What are common reasons why people do not report?
People that have never experienced an abusive relationship may often ask “Why don’t they just leave the relationship?” This is often much easier said than done. There are numerous reasons why a survivor may not leave a relationship. Below are some of the most common reasons:
- Fear: Many survivors are simply afraid of retaliation from the abuser. Abusers are controlling and exert power over the survivor by creating fear. A person may also be afraid of what will happen if they leave.
- Financial Constraints: A survivor can be financially dependent on the abuser. When a survivor lacks financial resources, he or she may find it almost impossible to leave the relationship.
- Immigration: If a survivor is undocumented, the survivor may be reluctant to seek help out of fear that reporting may affect the survivor’s immigration status and may result in deportation.
- Disability: A survivor may have a disability that causes the person to be physically dependent on the abuser. This dependency often makes the survivor more likely to stay with the abuser.
- Cultural or Religious Reasons: A survivor’s culture or religious background may play a role in whether the person stays in the relationship. A survivor may be afraid of shaming his or her family and feel the need to stay in the relationship.
- Love: Many survivors feel love for the abuser. The survivor and abuser may have children together and want to keep the family unit intact. The abuser was likely charming and loving at some point in the relationship, and the survivor may cling to the hope that the loving person will resurface.
- Low Self-esteem: Abusers often tear down a person’s self-esteem, even blaming the survivor for the abuse. Survivors may start to believe the insults and negative statements the abuser constantly makes.
- Believing Abuse is Normal: A person may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, perhaps from growing up in an environment where abuse was common, and he or she may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.
- Embarrassment or Shame: It’s often difficult for someone to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner, or may believe that the abuse is their fault. They may also worry that their friends and family will judge them.
For additional reasons why survivors of domestic violence often do not report, please visit Sarah M. Buel’s Article: Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay and http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/why-do-people-stay-in-abusive-relationships/.
Obligations to Report
Reporting cases of domestic abuse is not only important to ensure survivors’ needs are taken care of, but it’s a person’s legal obligation to do so. Texas law says anyone who thinks a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it to Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). See Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 48.051; Tex. Fam. Code § 261.101. A person who does not report suspected abuse can be convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. See Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 48.052; Tex. Fam. Code § 261.109.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a central place to report domestic abuse, including:
- Child abuse and neglect.
- Abuse, neglect, self-neglect, and exploitation of the elderly or adults with disabilities living at home.
- Abuse of children in child-care facilities or treatment centers.
- Abuse of adults and children who live in state facilities or are being helped by programs for people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities. These are run by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) or Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS).
By Phone: 1-800-252-5400
Online: Texas Abuse Hotline: (Click Here to Access)
- The online reporting tool should not be used for emergency situations. For emergencies call 911 or your local law enforcement agency if you have an emergency or life-threatening situation that must be dealt with immediately. If your situation needs to be investigated within 24 hours, call the Texas Abuse Hotline (1-800-252-5400), instead of submitting a report online.
- A person who reports abuse in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability. See Tex. Fam. Code § 261.106; Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 48.054.
- DFPS keeps the name of the person making the report confidential. See Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 48.101.