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Barriers to Leaving


Domestic violence always stands the chance of becoming lethal or physically damaging. Many victims of domestic violence have been crippled as a result, their faces or bodies scarred from abuse, they’ve lost the ability to have children, they’ve lost their hearing, their pets, their friends and loved ones, their houses, their belongings, their confidence, their trust -- and all to often -- their lives.


Blaming the victim is the wrong approach, no matter how common the belief is. You must remember that no one deserves to be or enjoys being abused and that leaving a violent relationship is most often the most dangerous time for the victim. Batterers often feel very much out of control at this point and tend to retaliate and become more violent as a result.


Statistically, this time is the most dangerous for victims:

  • Up to 75% of domestic assaults reported to law enforcement agencies are inflicted after separation of the couples.

  • 75% of victims who are killed as the result of a violent relationship are killed while trying to leave.


Victims of domestic  do leave and seek help from an average of at least seven different resources at least three times each --- twenty one requests! But sometimes they do choose to stay or return to the relationship and there are many reasons why.


Actually, there are as many reasons why victims of domestic violence stay in abusive relationships as there are victims.  Some of those reasons as heard from actual victims are as follows:


  • Not having anywhere to go

  • No way to get to safety

  • Feared that the abuser would follow through with the threats that they had been making --- that they would harm or kill the victim if they tried to leave

  • They are embarrassed and don’t want anyone to find out

  • The victim is dependent on the abuser financially or for other reasons such as transportation or health care

  • The abuser has isolated the victim from everyone they knew or loved and the victim feels like they no longer have anyone that they trust to rely on for help

  • The victim is afraid that the legal system and law enforcement would not help to keep them safe from the abuse

  • They've tried leaving before but the abuser has always found them and made them “pay for it”

  • Religious beliefs

  • They have children and the victim feels that they could not support them without the abusers income

  • The victim has never worked before because the abuser would not let them and they have no skills to fall back on to work to support themselves and their children

  • They are fearful of losing custody of their children

  • They had no support from friends or family

  • There was a mix of good and bad times throughout the relationship and they are still hopeful that the abuser will change like they've always promised they would


The reasons are as endless as the number of domestic violence victims. Each story is unique and each reason is valid. Believe them. Support them. They needs your help.



Barriers to Leaving an Abusive Relationship:


Economic Dependency

The number one factor in staying in an abusive relationship is economic dependency. Abusers do not usually want or allow the victim to work outside the home. The majority of victims do not have control or access to the family earnings, even if they do work. Status and the material possessions usually play a part in the decision to stay, especially if children are involved.


Lack of Resources

Through forced or self-imposed isolation, victims lose many of their survival skills and cannot integrate into the mainstream of work without training. They are very unfamiliar with the many systems and agencies, they must interact with such as; employment, legal, medical, financial, and housing.



Most of the time, the victim may not have a safe place to go, where they will not be hurt, or involve others and put them at risk also.



Many religions teach that divorce is not an option and the wife must submit to the husband, even in violent situations.


Social Stigma

The victim may be too ashamed to tell anyone what is happening because they may feel like they are the only one this is happening to. Also the victim may see it as their role and responsibility to keep the family together. 



Many victims may believe that even a bad parent is better than no parent at all. Also, the difficulty and responsibility of single parenthood can be overwhelming and frightening. They may not want to disrupt their children’s schoolwork, lifestyle and friendships.


Fear of the Unknown

Almost always, the fear of that which is unknown is greater than that which is known and familiar.


Attachment and Investment

The batterer is not always abusive and the love the victim has for their abuser is reinforced by their good behavior and by hopes that they will change. They have history together, both good as well as bad. The victim does not want to walk away from a serious commitment without a lot of thought and consideration.



The batterer may intimidate by threatening to kill the victim, the victims family and friends or even threaten kill themselves. The abuser may threaten to take their children away, tell everyone that the victim is crazy or they may follow the victim everywhere and threaten to hunt them down if they leave.


Lack of Self Esteem

The victim usually blames themselves for the violence and feels if they had only reacted differently, it would not have happened. This belief can lead the victim into a mindset where they become depressed and debilitated. They has little self-worth, and feel that they can do nothing right and therefore could never make it on their own.

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