Abusive Relationships - Why Doesn't She Just Leave, for Crying Out Loud!


Dr. King

by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Almost as common as the question "why doesn’t she just leave," are the answers. So why do people continue to ask? I suspect it is because a victim’s staying in an abusive relationship is truly perplexing looking from the outside in.

Here are 3 clear explanations for why she doesn’t just leave:

1) Unrealistic hopes, dreams, roles and perceived love, etc


Believe it or not she really does love him, or at least she thinks this is love. And she loves her fantasy of what her relationship should be like. And when she’s married, she believes it’s her job to be the peacemaker and family glue “till death do us/her part.”


2) Commitment to the belief that there are insufficient resources


In her relationship, she has been groomed to believe that life support is external to self. Her relationship atmosphere of dominance, dependency and exclusivity does not support plentiful resources.


There are economic considerations, residential realities, children’s lives and the daunting prospect of being this person’s enemy. She knows it’s easier to be his friend than to be his enemy...which leads us to number 3.


3) Realistic fear of the consequences of her leaving the relationship


She knows that when she leaves violence will escalate upon and after her departure. You see when a victim leaves an abusive relationship, her mere physical as well as emotional separation increases the perpetrators need to control his partner.


Abuse is fundamentally about control. Violence may be a manifestation of domestic abuse, but let’s face it: abuse is fundamentally about control.

And the perpetrator can’t bear to be out of control. When the perpetrator feels he’s losing his grip, violence will escalate so as to re-engage control.


If you are looking from the outside in, come to the table with this understanding and you will be in a better position to help someone in an abusive relationship if and when they are ready to leave.

For more information about helping a loved one break the cycle of abuse, see Stop Domestic Abuse: Helping Others Break the Cycle. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse. ©2008 Jeanne King, Ph.D.

This series of eInsights is presented to you by Partners in Prevention, a nonprofit organization. If you find this eInsight article useful, we invite you to contribute to the maintenance and growth of the Survivor Success Tips & eInsights. To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit www.EndDomesticAbuse.org

© Copyright 2008 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. www.PreventAbusiveRelationships.com

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.