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Barriers to Leaving

Choosing to leave an abusive partner can be a very dangerous decision and is one that only the victim can make. She knows her partner best and knows when, if at all, it is safe to leave. Someone else should never make the decision. As advocates we can provide information, referrals, safety planning and support. The following are some of the many barriers victims face when considering whether or not to leave an abusive partner.


  • The act of leaving can increase the victims risk of injury and death because when she leaves, he loses power and control.
  • As many as 75% of battered women's visits to the hospital for severe injuries occur after separation.
  • Studies have shown that 75% of calls for intervention of law enforcement officers occur after separation.
  • He threatens to harm her children or family members if she leaves.
  • "If I can't have you, no one can" is a very real threat.
  • He threatens to commit suicide of she leaves.
  • From 1987-1994, 57% of the women killed by homicide in Vermont were murdered by a current or former boyfriend or husband.


  • He is a good father and the children love him. The desire to keep the family together is strong because of societal pressures surrounding two-parent families.
  • Abuser threatens to take the children away, report her to SRS who may take the kids from her, and he threatens to kidnap the children.
  • Abuser tells her she is a bad parent for taking the kids from their father.
  • Abuser threatens to hurt the children if she leaves
  • Abuser tells her that she’s crazy and threatens to have her committed or uses past mental health history against her


  • He controls all of the finances and she has no access to money. He makes her account for every cent she spends.
  • He won't let her get a job or causes her to lose her job (by harassing her or coworkers) so she is unable to gain any economic independence
  • She doesn't want to have to go on welfare or he threatens to report her to welfare fraud.
  • He threatens to gain custody of children because if they divorce, he can afford an attorney and she cannot.


  • He apologizes after the abuse and says that it won’t happen again.
  • He promises to get help, counseling, go to AA or NA, go back to church if she doesn’t leave.
  • She really wants him to change and believes him
  • She loves him. He’s not abusive most of the time.
  • She wants the relationship to continue but the violence to stop.


  • He controls who she talks to and sees and limits all of her activities.
  • He cuts her off from family and friends.
  • He is well-known and respected in the community – no one would believe her.
  • He is very jealous so she stops seeing friends, participating in activities and going out to avoid his abuse.
  • Pressure from family and friends to keep the family together
  • She has no transportation.
  • If she's left and gone back to him in the past, family and friends might have been frustrated by their "failed" attempts to help her.
  • Abuser threatens to kill her if she tells anyone or calls the police.


  • Belief that there is no one to help her and she’s all alone.
  • Bad experience with social service agencies in the past.
  • Know where to go for help/support/money/resources.
  • Lack of support from police/hospital/judicial intervention.


  • Her religion or spiritual belief might prohibit divorce.
  • Belief that women are the property of men and particularly their husbands; belief that it’s okay for men to hit their partners.
  • Abuser uses biblical passages to support the abuse.

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