This article includes dual perspectives regarding a survivor leaving a violent situation. Prevention Educator Claudia shares from the perspective of an advocate to friends or family members of a domestic violence survivor and Counselor Jessica, gives insight from a professional to a survivor on suggestions for safely leaving an abuser. We recognize that every survivor’s experience is different and encourage both friends and family members seeking advice and survivors needing assistance to reach out to our trained staff for additional assistance and information.
Why It’s Not Always Safe to Tell Them to Leave
By, Claudia Menchaca, Caldwell County Prevention Educator
The most dangerous time for a survivor is when leaving their abuser. It’s hard to admit but, only the survivor truly knows when it’s safe for them to leave. It can be risky to push a survivor to leave.
It can strain your relationship.
The abuser could decide to isolate the survivor from their support system.
If the survivor isn’t ready, they may return (to potentially more violence).
Supporting a survivor means trusting that they know the situation best, including when it’s safe to leave. Their abuser has made a habit of taking choices away from the survivor. Being supportive also means not taking away choices from them. Just because you can’t convince a loved one to leave, doesn’t mean you’re powerless in this situation. Friends and family of the survivor can show up for survivors in impactful ways: treating them how they deserve to be treated, safety planning with the survivor, and providing a safe, calm place of respite and joy. Close friends and family are often the first people a survivor turns to when they need help.
Learning about resources such as how to safety plan, counseling, legal advocacy, and emergency shelter can help connect a survivor to potentially lifesaving services when they are ready. Even if they go back (or never leave), don’t give up! It can be difficult for a survivor to leave, and often doesn’t happen the first try.
An Expert’s Perspective
By, Jessica Morales, MSW Bilingual Counselor
When leaving an abusive relationship, things can escalate quickly, and the danger level is at its highest point. Leaving takes a large amount of planning and precaution, but also courage. When preparing to leave an abusive relationship, creating a safety plan lowers the risk of violence and escalation.
A safety plan is a personalized plan to ensure you’re safe when preparing to leave an abuser and to keep you safe after you leave. The plan may be different for every relationship; however, every plan always has one thing in common: ensuring your safety.
When leaving, it’s important to identify when it’s the best and safest time to leave. This may be when your abusive partner is not home. When leaving, it’s also vital to attempt to bring important documents or items. Safety planning includes taking precautions in your home, locations you visit frequently, and seeking community resources.
Contacting your local Family Violence organization can be incorporated into your plan and can assist in obtaining legal services, additional safety strategies, emergency shelter, and therapeutic services. This ensures that you’re not alone when considering, planning, actively, or have already left an abusive situation.
Claudia Menchaca is the Caldwell County Prevention Educator at the Hays-Caldwell Women's Center. They've taught many subjects over the years, but currently focus on healthy relationship skills for teens. They like chickens, snakes, bugs, and aquatic plants. Their hobbies include including visiting the river, reading, hosting movie nights, and being neighborly.
Jessica is the Non-Residential Bilingual Counselor at the Counseling and Resource Center. She began working at HCWC in December 2021 as a Bilingual Resource Advocate. Jessica then transitioned into a counseling position in 2022. She graduated from Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Social Work. Jessica is grateful to be able to continue my career and develop new strategies when working with survivors. When she is not working, she usually like to spend her time outside hiking, tending to many houseplants, and engaging in meditation and yoga!