Barriers to Leaving

There are many reasons people stay in abusive relationships, however, these reasons generally falling into three major categories:

Lack of Resources

    • Partner leaving may fear being charged with desertion, losing custody of children, and joint assets
    • Partner leaving may face a decline in living standards for oneself and/or their child(ren)

Institutional Responses

    • Clergy and secular counselors often push to “save the marriage at all costs" rather than working to stop the violence.
    • Police officers are not equipped to provide specific DV support to victims of domestic violence; they sometimes treat violence as a domestic “dispute,” instead of a crime of assault. 
    • Prosecutors may be reluctant to prosecute cases when there are no witnesses to the abuse.
    • Despite the issuing of a protection order, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating the assault. Despite greater public awareness and the increased availability of housing for victims fleeing violent partners, there remains a shortfall of available shelters to keep victims safe from their abusers.

Traditional Ideology

    • Many people do not believe divorce is a viable alternative
    • Many people believe that a single parent family is unacceptable, and that even a violent parent is better than no parent at all
    • Many people are socialized to believe that they are responsible for making their marriage or partnership work. Failure to maintain the marriage equals personal failure
    • Many people become isolated from friends and families, either by the jealous and possessive abuser, or to hide signs of the abuse from the outside world. The isolation contributes to a sense that there is nowhere to turn
    • Many people rationalize their abuser’s behavior by blaming stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment or other factors
    • Many people are taught that their identity and worth are contingent upon getting and keeping a partner.
    • The abuser rarely beats their victim all the time. During the non-violent phases, he/she may fulfill their partner's dream of romantic love