FKA Twigs Is Right, People Need To Stop Asking Why Survivors Of Abuse Didn’t Leave Earlier

'People say “Oh it can’t have been that bad or else she would’ve left”, and it’s like no, because it’s that bad, I couldn’t leave.'

FKA Twigs

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

FKA Twigs opened up about her relationship with Shia LaBeouf in an interview with Gayle King yesterday, in her first TV appearance since she filed a lawsuit against him alleging emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. ‘FKA Twigs interview’ is now trending on Google, in large part because of one particular moment where she corrected Gayle King on asking a question that is harmful to survivors of abuse.

‘Nobody whose been in this position likes this question, and I often wonder is it even an appropriate question to ask… Why didn’t you leave?’ Gayle said. After an emotional conversation so far, where FKA Twigs broke down after detailing the moment she decided to ring a domestic abuse helpline, the British singer gave the most important, gracious answer of all.

‘I think we just have to stop asking that question,’ she began. ‘I know that you’re asking it out of love, but I’m just going to make a stance and say I’m not going to answer that question anymore. Because the question should really be to the abuser: “Why are you holding someone hostage with abuse?” People say “Oh it can’t have been that bad or else she would’ve left”, and it’s like No, because it’s that bad, I couldn’t leave.’

The interview then moved on to discuss Shia LaBeouf’s response to the allegations – which his lawyer has stated he denies all accusations in the civil lawsuit FKA Twigs filed against him. ‘Many of these allegations are not true,’ he said in his own statement to The New York Times – adding ‘I have no excuses for my alcoholism or aggression, only rationalisations. I have been abusive to myself and everyone around me for years… I’m ashamed of that history, and I’m sorry to those I hurt.’

But of course, the focus of the conversations around the interview as a whole has been on that integral statement – that we need to stop asking survivors of abuse why they didn’t leave earlier. Because, not only does it imply victims should be blamed in some form and thus further traumatise them by invalidating their experience, but it also completely negates the developments we’ve made in understanding the cycle of abuse – and the psychological factors that keep women in abusive relationships.

To ask that question is to negate the very complex reasons women are unable to leave.

There are many reasons women stay, or feel they can’t leave, abusive relationships, be them psychological, emotional, financial or physical threats. It’s not as simple as saying ‘He hurt you, so you should leave’, because abusive relationships are not black and white. They are filled with manipulation, love-bombing, gaslighting and all sorts of emotional and physical trauma that can make a person feel too powerless or worthless to leave. To ask that question is to negate the very complex and serious reasons women are unable to leave – and that does a disservice to victims everywhere when we can instead be having conversations about how to better protect women from abusers.

‘One of the most important reasons women don’t leave is because it can be incredibly dangerous,’ explains Women’s Aid on their website. ‘The fear that women feel is very real – there is a huge rise in the likelihood of violence after separation. 41% (37 of 91) of women killed by a male partner/former partner in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2018 had separated or taken steps to separate from them. Eleven of these 37 women were killed within the first month of separation and 24 were killed within the first year (Femicide Census, 2020).’

‘Domestic abuse often relies on isolating the victim: the perpetrator works to weaken her connections with family and friends, making it extremely difficult to seek support,’ it continues. ‘Perpetrators are often well respected or liked in their communities because they are charming and manipulative. This prevents people recognising the abuse and isolates the woman further. The perpetrator often minimises, denies or blames the abuse on the victim. Victims may be ashamed or make excuses to themselves and others to cover up the abuse.’

Add to that the trauma and low confidence abusive relationships can cause, the practical reasons - such as children being involved or the abuser preventing the victim from being financially independent – and there are a whole host of obvious explanations for that question. At this point, with so many women opening up about abuse for so long, it shouldn’t be on survivors to further escalate their trauma by explaining this to anyone – there are plenty of resources already to answer any of these common questions.

So the next time a woman speaks up about abuse, instead of asking her why she didn’t leave – ask what he did to make her feel she couldn’t, or better yet why he did it in the first place and what you can do to help.

If you need help you can contact Women’s Aid****, which also has an online chat service, which runs from 10-12, Monday to Friday. You can call the National Domestic Abuse hotline on 0808 2000 247.**** Refuge charity**** has online services and a helpline.

Read More:

Alice Liveing: ‘Lockdown Is A Truly Terrifying Situation For Women And Children In An Abusive Household’

Are You #HereForHer? Join The Campaign Against Domestic Abuse

Visits To Domestic Abuse Sites Have Now Risen By 950% Since Lockdown

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us