Rockford (WREX) — Well why didn’t you just leave? Those are 5 words almost every domestic violence survivor hears.
“It’s very easy on the outside to say you know you should just leave, or you should get out of there, if it was me i wouldn’t put up with it, but those are the wrong messages.” said Becky Winstead, the Domestic Violence Program Director at Remedies Renewing Lives.
That’s because for many domestic violence survivors, just leaving their abuser isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“They can be very manipulative, can make a lot of threats to keep them from taking certain actions, they often control all of their finances, they isolate them from their friends and family and support system.” said Winstead.
That was the case for one survivor, who wanted to remain anonymous for her safety.
“I did get threatened that he would want to harm us in some type of way.”
However, the verbal and eventually physical threats didn’t deter her, at first.
“He kept saying he was gonna change, you know he loves me, we’re gonna get married. All those things.”
It wasn’t until her children got tangled in the mess, that she says changed everything.
“My kids were taken away from me. So once they were taken away from me, that’s when I woke up, I cannot do this anymore. This is enough.”
That’s a common theme for many abusive relationships.
“They try to leave and maybe the abuser draws them back in, or they aren’t able to support themselves financially. Or the partner followed through with some of those threats they said they would make; if you ever leave me I’m going to hurt you, I’m going to take the kids, I’m going to sabotage your job, whatever it might be.” said Winstead.
Although in this case, the changes he promised didn’t happen, Remedies Renewing Lives says it is possible.
“There isn’t good research out there on how effective services are with perpetrators, but I do believe some men choose to change. You know, she can’t choose to have violence imposed upon her, or power and control. But he can choose not to exert his demands on her.” said Karen Gill, Vice President of Operations at Remedies Renewing Lives.
Remedies doesn’t just help victims, it helps the abusers as well.
“They go through a 26 week, two hours a week group sessions, and there’s some individual sessions there too. But, they need to come to the awareness of what they’re doing, in order to make the change.” said Gill.
Remedies says Rockford is doing a good job of helping survivors get out of these relationships.
“We’re doing a lot more than other communities, I’m very proud of this community for what we’re doing. But there’s more to do.” said Gill.
However, these programs are just one way we as a community can continue to help victims walk away from their abusers, safely. Slowly but surely, shattering the stigma.
“I’ve always said that we could end domestic violence. All it takes is a belief system in each and every human being in a community that says, hurting another person is wrong.” said Gill.