When I meet people, I am asked "Where do you work?" I proudly state that I am an advocate and county coordinator for Jackson and Cottonwood Counties for the Southwest Crisis Center. As an advocate I stand beside, behind and in front of victims and survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking. Many times the question I receive from people is, "Oh, what a hard job you have, but why don't they leave?" Instead a better question is, "Why does a person stay?" A barrier to why someone stays, may be that they do not want to break up the family. Our society has placed great emphasis on maintaining the family unit and idealizing that children are raised in a two-parent family. The abuser may threaten to take the children away from the victim and this fear can force the individual to accept the personal abuse. The abuser uses the children to make the victim feel guilty and blame her for the destruction of the family. Lacking support The victim may lack support from family and friends because the victim has been isolated from them. An important thing to recognize is that the victim, many times, still loves the abuser and believes the abuser will change. A victim might stay because the victim believes they have provoked it. The victim believes by their actions or lack of actions, they have provoked the abuser to be abusive. The victim feels they have not done "the right thing," because the abuser has used physical, verbal and emotional abuse to maintain power and control in the relationship and convinced the victim it is their "fault." Abusers have used intimidation, personal attacks, victim blaming and embarrassment and shame, to remind victims it is their fault that they are abused. Furthermore, the victim feels emotionally trapped because of behavior that is intimidating, minimizing, denying, blaming, isolating and the use of coercion and threats. Nowhere to live Another barrier is the victim has nowhere else to live. The abuser has used economic abuse and controlled the finances of the victim. The abuser has prevented the victim from obtaining or keep a job. If the victim has a job, the abuser may be controlling the money that the victim is earning. The abuser may "give" an allowance to convince the victim that they have control over their earnings. The victim will not have access or information about the family income and this often leads to debt that they are unaware of. Because of the lack financial resources, debt and personal credit score, the victim struggles in obtaining a place to live on their own. Fear for their life The last barrier that I want to mention is that people living in abusive situations fear for their life. Threats and the fear of violence increases when the decision to leave the abusive relationship is made or the abuser feels they are losing control. Physical and sexual violence increases during this time to maintain power and control over the victim. Other tactics include: intimidation, coercion and threats. The abuser may perpetrate violence toward family pets by kicking, failure to provide food and even killing that pet. This intimidation enforces fear. The abuser may break things to display their power. The abuser may display weapons to remind the victim what can be done and to intimidate the victim into specific behaviors that the abuser desires. What can you do to help someone experiencing domestic violence? Speak to the individual in private. Do not speak to the individual when the abuser is around. Ask the individual if something is wrong. It is OK to express concern, to listen and validate the person's feelings. Provide information of resources in your community to help the victim and support their decisions. Don't judge, blame, pressure, or give advice to the individual - listen. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not place conditions on your support. Maria Stumpf Ahmed is an advocate and county coordinator for Jackson and Cottonwood Counties for the Southwest Crisis Center.