For many people, it can be quite difficult to comprehend why someone may stay in an abusive
relationship especially if the person is a close friend or family member, or if you have not ever
experienced abuse from a partner. The reality is that the decision to leave is far more
complicated than most people realize. We have compiled a few examples that may help you
better understand why women stay in abusive relationships. By understanding why women
may stay in abusive relationships and the conditions that either enable or limit their capacity
to leave may enable you to better support them through their journey and to avoid re-
traumatization and victim blaming.

The most common reason why women stay in abusive relationships is fear. It is not
uncommon for the abuser to threaten their victim with death or more harm if they were to
leave. Victims fear loosing custody of children based on their partner’s threats and remarks.
Research has shown that 38% of women who experience domestic violence fear for their lives
and that leaving the abuser is one of the most dangerous things a woman could do.

Lack of job skills, economic empowerment and insufficient economic resources makes women
more dependant on their partner’s incomes leaving them with no resources to leave. The
World Health Organisation report on ‘understanding and addressing violence against women’
found that women do not leave violent partners because they lack a alternative means of
economic support; linking the risk factors of intimate partner violence to economic stress.

Poverty and lack of affordable housing is a significant detriment to women who have fled
violent relationships. Many women who leave violent relationships have limited money
available to them because they are leaving partners who controlled them and their ability to
work. This leaves them to rely on social assistance or minimum wage in order to support
themselves. Minimum wage and social assistance do not match the cost of living and
expenditure. Poor credit histories, lack of references from property owners, discrimination by
property owners and lack of adequate income act as a barrier to women in obtaining long-
term housing. Some women may be unable to access affordable housing as they may have
matrimonial assets that are unavailable to them. The lack of affordable housing, long-term
housing, credit and employment often leave women with no alternatives but to return to their

Some women will stay in abusive relationships because they truly love their partners and they
want to see their relationship work and will see the issue of abuse towards them as their fault.
A popular theory is that of learned helplessness, which is the unpredictability of the abuser’s
actions; this violent behavior becomes familiar and leaving becomes a challenge for the victim
and something out of their comfort zone. It is the feelings of familiarity that makes the victim
stay with their abuser.

Society’s perpetuation of the ride or die mentality may make a woman stay in an abusive
relationship or reconcile after leaving because they feel pressured not to give up and making
victims feel bad for leaving an unhealthy relationship.

Emotional and psychological abuse can damage someone’s self-esteem making it difficult for them to start a new.

Personal and socialized factors that make women stay in abusive relationships surrounds the
idea that children need two parents. There is pervasive belief and social pressure placed on
the idea that leaving an abusive relationship is breaking a family apart, and their identity in
society is based on ideological primacy of two parent households. This concept of the
importance of the two-parent household regardless of the level of violence in it may make a
woman rationalize the importance of the nuclear family making it difficult for her to leave.

Other reasons why women remain in abusive relationships are because they have a lot to lose
when they leave; they loose family, pets, money, and a home and the gains of leaving an
abusive relationship are often perceived as few and as potentially taking a long time to