Why does it take 7 years…

7 years is the average time women using Solace services have experienced abuse for (Solace, 2022*). There are many reasons why it is so difficult to leave an abusive relationship. In our #7YearsofChristmas video, we’ve depicted the common reasons and barriers to escaping abuse through our remaking of the classic “12 Days of Christmas” tune. 

Perpetrators of domestic abuse will create barriers that are impossible to cross for the survivor but are often invisible to the rest of the world. Instead of asking “Why didn’t she leave”, ask “Why couldn’t she leave?”.

I thought I was in love… 

Abusers rarely reveal themselves at the start of a relationship. In fact, they go to great lengths to hide who they truly are. Dr Jane Mockton-Smith’s ‘homicide timeline’ states that relationship that move quickly from dating to serious could be a red flag for coercive controlling abuse or an indication of future homicide. 

He took away my phone… 

Abusers often try to cut off the survivor’s connection with the outside world. This makes it difficult to seek help. The increased isolation forces women to become reliant on their abuser, making the decision to leave incredibly difficult. 

Coercive control is described as ‘an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.’ (Women’s Aid, 2022). Isolation is a common tactic of coercive control. 

Over half of survivors have had essential resources restricted by their abuser during this cost of living crisis (Solace, 2022). Solace provide welcome packs to every woman who walks through our doors, containing essentials like clothes, medication and food parcels. 

I tried to make it work… 

Abuse does not have to be regular or cyclical. Some relationships will have years between any violence ‘incidences’. Abuse isn’t always constant and is often unpredictable. Survivors often describe it as “walking on eggshells”. Often women will adjust their behaviour in order to keep themselves and their children safe. 

Pregnancy can be a trigger for domestic abuse, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth. 

I got what I deserved… 

Abusers will often blame their partners for their own violence behaviour. Gaslighting is often used by abusers to make the survivor believe that it is her fault and that he is only reacting to her “unfair” treatment. It is so powerful that women can often be convinced that they are to blame.

No one deserves to be hurt, frightened or isolated. It is never the victim’s fault. 

He told me he would change… 

Love bombing is described as behaviour where the abuser will be overly romantic, lavish with gifts and compliments, profess true love and lure survivor into false sense of security. They may come across as persistent, ‘attentive’, kind and understanding. Pushing the survivor into dependency under the guise of love.

Apologies are rare and often used as a manipulation tactic to gain back control and keep survivors in the relationship. 

Read more about love bombing here

I stayed there for the kids… 

The 2021 Domestic Abuse Act now explicitly recognises children as survivors of domestic abuse rather than categorised under Child Abuse. 

Perpetrators will use the children as a controlling tactic either during or after the relationship. Social care and the family courts system are used to threaten women into staying silent for fear of losing their children.

Perpetrators can feel threatened by the children. Set rules for the whole household to follow, favour one child over others and even force children to enact abuse on mother. 

A difficult decision to leave can be made even harder when children are involved because women are scared that they could end up homeless or not have enough to support their children. Having to move them out the family home and change schools can cause immense upheaval for children. 

He threatened to kill me… 

Leaving a relationship is when survivors can finally take back control. However it is often the most dangerous time.  

In the UK, 85 women have been killed by men (or where a man is the principal suspect) in 2022 so far (accurate as of 27/10/22). https://kareningalasmith.com/counting-dead-women/ 

Solace help thousands of women every year to flee abuse safely. Support us today to help more women escape quicker. 

If you’d like to learn more about domestic abuse attend our training sessions from sector experts. Find out more here.

If you need support visit our Get Help page. In an emergency call 999. 

*Average is calculated from length of abuse reported by service users.