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Why doesn’t she leave or ask for help?

Women are affected by domestic violence on average 35 times* before seeking help.  What keeps them in the abusive relationship?

Here are just some of the reasons:

  • FEAR: they are so afraid of the abuser that they cannot ask for help or leave, for fear of worse violence or death
  • FEAR OF DISBELIEF: they fear they will not be believed, especially if there are no physical injuries
  • SHAME: they feel failure, guilt or shame
  • FEAR OF BLAME: they fear no-one else has experienced this and that they will be told it is their fault
  • PERCEPTION: they do not recognise the situation as domestic violence or abuse, especially if their partner says ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again’
  • FEAR FOR CHILDREN: they fear that their children will be hurt, or taken away
  • DEPRESSION: they might be suffering chronic post-traumatic stress and be unable to make critical decisions.
  • FINANCIAL DEPENDENCE: they’re financially dependent on their abuser, with no access to their own money, and no knowledge of any benefits they may be entitled to
  • LOW SELF-ESTEEM: they’re convinced by their abuser that they are worthless and no-one else will care for them
  • STABILITY: they believe that it is preferable for them to suffer domestic violence than for their children to experience the loss of a parent, home, stability and friends
  • LOVE: they still love the abuser or believe he will change
  • LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF SUPPORT SERVICES: they don’t know that Jewish Women’s Aid exists, and is there to support them and their children.

Please remember: Asking “Why doesn’t she just leave?” can be experienced as blaming her, which is unhelpful, hurtful and unsupportive. This response can also stop her from telling anyone else. Victim-blaming is a very common phenomenon in VAWG offences (violence against women and girls), and takes away the responsibility from where it rightfully belongs: with the perpetrator.


* (Jaffe 1982)