Why don’t women just leave?

It can be hard to understand why someone would stay in a relationship if she is being treated so badly. You might think that the violence is partly her fault because she puts up with it, or if she stays.

It is hard to imagine what it is like to be abused when you are not in the situation yourself. From the outside, it may seem easier to leave than it actually is. Leaving an abusive partner may sometimes be quite dangerous, and the abuse may continue or increase after she leaves.

It can be very difficult to leave a violent partner, and it is important to understand why:

  • Many victims find that the abuse continues or gets worse after they leave.
  • She thinks the abuse is her fault.
  • She feels she should stay ‘for the sake of the children’, and that it is best that children live with both parents. Her partner may have threatened to take or harm the children.
  • She may be isolated and lonely as the person who is abusive may have tried to cut her off from contact with family or friends. So she might be afraid of coping on her own.
  • There might be pressure to stay from family, her community or church.
  • She may feel that she can’t get away from her partner because they live in the same area, or because they have the same friends, or are part of the same ethnic, Aboriginal or religious community.
  • She doesn’t have the means to survive if the relationship ends. She might not have anywhere to live, or access to money, or transport, and she may be dependent upon her partner’s income. If she has a disability, she may depend upon the abuser for assistance.
  • She still loves her partner, because he or she is not abusive all of the time.
  • She has a commitment to the relationship or a belief that marriage is forever, for ‘better or worse’.
  • She hopes her partner will change, and the abusive person might promise to change.
  • She may be afraid of what the abuser will do if she leaves (the perpetrator may have threatened to harm her, her relatives, or the children, pets or property; they may threaten to commit suicide if she talks about leaving).
  • A lack of confidence because the person who is abusive has tried to break down their partner’s confidence, and make her feel like she is stupid, hopeless, and responsible for the abuse. So she may feel powerless and unable to make decisions.