Eliminate That Seven Times Statistic

How to Stay Away for Good

By: Sydney Martin

On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. And although society might question this statistic, and how it is possible for survivors to return to their abusers, there are many factors that play into leaving an abusive relationship permanently. So, if you are one of those people who have returned to your abuser, understand that it is a difficult process, and you shouldn’t feel shame about having gone back. However, here at Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, we want to help you find resources and support for staying away from those unhealthy relationships.

According to an article from the University of Illinois by Lyndal Khaw who performed a study with 25 abused women, there are five stages that have been identified in leaving an abusive relationship:

Stage 1 and 2: The first and second stage are starting to not care for your abuser anymore, and disconnecting emotionally from the abusive relationship.

Stage 3: The third stage includes noticing the effects of the abuse, and starting to make preparations to leave, as well as leaving itself.

Stage 4: The fourth stage is going back to the relationship. Jennifer Hardesty, a University of Illinois assistant professor of human and community development, said this stage includes a lot of back and forth. Survivors need clarity, but they also want to be physically and emotionally connected again, which leads to returning to the relationship.

Stage 5: The fifth stage is actually leaving an abusive relationship. Being gone for six months or more marks this last stage.

It is difficult to leave an abusive relationship, and actually leaving will be one of the strongest things you will ever do. It takes time to leave for good, and if you’re stuck in one of these stages, it is OK. That’s what we’re here for – to help you along the way.

Let’s focus on the fourth stage, going back to the abusive relationship. Ultimately, the goal would be to skip this step altogether, and have only four stages in this process. However, even if this stage can’t be eliminated, we will do our best to reduce the number of times that survivors return to abusers. In order to do this, we will explore different reasons why survivors of domestic violence return to these relationships. Once we understand why people go back, we will know what is necessary to combat it.

According to EmpowHer, a women’s health website, there are some common reasons why people return to their abusers.

  • Love of the abuser: It is easy to forget that women or men can still love their abusers, even after they leave. In many cases, love for an abuser plays a significant role in returning.

How do you move past this and stay away?

Just as in any other relationship that ends, it takes time to grieve the loss of love and the relationship. You must allow yourself time to grieve, but that does not mean it is the smartest choice to go back because you love your abuser. Your safety is your priority, and you should remember this when you think about going back. In these moments, remember that you are worth being treated well. You are loved by friends and family, and reach out to them to help you grieve the end of your relationship. But also, take care of yourself. It is such an important part of the healing process – find things that make you happy. Rediscover hobbies or join clubs or activities to meet new people. Praise yourself for your accomplishments, big or small, and counter any negative self-talk with affirmations. Work on loving yourself and it will be easier to stay away.

  • Hope that things will change: Abuse is a cycle, with outbursts followed by apologies and a period of time in which the abuser tries to convince their partner that they can change and it won’t happen again. Because abusers aren’t abusive all of the time, hope that the abuser will change can drive someone back.

How do you move past this and stay away?

According to an article on Health Guidance by Mack Lemouse, cutting off contact with your abuser is an important step in staying away. Deleting them from social media, blocking them, changing phone numbers if necessary, and destroying any letters they might send you can keep you from reaching out to them, even if you have a weak moment. If you are not in contact with your abuser, it will be less likely they are able to convince you they can change. If you do have those moments of hope when you believe you can make a life with your abuser, reach out and talk to someone about those feelings. Feeling the support of others and understanding that you are loved in healthy ways by others can make it easier to put the abusive relationship in perspective, and keep yourself from going back.

  • Normalcy: Some survivors have grown up in abusive households, or only ever been in abusive relationships. When this happens, those who have been abused don’t always recognize that abusive behavior is destructive. They might just think it’s normal.

How do you move past this and stay away?

Considering counseling can be a good step if you’ve known abuse most of your life. Matching yourself with a counselor can provide a safe and private environment for you to express your thoughts, feelings and fears. A counselor won’t judge you and will be able to help you work through your past abuse, and learn that it shouldn’t be your normal. Entering counseling does not mean that you are mentally ill or cannot handle things on your own. What it does mean is that you are prioritizing your healing and succeeding, and putting yourself in a position to do that. You can also work to educate yourself. The more you know about abuse, the less likely you are to think of it as normal, and you will be able to recognize abusive behaviors and stay away. BTS, along with other organizations, have a multitude of educational resources for you.

  • Fear: Survivors are in the most danger in the period immediately after leaving an abusive relationship. Because of this, some may return to abusive relationships in an attempt to protect their lives.

How do you move past this and stay away?

There are steps you can take to protect yourself once you have left your abusive relationship. According to Women’s Lawyou can obtain an emergency protective order, which can go into effect immediately and lasts five to seven days to give you time to file for a restraining order. These restraining orders can force the abuser to leave a mutual residence. Change the locks on your vehicle and house, stay with friends, family or a domestic violence shelter. The more support you surround yourself with, the more people you will have looking out for you. Speak with an abuse counselor about finding a lawyer if you need help keeping you or your children safe. While it can be scary to worry about an abuser coming back, taking precautions and surrounding yourself with people who know of your abuser and are watching out for you can help keep you safe, and away from abuse.

  • Lack of Support: Leaving an abusive relationship requires a lot of emotional and material support. Survivors need a place to go, help with children and access to vital resources, as well as understanding from loved ones. Judgment of others as well as a lack of resources can drive someone back to an abusive relationship if they have no one to talk to or support them.

How do you move past this and stay away?

Surround yourself with people who love you and want to help you through this difficult time. If you don’t feel as though you have anywhere to go, or anyone to talk to, there are plenty of resources for you besides your family and friends. Domestic abuse shelters are all across the country, and can be located easily. The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides alist of organizationsin your state to help you find a shelter and so does Domestic Shelters where you can simply enter your zip code and get a list of shelters within 15 miles.

If you ever need to talk to someone about your experience or your feelings about your abusive relationship, but feel as though no one can understand, please call a hotline in your area. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and BTS is 1-855-BTS (287)-1777. Your abuser is not the only one you can turn to. There is a community of survivors in the world who are willing to help you and listen to you. Always remember that you have other options besides going back. BTS and organizations like it can be your support.

There is no denying that leaving an abusive relationship is difficult, scary and requires much courage. There are many things along the way that could make it easy to turn back. However, even though a survivor returns to their abuser an average of seven times before leaving for good, we hope that these tips can help you find ways to overcome obstacles and say goodbye to your abuser forever.

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