Sex and Relationships

Why Won’t She Leave Him?

Most people don’t understand why a woman won’t leave her abuser.  To outsiders, it’s obvious that if she left him, her troubles would be over.  If only it were that simple.  What you think will turn her world rightside-up may be what she thinks will turn her world upside-down.

A woman who is abused by a partner, former partner, or other intimate relation is systematically demeaned by her tormentor, beaten down physically or emotionally or both. His objective is to make her believe she has no worth, no power, nor anyone’s respect.

Power & Control Wheel

Click on the Power and Control Wheel to Clearly Read What it Says

He convinces her that she needs him.

After practicing in this area of law and representing victims of abuse, I haven’t grown jaded– but I have grown wise. When I see on the news that a woman has been murdered I often think domestic violence, depending on the circumstances.  When I see the murder-suicide of a woman and a man, I almost always think domestic violence. I hate that I am rarely wrong.

There is no always or never. There is no all or none.

WHY WON’T SHE LEAVE HIM?

A woman is most in danger of being killed by her abuser when she threatens to leave or leaves. Maybe she doesn’t know that, but she’s been threatened, she’s been warned, and his threats stay with her every second of every day. An abuser may threaten to kill her, their children, her family members or friends, himself, or any combination of these. She believes he will carry out his threats.  Many men do. Or they may say they will kill a pet, another potent threat.

A woman may fear that she, and her children if she has them, will become homeless and have nowhere to go, no money for food or shelter, no way to survive without her abuser, who typically is in control of every aspect of her life, most especially finances and keeping her financially dependent on him.  Domestic abuse has no socio-economic boundaries, though, and a woman may be a professional with her own substantial income.  Still, he may threaten to ruin her financially, and her fear that he will follow through may be well founded.

A woman may believe that her children are not in danger of being harmed, while she herself is in great danger.  But she may fear that if she flees for her own safety she will be legally abandoning her children and she will not get custody of them, which is not necessarily true.  (Most states have abandoned “custody” in favor of more neutral terms that do not imply that children are property one parent has control of.) Many factors are at play, and actions a woman takes after she leaves are important.  Anyone who is in this situation should seek advice through their local domestic violence shelter, or the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, www.ncadv.org.

Many women who are abused self-medicate with drink or drugs, numbing themselves because they can’t or feel they can’t physically escape. An abuser may use this against a woman and tell her she will never see her children again.  A woman who has been brought this low will believe it, though courts routinely find that abusers are more harmful to children, even when the children are only witnesses to abuse.

A woman may believe for her own reasons, societal reasons, or religious reasons that children are better off in a household with two parents.  She may not know that for her children to witness the abuse is far more harmful to them than for them to be children of divorce.  She may not know that staying makes it more likely that her son/s will become abusers and that her daughter/s will internalize abuse, thinking that what happens between her parents is normal, and will later be in and stay in an abusive relationship.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Let’s be aware all year.

And sometimes, she won’t leave him because she loves him. And he tells her he loves her. Even if that’s true, he doesn’t love her more than he loves himself.

His love is not the answer and neither is hers, because if either were, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Sometimes a woman is being abused, but her friends, family, clergy, or all three don’t acknowledge it. Pressure is put on her to “make it work,” for whatever reason the friend, family or clergy member gives. It could be because a woman who hasn’t been physically abused may not show signs of injury on the outside and her inner wounds are not acknowledged, but there are many other reasons.

Don’t be part of the problem, friends and family.

If you know someone who is suffering abuse, who has told you she’s suffering abuse, or you suspect is suffering abuse, be compassionate. Be caring. Don’t tell her what to do; talk to her and listen. Offer your help, but understand that to leave or not to leave is her decision. Respect it. And tell her you respect her.

Acknowledge the pain and turmoil she is in, most especially the emotional turmoil.  If she doesn’t leave him, don’t give up on her leaving him.  Give her love, respect, support, and time.   It’s going to take all of that.  Are you willing to commit that much to her?  Do you value her that much?  Her belief that others will take her seriously, will let her make her own decisions, will respect her, listen to her, and believe her empowers a woman.  He has had power and control over her.  You can help her gain it back.  Empowerment is the transformative intangible that enables her to leave him.  You can be a part of that.

 

Though this article views domestic violence through the lens of a male abusing a female, there are male victims.  DV can occur between people of any sexual orientation or gender.

