ASK JANICE DVAM SPECIAL: Stop Asking “Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”

Why doesn’t she just leave?

This five-word question, often asked somewhat in good faith, makes my teeth itch. Sorry, not sorry, but this post is a bit of a rant.

Listen. It was one thing to ask “Why doesn’t she just leave?” years ago, when even talking about intimate partner violence was taboo. Or back before social media blew up with its endless supply of awareness months, keyboard activism, and true crime podcasts. This was long before we had newsfeeds that were jam-packed with horrific stories about violence and murder.  Remember those good ol’ days? It was easier to bury your head in the sand and ignore such topics unless they affected you or your family personally.

But it’s 2022. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ve seen, read, or heard countless stories of women dying at the hands of the men they loved, most often after they’ve left (or tried to leave). You already know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), and have at least a vague knowledge of the stats, like how every 9 seconds a woman somewhere is physically assaulted by their intimate partner. Or that 1 in 4 women (and 1 in 9 men) have been victims of severe physical assault in the United States.

But if you’re still asking why a woman won’t “just leave” her abuser, then either you haven’t been paying attention, or we (activists, survivors, and allies) haven’t done a good enough job of getting the message out there.  So let me make it plain. According to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, intimate partner violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women!

Wait. There’s more:

  • Only 34% of people (women and men) get medical care for their injuries after a DV/IPV incident.
  • Only 27% of women report their attacks to the police.
  • Domestic violence hotlines get more than 20,000 calls per day.
  • A woman’s risk of dying increases by 500% when a firearm is present.

Not only that, but domestic and intimate partner violence is deadly. And here’s the kicker (and the reason for this rant): the deadliest time for women experiencing DV/IPV is from the moment she plans to leave to up to a year after she does leave! In fact, women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship!

Read that last sentence again.

Now read it one more time.

In 2017, The Huffington Post calculated that the number of women killed by a current or former male partner added up to nearly double the soldier lives lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the same 11-year period. More women were killed by intimate partners than soldiers died fighting in two wars, and y’all still wanna ask why she didn’t “just leave”? GTFOHWTBS

While “just leaving” isn’t always feasible, there are ways for a woman to extricate herself from a dangerous relationship with the help of experts and proper planning. Now, I know that sometimes, a woman has to quickly leave when her life is in immediate and imminent danger. But most DV/IPV experts recommend first developing a comprehensive safety plan to leave. This will require stealth, as abusers tend to isolate and monitor their victims’ online activity. That’s why most DV/IPV websites and hotlines have safety features to protect and cloak a user’s searches. The most important thing is that a safety plan be developed with the help of experts and other trusted individuals to ensure the woman can leave, stay free, and live.

Even if she wants to, more often than not, an abused woman can’t just up and leave. Not without a comprehensive safety plan to ensure she survives her escape. Because an abuser is most dangerous when he feels like he’s losing control, and that’s often the case when she tries to or does leave.

You’ve seen the statistics. You know the facts. And hopefully, you understand that the responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the abuser. So instead of asking her “why don’t you just leave”? Ask him “why does the abuse keep happening?”

Ok. Rant over.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is experience intimate partner abuse, help is available. You don’t have to do this alone. Please reach out to the experts who can offer you confidential counsel, resources, and assistance, regardless of your situation. The best place to start is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or Text START to 88788. 

Be safe and take care

#DVAM2022 #DVAM #DV/IPV #domesticviolencekills #enddomesticviolencenow

2 responses on “ASK JANICE DVAM SPECIAL: Stop Asking “Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”

  1. Yvette

    That’s an unbelievable stat, “… women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship!” Very sobering number. My mother left my abusive stepfather (who had a firearm) when I was six years old and I can’t imagine how close she came to being that statistic. She “…just left” eventually, but her support system (I had a strong aunt who had shot man and she was one of her supporters) was probably what spared her(us).

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