Why Victims of Domestic Violence Wait So Long To Disclose
What's stopping them?
TRIGGER WARNING: This is obviously a very sensitive topic and it should never be taken lightly. My purpose in writing this is to help those close to victims understand the difficulties that lead up to and follow after reporting abuse. If you are a victim and you're reading this, my heart is with you. You are not powerless. You are not alone and I hope the following helps you understand your thoughts and feelings about the situation you are in.
How having children affects with the perpetrator affects the likelihood of disclosure
The presence of children in domestic violence abuse cases cause a lot of grey area. Two common themes among help-seeking mothers are their fear of negative consequences and their mistrust of the system. Understandably, mothers are fearful of losing their children, making it more difficult to disclose the abuse. This aligns with their mistrust of the system, in that they believe that they will be blamed and possibly held accountable for "neglecting" their children. Unfortunately, victims who are mothers have reported that they felt judged and were met with care providers who were insensitive to their situation when they tried to disclose.
A victim who decides to come forward will meet with several care providers. It will likely begin with police officers who are there interview the victim. It may also begin with medical providers, who are there to examine their injuries. If children are involved, they also meet with social workers. The point is that victims are going to encounter a variety of individuals who are meant to help, but often due not have the resources and specialized training to do so. Therefore, if any of these encounters are negative or makes the victim feel unsafe, it is very likely that they will not fully disclose and will instead feel like there is no way out.
"But it's not abuse, he loves me."
Questioning why some victims stay in relationships where abuse is involved is common. However, it is important to consider that they may not even realize that it is abuse. Many victims may assume that the abuse is normal because how often it happens within their relationship. They believe that it is simply the way that their partner shows their love to them. This is very common when the abuser tends to "make-up" for it with gifts or apologies. We must also acknowledge that not all domestic abuse is physical. It can be emotional as well. Victims who experience emotional abuse from their partners, don't consider it abuse because their is no clear sign of anything physical. Because of this, they may feel like they can't report it since they don't have any way to "prove" it. Overall, it's important to realize that many women aren't knowledgeable in what domestic violence entails, which undoubtedly affect the likelihood that they will come forward.
Fear is a powerful thing.
It may seem logical to assume that if the victim is afraid of their abuser, that they would then leave them. However, fear runs much deeper than that. Many women simply fear for their lives. They're afraid that their partner will find them if they try to leave or retaliate against them. This fear acts as a barrier to reporting the abuse and victims may perceive that just staying in the relationship is much safer.
There are countless other factors that affect the likelihood of victims reporting domestic abuse. Some of these include the victim's emotional and financial dependency on the perpetrator, cultural and familial attitudes towards abuse, and the perceived lack of a support system. The point is that it is never just as simple as coming forward. There is nothing easy nor simple about it. As outsiders to the abuse, it is our job to understand victims and meet them where they are at. Provide them with the support they need and leave your judgement outside. Again, if you are a victim, you are so much stronger than you realize and this does not define who you are.
Visit www.thehotline.org/ for more information about domestic violence