Barriers to leaving
Time and time again, people ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”
The truth is that there are many practical and psychological barriers to ending a relationship with a violent partner.
Safety – the woman may be fearful of what the abuser will do to her and the children if they left or attempted to leave
Lack of self confidence – the woman may believe that she deserves the abuse and would never find anyone else if she left
Denial – she convinces herself that “it’s not that bad”
Shame – she is embarrassed of people finding out
Guilt – the abuser makes her believe that she is to blame for his actions
Financial dependence – the woman may not be able to support herself and her children independently
Loyalty – she may be devoted to the abuser regardless of his actions
Fear of being alone – she fears being lonely
Hope - she believes that things will improve with time
Lack of support – she doesn’t know who to turn to
Pressure - family and friends pressurise her to stay and ‘make it work’
Religious/community beliefs – she is under pressure not to break up the family
Love – despite the abuse, she still loves him
Jekyll and Hyde - the abuser switches between charm and rage; the woman thinks, ‘He’s not always like this’
Intimidation – the abuser threatens to take the children or pets away
Parenting – she wants the children to be raised by both parents together
Rescuer – she believes she can make him change
Gender roles – she might normalise his behaviour because he’s a man – ‘that’s how men are’. She may believe it’s the woman’s role to put the needs of others first
Immigration – if the woman has insecure immigration status, she may fear being deported
It takes a great deal of courage to leave someone who controls and intimidates you. Women often attempt to leave several times before making the final break.
Remember, leaving an abusive partner can be very dangerous. Women are actually at the greatest risk of homicide at the point of separation or after leaving a violent partner.
It is important that you plan your departure safely. If you are planning to leave an abusive partner, read our Planning to leave page.
Or call the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247 to talk through your options or to find a space in a refuge.
Contact the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on
0808 2000 247