What Would You Do?

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Domestic abuse is a complex issue and things aren’t always as they seem on the surface. Experiencing abuse often means being faced with many difficult decisions, sometimes with no ‘good’ or preferred answer in sight. Below, we take you through a hypothetical example of what someone might face in an abusive relationship to help build our ability to support survivors and the incredibly difficult choices they face.


Martin’s Story


Martin is 27 years old and lives with his longtime boyfriend, Ben, and their dog, Muppet.

Put Yourself in Martin’s Shoes

You didn’t grow up with much and started working when you were 15, sometimes several jobs at a time. When you met Ben, he showed you a life you had only dreamed of. The two of you spend a lot of time traveling and love visiting different countries, learning about different traditions around the world and exploring local cuisine.

Your family has never accepted the fact that you identify as gay, and you carry with you feelings of shame and rejection, and a longing for your family to accept you. Ben makes you feel safe and proud of who you are, and after only being together for two months, Ben told you he loved you. You revel in his acceptance and love; sometimes it feels like just you and Ben against the world. Your relationship with Ben has changed your whole outlook on life.

You notice after a few months of dating, though, that there are some things about Ben’s personality that bother you. He’s often rude to wait staff when you go out to eat, and he’s constantly making fun of other people. He often uses a phony niceness with people, but is judgmental of them later. After being together about six months, he started to criticize you, too, but when you get upset, he always goes out of his way to make it up to you. Lately, the insults have started happening more and more and your self-esteem is lower than it was before you met him. You’re confused about how someone who loves you can be so hurtful. Not a day goes by that there isn’t some type of complaint or disapproval from Ben. Just this morning, you were getting ready for a big meeting at work and asked for an opinion on your outfit – ‘you dress like a slob, Martin, why don’t you pick out something of mine? While you’re at it, you should just burn all of your clothing and we can go shopping this weekend.’

Since your family is so unaccepting of your identity, you haven’t come out to most of your friends or coworkers. Ben used to be supportive of your decisions and said that you would ‘come out on your own timing,’ but lately, he’s been pressuring you to be more open with everyone in your life. “You’re an ungrateful disgrace to the gay community if you don’t come out,” he said recently. His words have echoed in your head ever since.

One afternoon, when you let him know you’re too worried about losing your job and your friends to risk telling them the truth, Ben rages at you, and smashes your phone, some picture frames and your favorite painting. Muppet comes into the room and barks at the commotion, and in response, Ben begins throwing plates at the dog. As you rush over to protect Muppet, a plate smashes on the ground and a piece of glass cuts you.

When Ben sees that you’re hurt, he immediately calms down. Your wound won’t stop bleeding, so you and Ben go to urgent care. On your way there, Ben apologizes profusely and makes you promise that you won’t tell the doctors what happened. When you’re there, the nurse goes through his usual protocol of questions and asks if you feel safe at home. You can feel your face turn bright red as you just barely get out the words, ‘of course I do.’ Seeing your reaction, the nurse gives you some information about Emerge! Center, the local domestic abuse organization, and suggests you call their 24-hour bilingual hotline for help. You hide the information and meet Ben in the lobby when you’re done. The next morning when you wake up, Ben has cleaned everything up and some of the things that were broken have been repaired. Ben is extra sweet to you and even has a surprise wrapped up for you on the kitchen table – two tickets to Bermuda.

Choice A

Call the Hotline for help.

Choice B

Forgive Ben.

Which option would you choose?

Click here to see what happens when Martin makes his decision







Isabella’s Story

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Isabella met her husband, an American man named Alex, while he was in Argentina for business.

Put Yourself in Isabella’s Shoes

You & Alex visited each other back and forth for several years and after you were engaged, Alex applied for your fiancé visa and brought you to Arizona with him.

Back home in Argentina, you worked at your family’s bakery and often cared for your grandmother on your days off. When you arrived in Tucson to live with Alex, he insisted that you didn’t need to work because his engineering job could easily support both of you. You were indifferent about the idea at first, but your fiancé visa expired 3 months after you arrived and Alex said it was too expensive for him to submit the proper paperwork to support you in obtaining residency status.  Any time you ask him about it he always assures you that it’s nothing to worry about. He also says if anything happens that he’ll hire a lawyer to defend you, which is confusing to you because lawyers can be so expensive.

You’re afraid to leave the house because you don’t have a current visa and you’ve grown bored with such a limited routine. The bus system in Tucson is different than what you’re used to, so it’s difficult for you to venture out, even if you felt safe doing so. Alex doesn’t like you to go out alone, either. In fact, last time you ventured out to the library he threatened to divorce you if you ‘run around town’ again. You feel very alone, trapped even, and long for someone to talk to. Your family was upset with you for leaving Argentina, and you’re afraid to tell them you think you’ve made a mistake.

When Alex comes home from work one day, you tell him dinner is almost ready and ask him how his day went. He ignores your question and instead starts screaming at you for being such a failure. “You have one small job and you can’t even manage to get it right? I work hard every day and expect to have dinner on the table when I arrive home. You better shape up or I’ll kick you out on the streets and have you deported.”  He yells a few more threats while mocking your accent.