43 replies »

  1. Unfortunately domestic violence cant permanently end until we take a global stance to end it. Numerous people would’ve have seen a’lot of signs from a person who was being domestically abused but chose to not be concerned about it and left those victims suffer even though they could’ve done something and saved a life. We have to become a single cause to solve this problem.In todays society parents make their daughters marry a so called human being but just think again, can a domestic abuser a woman or a man deserves to be recognized as a “human” or is he/she a beast wearing a costume like the wolf who dressed up as a sheep to pray on unwanted victims until they became helpless and no longer existed.

    • I agree! We all need to stand together to help those in that situation by making sure the women and even men who are being abused feel safe to speak out on the abuse. Often times victims are made to believe that no one cares and once someone’s foundational beliefs are taking away they begin to feel weak and worthless making them more vulnerable and more likely to stay in their broken relationship! Also, it starts with our parents and even future parents with teaching our young men and women what’s acceptable and what they allow their spouses to do to them before they realize enough is enough! That goes for both emotionally and physical!

    • Sarimnasir, I hear what you are saying– there are cultural factors that contribute to domestic violence, especially in cultures that hold men in higher esteem than women, and cultures that consider a woman is a man’s property. You’re right in your longer comment that this is a world problem. Domestic abuse has no boundaries of any type. I can tell that you’re the kind of person who would help a friend or sister if you knew she was in danger. I hope you’re not in danger, ever, and I hope you always have a friend or sister to lean on, no matter what.

  2. Great article. As someone who has supported someone very close to me I totally relate to this. She has left him now and is trying to regain her ‘self’ long and difficult road but she is walking along the right path now ❤️

    • That’s the best ending to any story. I am smiling. She has done the most difficult thing of all by leaving him. She’s on her way! It’s hard, but as you said, she’s on the right path now. I’m so glad you supported her. That’s part of the solution. <3

  3. This issue needs a global exposure and a stand from around the world for being abolished. This was an informative post. I always wondered why won’t such ladies leave their men and get their lives sorted. But this post helped me get more clear reason.

  4. It’s not a good record at all, those women that use to experience such abuse should leave the man because such thing can lead to their deaths. Drastic measures needed to be taken in such situations.

  5. Reblogged this on Lisa Lanser Rose and commented:

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Siren Suzannah answers the nagging question, “Why won’t she leave him?” (or he leave her, or she leave her, or he leave him). Answers to all kinds of turmoil seem so clear to those of us on the outside. Here’s a lucid and compassionate glimpse at the inside of these heartbreaking–and potentially life-threatening–vexations.

  6. Reblogged this on I just have to say… and commented:

    Don’t tell her what to do; talk to her and listen. Offer your help, but understand that to leave or not to leave is her decision. Respect it. And tell her you respect her.
    Acknowledge the pain and turmoil she is in, most especially the emotional turmoil. If she doesn’t leave him, don’t give up on her leaving him. Give her love, respect, support, and time. It’s going to take all of that.

  7. I love this wheel for helping women to see and understand overt abuse, is there a comparable tool for helping women to recognize covert abuse? The wolf in sheeps clothing is just as hurtful but much harder to qualify. (Aka the classic Christian narcissist, the man who is chronically sorry but repeats his hurtful behaviors)

    • Hi, Ruth-Anne. Thanks for asking about a wheel for recognizing covert abuse, your term. Well, you already looked at it. The difference between abuse being overt or covert depends on who the person is who is abusive. Is he a friendly Christian guy who could pull 20 character witnesses out of his pocket? Then he’s not the same as the guy who puts down his wife at the restaurant for wanting dessert when she’s “already fat enough.” Many, many abusers are genial men that no one would suspect this behavior from. A man can covertly isolate his wife from friends and family by suggesting to her that a friend, say, is a little too________, and then by later saying, “I’m glad you said you weren’t going to be around her anymore,” when his wife didn’t say that. The covert abusers are slicker. They’re smoother. And, if you ask me, they’re much more dangerous. They are the guys who try to get everyone on their side, and many times they do. The more domestic violence a law enforcement officer has, the more he or she will understand that because when they arrive at the home and the wife is screaming and yelling but the husband is calm, smiling, and shaking their hands, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t abused her. It doesn’t mean she’s crazy, temperamental, or in her menstrual cycle. It means he’s a calm, smooth abuser. I think you can go back to the wheel and imagine ways those abuses occur “covertly.”

      What I love to see is a smooth guy in court thinking he’s going to pull one over on the judge when the judge has vast training and experience with domestic violence cases.

