What Keeps Women in Abusive Relationships

The following list is far from comprehensive. There are many combinations of factors that prevent victims from leaving their abusers.  

Situational Factors

  • Economic dependence. She may become homeless if she leaves.
  • Fear of increased danger if she leaves. Fear he will hurt the children.
  • Fear of losing custody of her children.
  • Abuser has isolated her from her family and friends, and she feels she has nowhere else to go.
  • Fear of the unknown.
  • She may not recognize the abuse due to a long history of violence.
  • Negative responses from community, police, social workers, courts, etc.
  • Fear no one will believe her.
  • Unable to use resources because of how they are provided (language barriers, disability, homophobia, etc.)

Emotional Factors

  • Low self-esteem and total lack of belief in self.
  • Abuser says he will commit suicide if she leaves. He may also threaten to kill her, the children or another family member.
  • Denial or minimization of the abuse.
  • Love. Violent outbursts are often followed by periods of affection and promises of change.
  • Feelings of shame and humiliation in front of family, friends and the community.
  • Exhaustion from the energy needed to survive in an abusive environment.

Personal Beliefs

  • The belief that children need both a father and a mother.
  • She believes a partner is essential to her identity.
  • Religious and familial pressure to “keep the family together.”
  • Other religious or cultural beliefs.