To show up in the statistics for Relationship Abuse, and hopefully not on the death statistics, the crime, and it IS a crime, has to be reported. All too often, Relationship Abuse continues for many years before authorities find out it’s happening.
Delayed reporting is a significant issue but it is NOT one which should diminish believability. Experts say the closer the relationship between victim and perpetrator, the higher the chances that there will be a significant delay in reporting.
Some victims keep quiet out of shame or for fear that they won't be believed: after all, their perpetrator might be a well-known, well-respected person. Others have nowhere else to go and view silence as a way of keep a roof over their heads. Some suffer abuse in the hope that their children, siblings or pets won’t be harmed. There are many, many reasons why people are hesitant to report the abuse or violence being perpetrated upon themselves or their loved ones: and that has to change.
The first step towards encouraging that change is to develop a clear societal understanding that it is NEVER the victim's fault: violence is ALWAYS a choice and the perpetrator needs to take full responsibility for any violence or abuse they carry out - and to suggest otherwise is victim-blaming.
Victim-blaming marginalises the victim/survivor making it harder for them to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames the survivor for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you.
Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what the abuser has been saying all along: that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. It is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation: it is the abuser’s choice. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate Relationship Abuse while avoiding accountability for those actions.
So, what can you do about it?
- Challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them
- Never agree with abusers’ excuses for why they abuse
- Let survivors know that it is not their fault
- Hold abusers accountable for their actions:
do not let them, or others, make excuses like blaming the victim, alcohol, or drugs for their behaviour
- Acknowledge that survivors are their own best experts and provide them with resources and support
- Reframe the question from 'Why does the victim stay?' to 'Why does the perpetrator abuse?'
Do nothing and you may as well lend a hand.