The repercussions of coming forward can potentially put the person at risk.
Unfortunately, when a person has been systematically abused for a long period of time (years, months), or even just once by the hands of someone they trust, whether it be physical or emotional (most of the time, both) it rewires the victim's brain and alters their decision making process. On top of feelings of guilt and confusion, there is a real presence of danger.
"Could this really be happening to me?"
Research has revealed that victims are most at risk at the time of leaving their abusers, than any other period. It is very easy to say from an outsiders perspective that “I would have just left at the first sign of trouble”. When you are seeing things from the inside, your perception is skewed by isolation, suppressed by fears, combined with a lack of support and confidence.
Popular culture perpetuates victim blaming.
“Why didn't she leave that party?” “He/she must have provoked him/her”
Our entire society is set up to look and ask questions about the victim, not the abuser. The result of these social constructs in thinking are more individuals that are victims of violence to feel more grief, guilt, anxiety, and disbelief. We must realize that violence in our relationships, whether a personal or professional one, aren't specific to social class, sex, race, or income level. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. In fact, it is a naive notion to believe that perpetrators of such violence and aggression are big, bad, terrifying, criminals hanging on the edge of society. We live in a society where abuse and violence can be far more commonplace than what we may perceive, and is the direct result of the cultivation of entitlement to violence culture. So what can we do to stand by our brothers, sisters, friends, and family members that have been directly involved in abuse? Let's start by directing the questions at the perpetrators of violence, not the abused.
We simply don't have better models for resolving disputes and violence.
When we live in an age where violence is seen as a right, that we are entitled to acts of rage and aggression when things don't go as we planned, where there are still individuals like Elliot Rodger leaving behind manifestos filled with hatred and acts of revenge. Elliot Rodger models the same mentality echoed in our misogynistic, entitled-to-violence culture. He felt that he was deprived, ousted, and socially isolated from what was rightfully entitled to him as a young man. And when he wasn't fulfilled, he turned to violence. We need to rewrite the social narrative and truly embody a zero tolerance for violence, that violence is not a right, but an act of war. We need to enter our relationships with one another with a mutual agreement to treat each other with respect, even when they disappoint or wrong us.