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Many people ask “Why doesn’t the victim leave?  Why does the victim stay?”–it is not that simple.  It is important to understand that there are many barriers to safety in an abusive relationship.


The following are common barriers:

  • Isolation: from friends, family, community support, resources, as abusers often attempt to cut off survivors from support networks as a control mechanism

  • Children: fear for their safety if abuser has threatened to hurt them if she leaves, custody concerns, child abuse that has occurred as a result of trying to leave in the past.

  • Fear: of retaliation; of being killed; of the abuser hurting loved ones; of being stalked; of not being believed; of unsupervised visits with the abuser putting children at risk

  • Physical harm that occurred after trying to leave or after having called the police or after having sought medical attention.

  • Threats: the abusive partner may threaten to commit suicide or hurt their partner/children, other loved ones and/or pets, threaten to call INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services), threaten to take the children, threaten to “out” their partner to family or coworkers, etc.

  • Economic necessity: the abusive partner may control the finances or be the sole source of finances for the family; the abusive partner may have destroyed the survivor’s credit or forced joint accounts so starting over financially is not feasible.

  • Lack of resources or information about available resources such as lack of transportation to services or lack of access to the internet to find services or lack of resources in the survivor’s language.

  • Shelters are full and there is nowhere to safely go

  • Hope/belief that partner will change, often resulting from manipulative tactics by the abuser. A connection to partner’s well-being: fear that partner will be arrested, imprisoned, deported etc. which may have consequences for retaliation, finances, and children.

  • Failure of the criminal justice system: with a very low prosecution rate, survivors are not likely to pursue prosecution when they will have to be re-victimized in court without any meaningful results.

  • Culture/ religion/ family pressures to stay together

  • Shame or belief that the abuse is their fault

  • Immigration status: fear of deportation without partner’s support, fear of separation from children, law enforcement etc.

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