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Why a woman might not leave her abuser

We've all been touched by it. A woman we work with. Someone from church. A relative. A story in the news. Regardless of how we know, the outcome is the same: A woman, the victim of domestic abuse, is killed by an intimate partner, husband, or boyfriend.

For as long as domestic abuse has occurred, the question has been asked, "why didn't she leave him?" It's almost as if the answer was self-explanatory. But in many cases, the cost of leaving abusive relationships outweighs the price of staying, even if it is at the expense of a woman's life.

Many times, the victim will put her children's well-being and their financial security above her own. Leaving takes more than strength. There are many things a domestic abuse victim must consider.

The price of freedom comes with a cost

When considering leaving an abusive environment, a woman must consider all the expenses she will now bear the burden of alone. Managing childcare, food, a new place to live, transportation, and everything else can be overwhelming. Working outside of the home may not be an option for some who cannot afford childcare.

Many women lack financial means or have had finances controlled by their abusive partner. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, up to 99% of domestic violence victims experience economic abuse throughout an abusive relationship. Finances are often cited as the most significant barrier to leaving an abusive relationship.

When leaving doesn’t guarantee safety

Leaving an abusive relationship, especially when children are involved, includes remaining in contact with someone presumably adamant about destroying or hurting the leaving party.

The legal ramifications alone are enough. In most states, courts favor both parents being involved in a child’s life if it is in their best interest. Because most domestic abuse cases aren’t reported, it is difficult to prove in court that a father has been abusive to the mother and/or children. This means a mother will likely have custody of her children subject to visitation from the father. The fear and sickness in the pit of her stomach brew, knowing her children will be alone with the abuser.

What about parenting time exchanges? Doctor’s appointments? School or extra-curricular events? Just because a woman has left does not mean the threat of violence or abuse has.

Abuse is emotional too

Traditionally, women are accused of “overexaggerating” or being “too sensitive” due to their tendency to be more emotional than men. Women have to face the feelings most feel when ending a relationship: failure, guilt, and grief, yet often without family and friends' support.

The victim might be ashamed to tell her support network about being involved in an abusive relationship. There is a lot of stigma around domestic abuse and single mothers. A woman or man may not be inclined to tell family or friends that a spouse cheated. Imagine the embarrassment when sharing that she or her children have been abused by a man who promised to love and protect them.

And like any end of a relationship, grieving the loss is a real thing. Whether the abuse is present or not, losing a partner or loved one is difficult. One must be mentally, emotionally, financially, and physically ready to face what lies ahead.

What can you do to help? First, remember domestic violence is not a private family issue. It is a community problem, and the victim should never be blamed. No one deserves the abuse; no one should go through it alone. The first step is asking them if they need someone to talk to and reminding them they are not alone.

Support organizations like The Women's Advocacy Center. Our mission is to empower and support survivors of domestic abuse. We educate them on ways to gain economic independence and form healthy relationships while stabilizing their families and strengthening their faith.

Learn more here.

If you or someone you know is involved in a relationship that is abusive. Reach out to us. We can help women in the East Shelby County, Tennessee communities of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Cordova, Germantown, Lakeland, Millington, or Rossville,

If you are outside our service area, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline now at:


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