When a story about spousal abuse breaks, you often see people saying that they do not understand why the person who was being abused didn’t simply leave their spouse. Why would they stay in that relationship if things were so bad?

These questions show a lack of understanding of the fundamental challenges faced by many people who are suffering from domestic abuse. They do not always feel like they have the option to leave. It’s not nearly as easy as it appears from the outside.

Fear and lack of resources are two main factors victims stay with their abusers

There are many reasons why victims stay with their abusers, but two of the big ones are fear and a lack of resources. The person who is being abused fears that their spouse will retaliate if they try to leave, and/or they do not feel like they have the resources needed to make it on their own. Maybe their spouse controls the bank accounts, for instance, and so they don’t know where they’d go, how they’d pay to live on their own or how they’d even make ends meet.

For immigrants, things can be even worse. Say someone has a green card because they married a U.S. citizen. If they leave that person, are they going to get deported? Are they going to have to leave the country they call home? Will they be able to start a life on their own or not? There are so many unknowns that they may stay in that abusive relationship for a long time.

Fortunately, there are legal options for people in these situations. No one deserves to be abused, and there are ways to get out. The Violence Against Women Act, for example, offers one road to safety. Learning more about your options can help you break the cycle and move forward