The Adver is working with Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service to support its 16-day campaign raising awareness of domestic violence. Today, we look at a frequently-asked question.

Why don’t victims of domestic violence just leave?

It’s a question that is often asked. And the answer, according to Swindon Domestic Abuse Service, can be trauma bonding.

The charity, formerly known as Swindon Women’s Aid, said it can happen when an abuser is also providing their victim with the basics the need for life – money, safety, peace and happiness.

Trauma bonding is a strong emotional connection that develops between the victim and a perpetrator in an abusive relationship.

This develops because in an abusive relationship, an abuser can be frightening and hurtful, but they may then be intermittently kind, for example giving presents and affection or even stopping the abuse for a period of time.

In these moments, the victim feels a rush of gratitude and love for the abuser and feels relief that the abuse has ended. The rescuer and the tormentor are the very same person, which means the bond becomes deeper than other healthy relationships as they start to depend on the abuser to survive.

Through trauma bonding, the victim can lose their own beliefs and identity and instead take on the beliefs of their captor in order to survive. They believe that the perpetrator’s behaviour is the result of a flaw in themselves and turns inwards to try and resolve this and works harder to please him or her. Often, a victim’s sole goal becomes the abuser’s approval. Interactions with others become hollow and superficial as a result. A victim will often become less argumentative in order to survive.

Trauma bonding makes it easier for a victim to survive within the relationship, but it can severely undermine the victim’s sense of self, their ability to accurately see danger, and impair their ability to see alternatives to their situation.

Once a trauma bond is established it can become difficult for the victim to break free of the relationship.

How does someone break free?

A victim must feel safe and out of “survival mode” before they will be able to focus on their own wellbeing, SWA says.

However, the good news is that recovery from a trauma bond is possible. To survive this, the victim needs to stop contact with the perpetrator and focus on putting themselves and their recovery first.

Getting in touch with an organisation like Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service is an important step forwards in recognising domestic abuse and understanding that it was not your fault. The charity’s 24-hour helpline is 01793 610610.