Gaslighting and Why We Don’t Leave Abusers


“How could these parents bring their kids to live on the street ?” vs “Why did you stay when he hit you?”

As I have been saying for years, many of my clients have become homeless because they needed to escape an abusive relationship. They left. They escaped. They took their kids with them.

During their relationship (it may be),

  • they were told that their families did not want anything to do with them. . . occasionally by their family but more often this is a made up fact from the abuser.
    • Gaslighting
  • they were called crazy
    • gaslighting
  • they were told it was lucky that anyone wanted to have them
    • gaslighting
  • they were told that the abuser’s family and friends encouraged the abuser to leave the abused person because the abused person was ‘not good enough’
    • gaslighting unless the friends are jerks
  • the abuser said they would kill themselves in the car while driving and take out innocent victims
  • the children did not see or feel the abuse, but that was about to change
  • the kids were being told that the abuse was normal and healthy
  • the kids witnessed the abuse
  • the abused person is isolated and has no money or access to money

so now they are doing their very best to stay alive – and that may look like living on the streets.

Remember, pregnant women are at the highest risk of being a homicide victim.

I have never met an abuser who smelled bad and had no social skills. These people repel relationships and don’t get the chance to abuse.

The abusers I have met are kind and sweet and genial. They are popular. They do not look like abusers because they are so kind to people with whom they are not in intimate relationships.

So, basically, it is hard to leave an abuser if it is hard to identify that the person is an abuser. It is hard to define abuse if you have been normalized to it. It is hard to leave if you have lost all hope.

It is hard to leave when nobody knows – because the secret is dirty and stigmatizing. If you leave and declare that you are leaving because of abuse.  Who will believe you if this has never been a topic before. It looks like drama.

It is hard to leave if you have kids…

  • Changing kid’s school
  • Removing them from their friends
  • Keeping them from families
  • Family members secretly letting the kids see the abuser
  • Helping the kids feel that the move out is not about them
  • Risking homelessness with a child whom you want to protect
  • DCFS becomes a factor
  • Finding a shelter for kids over 14 is hard, with boys it is all but impossible

So, trust that leaving is never the easy choice.

Leaving means disclosing that you are a victim…opening up to public scrutiny.

Leaving means you might have to examine if you really are crazy and friendless and inept. Staying is deadly but often easier.


Published by Homeless

Mommy. Social worker. Nice lady seeking to end homelessness and end poverty. FightOn

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