Helping someone whose partner is abusing them physically and/or emotionally can be a hard and painful experience. And even with the best intentions, your words can backfire.
- Why don’t you just leave? Asking someone why they can’t just leave shifts the burden of the violence onto the survivor, over the abuser. It implies everything could be over if the victim took action, rather than if the perpetrator stopped hurting them. It’s the equivalent of asking what a rape survivor was wearing or drinking at the time of the assault. It’s destructive victim-blaming and unproductive in stopping the violence.
- If you don’t do something, I will. While rescuing someone from such a situation seems like a good idea, it’s ultimately up to the survivor to take the move to get out of their relationship. Their abuser’s already stripped their autonomy away from them; don’t be another person who does.
- Did you do anything to provoke them? Equality of victim blaming. Nothing they can do makes them deserve physical or emotional harm.
- You don’t care about yourself and/or your kids if you don’t leave. This is yet another way of blaming the victim for their abuse. They’re already defeated at home, and you’re adding to the guilt and shame so many survivors feel. There are many reasons why they may be afraid to leave.
- Just go to a shelter. This is my favorite because, I’ve been there! It’s not luxury, despite how you may picture it. Where we are now isn’t luxury either, right? No, but at least we have a little privacy. There’s no place like home. And why should the victim be punished: Searched, placed in the back of a police car and driven to a place to be locked up?
- You shouldn’t have dropped the restraining order. Another equality of victim-blaming. Instead, ask why and try not to be judgmental. I know it’s hard to understand when you haven’t experienced something, they may have a good reason.
- Fight Back. “Why do you take that?” “Pick up something and knock him out.” First, this could ultimately place the victim in an even more harmful situation. Second, the victim. Third, this gives the abuser room to play the victim.