Why Is It Difficult To ‘Just Leave’ An Abusive Relationship?

Studies show that it takes many survivors approximately 7 attempts before they actually leave their abusive partner permanently.

by Edith Mecha and Kareen Bennett

“Why don’t they leave?” is often the first response posed to survivors, implying that they are to blame for the abuse.

Firstly, domestic abuse covers an array of abuses such as Physical, Psychological, Mental, Financial, Sexual, which is emotionally and physically scarring for anyone involved. When one has no knowledge or has never experienced abuse, it can be difficult to understand the deep emotional grip abusers have on their victims. That is why to simply leave is not as easy as going to the shops. A lot of safety planning, talking to trusted friends and being ready for a healthy life has to go in to creating an escape route.

Often, courage is associated with doing something so bold like ‘base jumping, parachuting’ and anything else where people get their thrills from’. We often mention that “courage is the resistance to fear”. Anyone in abusive relationships will attempt to break up with their partner several times before they eventually have the courage to leave the fears behind and that could take months or even years. Studies show that it takes many survivors approximately 7 attempts before they actually leave their abusive partner permanently.

Studies show that it takes many survivors approximately 7 attempts before they actually leave their abusive partner permanently.

You see often when an abusive situation happens, it is followed by the abuser becoming remorseful, doing something nice and promising that they will never do it again and turn on the waterworks. This sets the relationship back to the honeymoon phase. It makes the victim minimize the original abusive behavior and the cycle continues, making it difficult to break free from an abusive partner.

Cycle of Abuse: Jill Cory & Karen McAndless-Davis

Leaving is often a complex process with other factors that concern an individual such as:

  1. There may be children involved
  2. A lack of outside support and so no one to turn to,
  3. Blame from family and friends
  4. Abuse destroys self-confidence making it impossible to start afresh
  5. Limited resources – survivor may not have a source of income
  6. Hope for change
  7. Fears of being stalked and being in greater harm
  8. Institutional responses from clergy and police treating it as a domestic issue that can be resolved
  9. Social barriers including a culture that normalize abuse and views that one is a failure if they leave an abusive marriage.

However, the main culprit is Love for the abusive partner. You stay because you love them, remember the good times before the abuse and feel that things will change so you decide to forgive and forget. This is where you’re emotionally scarred because you’ve been conditioned to feel worthless and dependent on the abuser.

To all reading this, please know: domestic violence is real. To the abused; You are not crazy. You are not alone. We believe you. And here’s why.

Angela shared with us about her abusive relationship and how she was finally able to leave. We decided to write her a letter in response.

“Dear Angela

We want to say thank you for sharing your story with us because it brought tears to our eyes that you went through so much at a young age. We are very proud of you for all that you have done and accomplished since you left your abusive relationship. Because hearing your experiences of control, emotional and physical abuse from an early start of your relationship tells us that abuse can start from any point of a relationship and it doesn’t matter how old or young a person is to be subjected to abuse, abuse affects anyone. And with that you endured for 3 years. We know you loved him and you gave your all to support and be loyal to him, but we also appreciate how difficult it was for you to leave and walk away from him. The mere fact that you attempted to leave many times shows us how you were already strong and building up your courage to be able to finally leave. We are glad that you had a supportive family who you were able to turn to for help because not many people had that supportive network. They say time is a great healer and you have certainly come a long way to rebuild your life and rebuild the confidence you now have. You have become a strong young woman with the motivation and determination to advocate and show your support for other victims. You are certainly a sign of Hope for others.

And we are honoured that you shared your story with us.

Kareen and Edith

While collaborating in this article, we realise and appreciate that even if you have never experienced or know of someone who has had to endure such domestics, this is not an easy subject to talk about.

So, we wish to thank you for your courage to hear our voices. For us, writing and sharing information about abuse, is important to empower society and give survivors power to heal and gain confidence.

If you are in an abusive relationship you may be wondering whether you will ever get the courage to leave. Please know it is possible to leave like Angela. You may have doubts or fears or just feel overwhelmed at the thought of leaving. That’s normal. You are not alone. You do not have to leave today or do it all at once. But start by making a safety plan. This will guide you on what to do once you are physically and emotionally ready to leave. There is help out there.

Check out resources here and watch simple ways to help a friend or a loved one.

If you want to share your story on abuse send us an email at contact@safespeaks.org. You are not alone.

**If you are in an abusive relationship or someone you know is, check out these resources.

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