Whilst the risk of staying may be high, leaving the relationship does not guarantee that the violence will stop. In fact, the period during which a woman is planning or making her exit, is often the most dangerous time for her and her children.
Many women are frightened of the abuser, and with good reason. It’s common for men to threaten to harm or even kill her or her children if she leaves.
Reasons why a woman may not be ready to leave:
- She may still care for her partner and hope that they will change (many women don’t necessarily want to leave the relationship, they just want the violence to stop).
- She may feel ashamed about what has happened or believe that it is her fault.
- She may be scared of the future (where she will go, what she will do for money, whether she will have to hide forever and what will happen to the children).
- She may worry about money, and supporting herself and her children.
- She may feel too exhausted or unsure to make any decisions.
- She may be isolated from family or friends or be prevented from leaving the home or reaching out for help.
- She may not know where to go.
- She may have low self-esteem as a result of the abuse.
- She may believe that it is better to stay for the sake of the children (eg wanting a father for her children and/or wishing to prevent the stigma associated with being a single parent).
Women need to know that they will be listened to and that they will be believed and receive the help they need. They need to have accessible options and be supported to make safe changes for themselves and their children. Resources and support they will need to leave safely include: money, housing, help with moving, transport, ongoing protection from the police, legal support to protect her and the children, a guaranteed income and emotional support. If a woman is not sure if these are available to her, this may also prevent her from leaving.
Women may also seek support from family or friends and the quality of the support they receive is likely to have a significant influence on their decision-making. Sometimes women will make several attempts to leave before they actually leave permanently and safely.