Is it Just to Insist that Survivors Flee?
The situation in which a survivor recognizes the abusive aspects of a relationship but continues in the relationship is sometimes referred to as 'in contact' In the social work and legal communities this is a term of disapproval. The public health and legal system (let alone popular sentiment) usually insist the survivor end the relationship to receive respect and practical help. The system is 'flee-centric." This is appropriate perhaps for those relationships in which abuse is a progressive process that can only end in death. There are many very good reasons that a survivor may want to stay in contact:
- She recognizes that the danger and lethality is greater when there is separation. Leaving increases her danger even with a protection order.
- Leaving impoverishes her or impoverishes her further, even with social services. poverty hurts women and children too.
- If there are children, child support will almost surely not be paid adequately, and a 'scorched-earth' custody battle will ensue. Most women understand, in abusive or even merely bad relationships, that leaving is much easier after children are grown.
- She may genuinely be attracted to her partner, and want to continue the relationship but with her partner behaving differently. This is the same as almost everyone in a relationship.
- She may consider her partner someone who is ailing and should receive help not sanctions.
But staying in contact, apart from the natural consequences, has many repercussions:
- If there are children, she may be subject to CPS claims of endangerment or failure to protect.
- She will then be blamed for her own abuse.
- Financial, housing, or employment help that could otherwise help the household is held back or delayed.
- There is no framework for protection that helps her since protective services are all based on no contact.
Community advocates have understood for a long time that the decision to leave or stay belongs with the survivor (and neither decision should trigger a loss in help)