Abusive Relationships: Why Don’t People Just Leave?

A question that often comes up when people think about abusive relationships is why doesn’t the person just leave. Unfortunately, the situation is often not this simple. Abuse is a complex issue and there are many barriers that could stand in a person’s way.

One of the main reasons I think people stay in an abusive relationship is for economic reasons. If an individual is dependent on their partner for money to live, than it will not be particularly easy to leave. As we discussed in class, men who are the sole earner in a household may control the amount of money the wife has access to. Even if the wife receives an allowance, it is usually not a large amount and there is not enough extra money to be able to leave.

Another factor that plays a role when a person stays in an abusive relationship is their religious or cultural beliefs. If an individual has a strict religion, they may not think it is okay to get a divorce. They may either have to come to terms with violating their religion or stay in the relationship. Also, some cultures would not be as accepting of a woman leaving her husband if he was abusing her due to different norms.

Individuals who have suffered from verbal and physical abuse may have very low self-esteem. This will also affect the likelihood that they will leave. They may think that their partner is the best that they will be able to get; the abuser may have even planted this idea in their head and reinforced it with more verbal abuse. Also, the person being abused may think that their partner will change. This is part of the cycle of abuse that occurs and an individual may hope that the change will occur because they do not want to end the relationship.

People often see it as the victim’s fault when they do not leave. However, this is an insensitive viewpoint. It is difficult to know how any person is actually feeling and what they are experiencing. Many people do not understand all of the factors that are at play and how hard it is to actually leave.

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One response to “Abusive Relationships: Why Don’t People Just Leave?

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with all the reasons you mentioned. I feel that finances may play a large role for a lot of women. Along with the finances aspect is that even if a woman isn’t necessarily financially dependent on her partner and could make it alone on her own if she left, she still may not want to go through the process of separating two intertwined lives. If a couple has been together for a long while they likely share many things–a crucial one being their house, cars, furniture, maybe pets, etc. It sounds kind of silly to say that a woman might stay because she doesn’t want to deal with these issues, but if you think about how difficult of a process it would be to just uproot and move your whole life, you can understand why some women (especially if they’re holding out hope that their partner might change his behavior) might choose to stay. If she chose to leave it would either have to be an agreed upon decision for who got what items (who gets to stay in the house vs. who has to leave, who gets what furniture/appliances/etc) and often times the husband might not be willing to engage in that decision making process. Or, he may not even agree to grant her a divorce, etc….So, on the other hand, if it was more of an urgent situation where she chose to just leave and bring no belongings except only necessities, she would be leaving behind her “home base” so to speak-her home & her whole environment that she may have been so comfortable and accustomed to. And, for many women, they want to be able to divide up who’s going to keep the home, etc, and wouldn’t want to have to stay in a shelter & leave their entire home life behind. So, I think what you said is true–many people think it’s much easier for a woman to decide to leave than it really is in reality, and we need to get away from that simplistic view. There are TONS of factors that go into a woman’s decision to leave and details that we might not think of can be very relevant in her decision of whether she leaves or stays.

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