It is the question that puzzles many of us when we hear about the tragic conclusion of a domestic violence relationship. Why doesn't the victim simply look at herself in the mirror, decide it is time for a change, and head out the door?

Perhaps, though, it is we who need to look in the mirror. Are our communities doing enough to make sure that door is not barred shut?

Consider the Indianapolis mother who had escaped an abusive relationship with her child and job intact. But her daughter had a condition that mandated significant medical care, and the mother, like so many other Hoosiers, had no health insurance to cover it. She weighed her options and decided to return to her abusive husband, who at least had insurance to cover her child's care.
"Abuse survivors struggle in particular with child care and transportation to work, keys to self-sufficiency away from the dangerous relationship."
Fortunately, as the story is told by Julie Marsh, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis, this woman found help from some of the many angels in central Indiana who respond to the alarm bells of domestic violence. This mother was spared her horrible choice, but there are many others who do not see an option.

"Victims often don't leave because they have no job, no money, no place to live," Marsh says. "Health insurance, food on the table, knowing what to expect financially -- all of these are reasons why victims too often stay with the perpetrator."

Abuse survivors struggle in particular with child care and transportation to work, keys to self-sufficiency away from the dangerous relationship. Voting against taxes seems like such a no-brainer until we consider that we are voting against the survival of those who need a better bus system to get to a job and against the healthy development of kids who need stable care when their parents must work.

Predictably, the economic downturn has made it worse on those in the most precarious of situations. Protective order requests in Marion County, for example, increased 20 percent last year, reflecting a national trend as financial pressures ratchet up the tension in dysfunctional relationships and women despair of finding viable exit strategies. Domestic violence shelter stays have lengthened, as survivors have more trouble finding a job and affording permanent housing.

"There is still so much to do," Marsh says. ""When you take this down to the nth degree, saving lives is what this is all about."

Fran Quigley can be reached at quigley2@iupui.edu.