Whenever the subject of domestic abuse is under discussion, eventually the pnrase 'why didn't she just leave?' will get tossed into the mix.
Not helpful. Seriously not helpful. If you haven't enough life experience or empathy to figure the answer out on your own, let me repeat here something I said in comments over on Feministe. (You are reading Feministe, right?) (Note to self: blog roll.)
I have a simple response to the ‘why didn’t she just leave?’ crowd.
Imagine, as an exercise, that someone is going to walk in here right now and put a gun to your head and tell you that in one month you have to be living in a completely new life. You must accomplish this with no extra funds beyond what you have to hand right this minute.
You can tell anyone you like what you are doing and ask for help. But, if the guy with the gun finds out about it, he will come and shoot you.
You can continue to go to work, but at any time for the rest of your life, if the guy with the gun decides to, he will come and shoot you. Likewise, if you have kids, they can continue to attend their present schools and sports and social activities- unless and until the guy with the gun decides to come and shoot you.
Church? Same deal. Your family and friends? Same deal.
If at any time while you are getting ready to go the guy with the gun can tell you are planning to leave or see any evidence of your actually doing anything towards leaving- bang.
Now, by nefarious means, it seems the guy with the gun has managed to get his name on your bank account. Your credit cards. He has, in fact, complete and free access to your entire life. He’s going to be coming and going from your home with impunity.
Call the cops? Okay. Maybe they’ll believe you. But unless they take him away to jail and keep him there- well, you know where this is going by now.
Now, let’s twist this around. Maybe the guy with the gun says he won’t hurt you- if you don’t leave. Or make him mad. Maybe he says he wasn’t serious, maybe he says he was just so upset, maybe he says he’s sorry and he really loves you and it won’t happen again.
And maybe, just maybe, the guy is in fact someone you loved and trusted and he isn’t like that all the time. Maybe he’s usually charming and maybe everyone you know and love and trust think he’s a good guy. Maybe when you try to talk about this little problem they ask you what else was going on, is he stressed at work, are you keeping the house clean and the kids quiet, are you sure you didn’t do or say something that made him angry? Maybe your mother thinks he’s great. Maybe your kids love him.
Maybe she doesn’t leave because she doesn’t know how. Maybe there isn’t anywhere to go, maybe she doesn’t have a support network, maybe her pastor and her boss aren’t as all-fired understanding as the ‘just leave’ crowd suggests. Maybe she can’t afford rent and child care and car upkeep on what she can make alone.
Maybe completely uprooting and re-arranging your life isn’t all that easy after all.
It's easy to armchair quarterback this issue when you don't have a dog in the fight. When it's not someone you love and trust and maybe even made a child or two with, when it's not your family and friends who are asking questions (or not asking questions, like 'what happened to your face?'). When it's not your child who has to be snatched out of the house under cover of darkness and doesn't understand why we can't go home, when it's not you sitting in a rotten chair in a busy police station to explain to a desk cop why you need to file a report- yeah, 'just leave' sounds easy.
It isn't easy to admit that the person you love is hurting you. It isn't easy to accept the idea that there's nothing you can do to make the person you love stop hurting you. It isn't easy to walk away from your entire life. But it would be a hell of a lot easier if people didn't ask questions like 'why doesn't she just leave?' and then not seem to want to actually hear the answers.