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Why don't victims leave?

People stay in abusive relationships for a number of reasons. Many victims do not stay and many others come and go.

Victims of domestic abuse, including Honour Based Violence, may have been encouraged to believe there is no route of escape. The primary reason given by victims for staying with their abusers is fear of violence and the lack of real options to be safe with their children. This fear of violence is realistic. Some perpetrators repeatedly threaten to kill or seriously injure their victims should they attempt to leave the relationship.

Many victims of domestic abuse are faced with very real fears and practical difficulties when faced with leaving their abusers and can suffer in many ways, including low self-esteem, fear and isolation which leave them 'trapped' in their situation.

In the context of intimate partner violence, reasons for staying in a relationship may include:

  • Fear of violence and the perpetrator
  • Difficulty accessing accommodation to provide transitional support and safety for the victim and children
  • Lack of real alternatives for employment and financial assistance, especially for victims with children
  • Concerns about obtaining/affording legal assistance
  • Being immobilised by psychological and physical trauma
  • Believing in cultural/family/religious values that encourage the maintenance of the family unit at all cost
  • Continuing to hope and believe the perpetrator's promises to change.

Not all domestic abuse happens within the confines of an intimate partner relationship. Individuals experiencing abuse from family members may feel trapped by fear, obligation and circumstance. In particular, parents experiencing abuse from their children may carry a great deal of guilt and shame about what is happening to them, which prevent them from reaching out.

Any attempt to leave an abusive relationship can escalate risk and will have numerous emotional and practical implications for the victim and any children.

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