You finish dinner and set the table for the two of you. When Alex comes into the dining room, he puts your plate in the garbage and then makes you watch him eat. Afterwards, he pulls you outside by your hair and locks you out. “You take care of me, I take care of you. That’s how it works,” he muttered as he locked you out of the house. You lay down in the dirt without a blanket or pillow.

Trying to fall asleep, you remember the first time he acted like this. You were terrified and speechless. These days it’s more common and you’ve gotten used to being extra careful not to upset him whenever you can help it. Another memory of your mother’s bruises makes you thankful Alex doesn’t hit you. You’ve been raised not to believe in divorce and hope the two of you can be happy again, but you fear it’s unlikely.

Choice A

Call your sister for help.

Choice B

Start Planning a way to get back to Argentina.

Which option would you choose?

Click below to see what happens when Isabella makes her decision.







Stephanie’s Story


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Stephanie is a 37-year-old woman who lives with her husband, Josh, and their nine year old son, Phillip.

Put Yourself in Stephanie’s Shoes

Josh is infuriated after leaving your in-laws’ house – his mother always makes his blood boil. This time she was asking when the two of you would have your second child, which has brought you under the fire, too, saying that you’re both running out of time and that Phillip needs a sister or brother. When you get home, you’re exhausted and would rather avoid any further discussion about kids. Josh had already been pressuring you about having a baby for several months now and you know it’s fresh on his mind after leaving his parents. You head to bed, but Josh stays up watching TV. He wakes you up at 3 AM, but you tell him you need to sleep because you have to wake up early. After a few attempts to get him to leave you alone, he forces you to have sex with him, saying that it’s time for you to have another baby. After he’s finished, you cry yourself to sleep praying that you didn’t conceive from such a traumatizing experience.

The next morning your mind wanders, thinking over the past year, visualizing each small incident with Josh as they built up in intensity. You can remember the first time he smashed a plate in the kitchen to scare you and the time he held you against the wall when you thought you had lost your expensive new phone, yelling at you for being an idiot and squeezing your arms so hard they bruised. Those times and a few others seem to stand out, but Josh was always so apologetic afterwards, you didn’t think any of this was that big of a deal. Now you wonder what you could have done differently to help calm him down when he got so upset. Maybe if I knew how to help calm him down and control the situation better then last night wouldn’t have happened, you think to yourself as you finish your coffee.

You call Sara, a long-time friend from college that you’ve kept in touch with. You’ve spoken to her before about your husband being aggressive. You muster up the courage to tell her about the recent incident, even though you’re embarrassed. Sara doesn’t believe you.

“Are you sure you didn’t misread the situation because you were tired?”

Definitely not, you respond.

“Did you tell him no?”

I pushed him away a few times, but I was afraid he would get angry if I actually said no.

Finally, you convince her that the problem is serious and tell her that you’re thinking about staying at your parents for a few days. Sara says she hopes you would never consider leaving Josh and tells you she just watched a special on 60 Minutes about all the kids who turn into criminals because they don’t have father figures. Instead, she suggests you call a marriage counselor. “It sounds to me like this is a communication issue, maybe if you work on being more open with each other it will help. My husband and I went to counseling when we grew apart a few years ago,” she said. “The counselor helped us get to the root of our issues, and gave us great relationship-building tips. Maybe you should try that.”

Choice A

Call a marriage counselor

Choice B

Stay at your parents

Which option would you choose?

Click below to see what happens when Lorraine makes her decision.






Lorraine’s Story


Lorraine is a 32-year-old woman who lives with her husband of five years, David, and their two children.

Put Yourself In Lorraine’s Shoes

After you became pregnant with your second child, your husband’s behavior seemed to  shift.. David was no longer as charismatic and sweet to you as when you first met, but you’ve heard that romance doesn’t last forever and that marriages are difficult to maintain – especially after kids. So this must be what everyone was talking about, you think to yourself. Lately he’s been questioning your whereabouts, implying that you’re cheating on him when you’re actually just getting groceries or taking the kids on playdates. You repeatedly tell him that you would never be unfaithful, but he won’t drop it. You decide to stop going out altogether, except when absolutely necessary, in order to prove your love and commitment to him. You know he’s been stressed out by a recent job change, and you hope he’s just overthinking things and being protective because of that stress – you know he loves you.

You’ve planned a surprise for David, thinking that it will cheer him up and bring back some romance into your relationship. You don’t make much at your job and your husband’s salary is much higher, especially after you both decided it would be best for you to work part time so that you could spend more time with the kids. You’ve been saving $10 a week for several months to take him to see his favorite basketball team when they play next week. You excitedly tell him that you’ve got a surprise for him next Thursday and ask him not to make any plans. He looks at you, concerned and angry, and says “you better not have spent any money on this surprise.” You see him clinching his fist and are worried he might get angry in front of the kids.

Choice A

You lie and tell him the surprise didn’t cost you anything. You then spend the next week trying to sell the tickets and come up with a different surprise for him that’s free.

Choice B

Tell him that you did spend money, but you’ve been saving for it and you think it’s important for you both to spend some quality time together. You promise he’ll love what you have planned!

Which option would you choose?

Click below to see what happens when Lorraine makes her decision.

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