Should I stay or Should I go?

[Content Warning: This post contains information about abuse. Please utilize self-care as needed.]

We are currently experiencing some unique challenges with increased isolation caused by social distancing. These challenges can create uncertainty and fear, and survivors who are in quarantine with their abusers are even more vulnerable at this time. Even in the midst of a stay at home order, there are many resources available to assist a survivor in leaving an unhealthy situation. That being said, just because there may be a safe place to relocate to, this isn’t always an easy choice. There can be additional aspects of control that exist that truly prevent someone from having the privilege of just walking out.

While working with survivors in the community, and on a college campus, I’ve learned that one of the most common contributing factors to staying in an unhealthy situation is an unconditional love and attachment for the person causing the harm. To some, this can be difficult to understand; but not having a strong support system can heavily contribute to feeling like the abusive party is the only person the survivor has. The power and control dynamic in a relationship usually consists of one person making the other feel as if they are the only ones who care about them and will support them long-term. Although they may be the main or sole cause of pain, they also have positioned themselves in the survivor’s life as a safety net. This is usually done through the process of isolation and the slow removal of resources. That way, the survivor doesn’t believe they have anyone else to turn to, so that they’ll always feel the need to go back to the abusive party. Even if there is access to shelter, knowing how to take care of yourself financially when being without work, access to transportation, or even an ID/license, can prevent someone from believing they have a chance at the economic independence needed for survival.

Although the responsibility should be on the abusive party to address their behaviors, there are many steps someone can take to add additional protections while sheltering in place. Of those many options, having a plan and being prepared can be the ultimate tool for protecting yourself if something were to become unsafe. Make sure to stay connected with the people you trust, set boundaries where you need them, know that you have support, and make a plan that’s relevant to your situation.

If you need help while sheltering in place during these difficult times, there are campus and local community resources that can provide emergency and non-emergency support in staying safe.

If you would like assistance setting up a safety plan while sheltering in place, please reach out to the Student Support and Advocacy Center by calling 703-993-3686 or filling out a referral form on our website at SSAC.gmu.edu. You can also contact one of the local resources listed here. If you would prefer to create a safety plan on your own at home, you can do so at, LoveisRespect.org. This link provides some helpful tips on safety planning, and has an interactive guide on creating your own customized safety plan that can be safely stored, printed, or shared with someone you trust.

For additional information on staying safe while at home, check out the Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services guide to staying safe at home on our Advocate Self Care Series Blog. For information relating to staying safe on the internet, please visit the Doorways for Women and Children Internet Abuse Alert.

We are here for You!

-Shayna 

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