  8. I was emotionally bused and to be honest it took me so long and so much power to leave. No matter what everyone would tell me I would always go back to him as I had self esteem, I was powerless in front of him and scared as well. I left him after 4 years and two miscarriages and I swear it felt amazing to finally be free.

    • Alinabarac, you just gave me chills. You are a brave, powerful, strong woman, and I salute you. Looks like you have a baby girl now. You have a chance to raise a young woman who believes in herself, a strong woman who knows how much she is worth– like the woman you have become.

      • It took me almost eight years to trust someone again and to build myself again, to rediscover the one I used to be but it was worth it. I have the most amazing man next to me and a beautiful baby girl who will grow up knowing she is worth more than anything in the world

    • I agree, escaping from emotional abuse is the most difficult of all, because there are no bruises or wounds to say, “She hit me here”. In fact, a victim of abuse can often blame himself for everything that happens, and feel like he deserved it. It took me twenty years to leave my abuser, because I always thought there was something I was doing wrong. Although there were consequences to escaping, being free outweighs them all.

      • Walter, at the very time I was writing this post, I mean while I was actually writing it, a male I know was being victimized by his female partner. I found that out later. Men are victims of domestic abuse, and men are even less likely to be believed than women. I am sorry you suffered abuse at all and very sorry you suffered for so long. I don’t know what finally gave you– or gave anyone– what it took to leave, but I’m glad you got to the point where you were able to leave. It’s brave for a man to tell his story, and you are very brave. Thank you for reading what I wrote, especially because I only mentioned at the end that I was examining this issue through the lens of what an abused woman is up against. I wish you all of the very best, and it looks like you’ve already been getting it. Cheers to you!

  9. mrs. gilman, how very true. having been in the situation my reason was not being taken down by another failed relationship. i met him after my divorce, stayed with him not because of pride but hoping for the stress that surrounded him to subside and see that lighter side of him comeback that i once knew… but it never did , and once my unplanned daughter came in the picture and this either didn’t help him resolve his own issues (i knew they weren’t mine) i decided it was time for us to leave him. its the time factor that eats away at these women, excuses or not , its the validating them , giving them a reason to keep going. my daughter reached the age of 2, and she was my greater reason. long story short , she still sees her dad, almost 10 years since we left, and all of us are now on great speaking terms. now happy to say im remarried to a wonderful man, we all including her father get along great. my husband for his part was on the receiving end resulting in his divorce, and going back to your last comment female violence against men happens more often then one thinks.

  10. An abused won’t leave an abuser when the abused grew up in an abusive enviroment, so most do not know the other alternatives, and are fearfilled that no one will love them, but perhaps this person does…so they stay… It really is something that is passed down generational. Dad abused so it must be good, Mom abused so it must be right… acceptance comes first. I saw a lady get smacked in the face once and she said that was it and left husband immediatly. No tolerance… gone. So until it is unaaceptable… well… better learn to box, Kung fu… you know the drill! Ouch! Thank you for a lovely article!

  11. For two years I stayed with my fiancé, who mentally abused me. He had me convinced that if I left him he would kill himself. Last month, I finally had the courage to leave him after he threatened to hit me. It’s still hard to believe that the man I lived more than anything in the world could become a monster. Each day though, I become stronger. I see now that I deserve more than to be someone’s outlet; I deserve better. Thank y’all (yes, I’m Southern) for writing this and educating readers.

    • Tandaawalkehamilan0, can you please explain? Many do leave their abusers, but the ones who don’t are criticized and then are unsupported by family and friends after a while, because who wants to hear someone gripe over and over about a situation they won’t get away from?

      Is that it? Am I close to what you’re thinking? I’m very curious to know. I always want to learn by hearing what others have to say.

  12. This is an intense post and one that hits home for me. My best friend went through this in her early marriage. She finally broke the bonds and took her two boys and left her abuser. She is one of the lucky ones.

    I recently posted my writing that ties into your piece. I invite you to my website to read the post. http://chuckjacksonknowme.com The post is entitled “Self-esteem – A Self Examination. Yours is a great and worth while post. Thanks.

  13. Truth is I didn’t read this page just the Title, right away he came into my mind. I don’t want to leave him even when I can name so name so many reason. I don’t know why I put up with him..

    • There are many reasons, and each one hurts more than the last. And he has taken away your positive view of yourself. You were robbed. We ALL have something about us that makes us likable and LOVABLE. You are lovable. You don’t have to be simply tolerated. No one does.