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Domestic abuse is a real and common occurrence in many homes nationwide. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.[1] Victims can experience mental health issues, especially those related to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The stigma surrounding domestic abuse and mental health issues is a significant problem that often hinders progress in addressing these critical concerns. Both domestic abuse and mental health problems affect individuals across various demographics, causing women to experience misunderstanding, judgment, and discrimination due to prevailing stigmatization. Survivors need support, not shame.

Nevertheless, survivors of domestic abuse often face blame, skepticism, and even disbelief when sharing their experiences. This can lead to a reluctance to disclose what's happening to them or to seek help when there are available resources.

What causes the stigma so many face as survivors and victims? This stigma arises from societal misconceptions and victim-blaming attitudes that place the burden of responsibility on the survivor rather than holding the abuser accountable for their actions. Exposure to violence and abuse increases one's risk of experiencing mental illness mentioned above, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. It can even precede substance use and suicidal behaviors.

But just like domestic abuse victims, women with mental health issues are frequently stigmatized. When this happens, they can experience discrimination and marginalization at a time when they are most vulnerable. Additionally, misunderstandings and stereotypes about mental health can result in people reacting to those with mental health issues out of fear, judgment, and avoidance. Such reactions can prevent individuals from seeking help and receiving the support they need.

At it’s root, the stigma surrounding mental health problems stems from a lack of awareness, fear of the unknown, and societal pressure to conform to perceived norms of mental well-being. So often, as with domestic abuse, stigmatization can prevent women from openly discussing their struggles, which may worsen their conditions and impede their recovery. Only recently have we begun to embrace the idea that "It's okay, not to be okay."

Our goal is to help raise awareness about various aspects of domestic abuse. It's important to know that because of the stigmas surrounding these public health crises, the mental health needs of domestic abuse victims often go unmet. Moreover, the systems that victims and children turn to are frequently unprepared to give them access to proper safety and to heal from their trauma. Addressing the needs of victims requires a multi-pronged approach from mental health and social service providers, community advocates, and the larger community.

The Women's Advocacy Center aims to help restore a woman's emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Our AIM Program assists clients with their basic needs, invests in their overall well-being, and mentors them in healthy relationships. Our goal is to educate women on gaining economic independence and forming healthy relationships while stabilizing their families and strengthening their faith.

Our training for organizations and nonprofits will help educate you and your team on some of the critical aspects of domestic abuse. Contact us today to learn more about these services or how you can help us share hope and change lives.

[1] National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report

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In our last blog post, we discussed the question of why a woman might not leave an abusive relationship. Now, it’s also essential to look at what happens when a domestic abuse victim decides to leave. What’s next? Here is one woman’s point of view:

I didn’t grieve when I left my abusive partner. There was no time to cry. I had a baby to take care of. No job, and I moved back in with my parents, who wanted me to work on my relationship and not have my child raised in a “broken home.” My tough exterior hid how broken I already felt inside.

I lived with them for a year while I interviewed for jobs, searched for a babysitter, and found a new place of our own. I am in the lesser statistic: I was able to take my child and leave an abusive relationship with financial and physical support from my family. Not every woman in the same situation has that kind of support.

- Anonymous

The fact is survivors return to their abusive partners an average of seven times before they leave for good. It’s mainly due to the reasons behind not leaving right away – lack of resources, fear, shared children, or love.

So, when a woman finally leaves, there are many things she will face and feel, all while trying to get back on steady ground. This includes finding a place to live, a job, a support network, childcare, and even finding time for herself. They must figure out how to co-parent with the abuser.

It’s important to understand that abuse victims need support without judgment. They often will not open up and talk about their feelings due to shame. During this crucial time, women need as much help as possible. If you know someone who has left an abusive relationship, one of the best things you can do is build awareness – for yourself and those around the victim.

Find help for her through churches, women’s centers, and advocacy groups. If you work together, suggest training for your organization to educate you and your team on some of the critical aspects of domestic abuse.

The Women’s Advocacy Center offers training modules for those who want to understand how abuse happens and the dynamic that makes it difficult for victims to leave harmful relationships. Learn more and schedule a consultation here.

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We've all been touched by it. A woman we work with. Someone from church. A relative. A story in the news. Regardless of how we know, the outcome is the same: A woman, the victim of domestic abuse, is killed by an intimate partner, husband, or boyfriend.

For as long as domestic abuse has occurred, the question has been asked, "why didn't she leave him?" It's almost as if the answer was self-explanatory. But in many cases, the cost of leaving abusive relationships outweighs the price of staying, even if it is at the expense of a woman's life.

Many times, the victim will put her children's well-being and their financial security above her own. Leaving takes more than strength. There are many things a domestic abuse victim must consider.

The price of freedom comes with a cost

When considering leaving an abusive environment, a woman must consider all the expenses she will now bear the burden of alone. Managing childcare, food, a new place to live, transportation, and everything else can be overwhelming. Working outside of the home may not be an option for some who cannot afford childcare.

Many women lack financial means or have had finances controlled by their abusive partner. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, up to 99% of domestic violence victims experience economic abuse throughout an abusive relationship. Finances are often cited as the most significant barrier to leaving an abusive relationship.

When leaving doesn’t guarantee safety

Leaving an abusive relationship, especially when children are involved, includes remaining in contact with someone presumably adamant about destroying or hurting the leaving party.

The legal ramifications alone are enough. In most states, courts favor both parents being involved in a child’s life if it is in their best interest. Because most domestic abuse cases aren’t reported, it is difficult to prove in court that a father has been abusive to the mother and/or children. This means a mother will likely have custody of her children subject to visitation from the father. The fear and sickness in the pit of her stomach brew, knowing her children will be alone with the abuser.

What about parenting time exchanges? Doctor’s appointments? School or extra-curricular events? Just because a woman has left does not mean the threat of violence or abuse has.

Abuse is emotional too

Traditionally, women are accused of “overexaggerating” or being “too sensitive” due to their tendency to be more emotional than men. Women have to face the feelings most feel when ending a relationship: failure, guilt, and grief, yet often without family and friends' support.

The victim might be ashamed to tell her support network about being involved in an abusive relationship. There is a lot of stigma around domestic abuse and single mothers. A woman or man may not be inclined to tell family or friends that a spouse cheated. Imagine the embarrassment when sharing that she or her children have been abused by a man who promised to love and protect them.

And like any end of a relationship, grieving the loss is a real thing. Whether the abuse is present or not, losing a partner or loved one is difficult. One must be mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically ready to face what lies ahead.

What can you do to help? First, remember domestic violence is not a private family issue. It is a community problem, and the victim should never be blamed. No one deserves the abuse; no one should go through it alone. The first step is asking them if they need someone to talk to and reminding them they are not alone.

Support organizations like The Women's Advocacy Center. Our mission is to empower and support survivors of domestic abuse. We educate them on ways to gain economic independence and form healthy relationships while stabilizing their families and strengthening their faith.

Learn more here.

If you or someone you know is involved in a relationship that is abusive. Reach out to us. We can help women in the East Shelby County, Tennessee communities of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Cordova, Germantown, Lakeland, Millington, or Rossville,

If you are outside our service area, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline now at:


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