The Most Common Question16 Oct 2019
When we talk about the brave women who found the courage to escape domestic abuse, we’re often asked the same question: why didn’t she leave sooner?
For many people, it seems like the obvious solution, but for women experiencing domestic abuse, it’s never that simple. There are a number of reasons why they stay.
Most of the women we talk to have stayed with their partners because they’re terrified of the thought of attempting to leave, for fear that they will be in further danger. Simply leaving the family home doesn’t immediately mean safety and perpetrators will often do everything in their power to retain control and persistently intimidate from afar.
Often, the women we support also have children to think about. Taboos surrounding refuge accommodation can be a barrier between women moving themselves and their children to safety, especially if it means removing children from a comfortable and familiar family home.
Shame and guilt
After months, and sometimes years, of abuse, perpetrators know exactly how to make women feel ashamed and worthless. It can be difficult for women to believe that they haven’t done anything wrong and don’t deserve the abuse. Often, women stay simply because they don’t want anyone to know what’s going on behind closed doors and worry that they won’t be believed.
Domestic abuse isn’t just physical. Coercive control is a pattern of controlling behaviour that intimidates, humiliates and isolates victims, and financial control is a key part of this. By limiting access to money, perpetrators can easily isolate women from their friends and family and ensure they are financially dependent on them for food, clothing and essentials for their children.
Many women believe he can change or that things will get better eventually. Often, perpetrators will switch between two personalities which can be confusing if the perpetrator is upset and remorseful after abusive incidents.
Despite everything, she may still love him. This can be the most challenging barrier to overcome.
There are many more reasons a woman will not leave, or leaves after many years. These are just some. What's certain is, it's never as simple as it may seem.