POLICE Department

Family Violence Unit - Why Doesn't She Leave?


When a woman finds herself trapped in an abusive relationship there is a tendency to ask, "Why doesn’t she just leave?" If we ask that question, we are blaming the victim and not addressing the issue of stopping the violence. There are many complex factors involved, especially when a woman leaves an abusive relationship; it is the most dangerous time for them. The abuser is enraged and may carry out the threat to kill themselves, their children, family members, or their partner. When an abused woman faces the constant threat of death or retribution, she will tolerate the abuse rather than risk her life or the lives of her loved ones. Abused women also tend to blame themselves for their partner’s violent behavior. In order to cope in the relationship, an abused woman might become submissive, alter her personality to conform to the abuser’s standards, and concede totally to all his wishes. Essentially, she gives up all her rights to freely express herself. Eventually she will come to the realization that all her efforts are futile and will not help stop the violence. There will come a time however when she will tire of the violence and decide she is ready to leave the relationship. Below is a list of reasons why women stay in abusive relationships:


LOVE/HOPE: He is not always brutal…She hopes he will change, and the beatings will stop…An abused partner still loves the abuser even though he hits her.


FEAR : She believes his threats to beat or kill her, the children, her family if she leaves him…He’s done it before, she fears he will do it again.


SOCIETAL PRESSURE: Society has conditioned women to believe their primary duty is to keep the family together no matter what…She would be admitting failure…She may have been successful in other areas of her life and believes that if she works hard enough she can also have a successful relationship or marriage.


LACK OF SUPPORT: Family members are threatened physically... After repeated attempts to help, family may distance themselves from the victim...Friends don’t want to get involved…Isolation from family makes it difficult.


RELIGION: Divorce is not acceptable…Vow was to love, honor, and obey.


EMBARASSMENT, SHAME, GUILT: She doesn’t want her family to find out…If her family likes him, they may not believe her or they might blame her…If she is the wife of a prominent citizen she may worry about how the publicity will effect his reputation, career, and whether people will believe her.


FEELS RESPONSIBLE: She doesn’t know anyone else being beaten, so she must be doing something wrong…She believes what her abusive partner says that somehow it’s all her "fault", therefore he had to beat her.


SURVIVAL IS ALL SHE THINKS ABOUT: All her energy and thoughts are focused on surviving…Formulating a plan to leave is overwhelming…Trauma is similar to that of a prisoner of war who is reduced to the level of mere existence and survival.


HAS NO PLACE TO GO: She may not know about shelters or lack transportation…She has worn out her welcome at mom’s, sister’s, etc.


ECONOMIC DEPENDENCE: Many batterers have strict control over the purse strings…Husband convinces her that she will not receive any child support if she "abandons" the family…Over 50% of victims have no marketable skills…Feels she can endure beatings so that children have more financial advantages.