Barriers to Leaving an Abusive Relationship
Barriers to Leaving an Abusive Relationship
People who are not in an abusive relationship often imagine that if 'their' partner were abusive, they would leave immediately. "I'd never put up with it for a minute!" they might say. In fact, for women who are being abused, the decision to leave is an agonizing one. The following are some of the many barriers that woman may face that make it difficult to leave.

Financial Reason: Some women fear they won't be able to support themselves and their children. They may not have the confidence they need to seek and obtain employment. They may have to leave with nothing more than the clothes they are wearing. For some women, there is a stigma associated with income support and they fear the difficulty of supporting their children on income support payments.

The Children: Women often feel they would be hurting their children by depriving them of a father's presence and the things his income may provide for them. They fear that their children will miss their father and that they will become upset at the break up of their family even though violence is a part of their lives.

Hope: Many women still love their partner and hope that he will change. Their partner may promise to change. Their partner may promise to change and the relationship may, in fact, get better for a while, so they begin to have hope.

Emotional Dependence: The woman may feel she can't exist without her partner. Because abusers will attempt to isolate their partners from family and friends, he may be the only adult person with whom she has any emotional relationship at all.

Sanctity of Marriage: Some women may stay in a marriage as a result of strongly held religious and/or cultural beliefs. They may also believe it is the woman's responsibility to stay in the marriage regardless of the abuse.

Advice from Others: Family and friends may pressure women to stay and make the marriage work. Together with pleas from her partner to stay, this may work towards keeping a woman in an abusive relationship.

Minimization and Denial: Minimization and denial of the abuse is a survival tactic and they also work towards keeping a woman in an abusive situation. Women have to put the abuse out of their minds in order to care for the children, go to work, manage the household, etc. Minimization of the violence helps a woman continue to function, but it also makes it easier for her to stay because she tells herself its just not that bad.

Good Times: In most cases, there are usually good aspects to the relationship. Women stay for the positive qualities their partners have, and also for the quiet periods, mostly after a violent episode, when the abuse is not as obvious.

Low Self Esteem: Women who are abused generally have low self-esteem and little self-confidence. They don't think they are important enough for their well being to matter. In many cases they believe that no other man would love them.

Lack of Energy: Women who are being abused are drained by constant stress. As a result, they often feel immobilized, barely able to cope with the day-to-day demands of children, work and household management and, therefore don't have the physical or emotional energy it takes to plan ahead or take bold steps.

Fear of the Unknown: Women who are abused are often afraid of what is 'out there'. Because of the abuse, they have been isolated and are suffering from low self esteem. Often they don't have the confidence or energy to face the unknown.

No Place to Go: Because of being isolated by their partners, women often have no family or friends to turn to or they may fear that by turning to them they could also put them in danger. There may be no abused women's shelters in their area. This is particularly true in remote areas.

Fear for Herself and Others: Many women fear that the abuse will get worst if they leave. They fear that their partners may carry out the threats they have made, such as hurting the children or other family members, taking the children, or committing suicide. In fact, many women continue to be harassed and terrorized by former partners after they leave the abusive situation. Women have even been killed.

It should not surprise us, then, that women remain in the abusive relationships given the challenges that must be faced. Rather, the question that should be asked is 'Why do people abuse?'

Source: Libra House, Shelter for abused women and their children.
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