able to leave safely.

How the Pandemic Has Affected Domestic Violence Statistics

While many aspects of our lives have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in domestic violence has been described as a pandemic within a pandemic. Due to quarantine and working from home, the availability to safely reach out for help has significantly decreased. In 2019, there was an average of 20,000 calls placed to domestic violence hotlines around the country. That number has decreased by 50% since the start of the pandemic. Unfortunately this is not due to lower prevalence of domestic violence, but more so due to lack of available safety to reach out for help. This has shown us there is still plenty of work to be done to connect victims with resources.

How to Show Support

When trying to help a loved one through a domestically violent relationship, remember to be supportive without judgment and never give ultimatums. The decision to leave is never easy nor safe. Thinking outside the box such as offering child care while they attend a support group or offering to store an emergency bag in your home are two great ways to show your support.

Resources and What to Do If You Need Help

CHI Health Behavioral Care Team
CHI Health Behavioral Care Team

These blogs were written by members of the CHI Health Behavioral Care team.

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