Part of my work includes training and raising awareness to end gender-based violence. Without fail, at some point during a training, I am always asked the question: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” The question seems so simple… so innocent… yet, it yields a glimpse into victim-blaming. Somehow, it becomes the survivor’s responsibility to end gender-based violence and they are, in essence, blamed for crime they didn’t commit. It would be the equivalent of asking the victim of a home invasion, why they kept valuables in their home… or the victim of a car theft, why they bought a new car. We do not look to the victims of these crimes to justify their decisions to own a car or keep valuables in their home…. so, why do we ask a survivor to be responsible for the bad behaviour of their abuser? And yes, asking why she didn’t leave is putting the onus and responsibility of the crime on the survivor.
I could write paragraphs on the cycle of violence, pay inequities for women, lack of affordable housing, differing cultural views on divorce, impacts of trauma, lack of affordable childcare (the list goes on) — but, instead I am going to reframe the question. Instead of asking why the survivor of violence doesn’t leave, it is time to ask: “Why is the perpetrator abusing?” As a society, we need to move away from “victim-blaming” and turn the focus on the abuser and their behaviours. The abuser’s actions are NOT acceptable under any circumstances and it is time to turn our focus towards these inappropriate behaviours. Recognizing all forms of abuse and having the integrity to #bemorethanabystander is one step you can take to end gender-based violence. Take your #firststepfirstchange to end gender-based violence and become a Steel City Ally.