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Young peopleyou're not alone

Why is it hard to leave an abusive relationship?

People who have never been in an abusive relationship often wonder why a person wouldn’t just leave. They don’t understand that breaking up and leaving an abusive relationship can be complicated.

There are many practical and psychological reasons why people in abusive relationships find it hard to leave:

Fear: You may be afraid of what will happen if you decide to leave the relationship. If you have been threatened by your partner you may not feel safe leaving.

Believing Abuse is Normal: If you do not know what a healthy relationship looks and feels like, perhaps because of growing up in an environment where abuse was common, you may not recognise that your relationship is unhealthy.

Embarrassment: It’s probably hard for you to admit that you have been abused. You may feel you’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner. You may also worry that your friends and family will judge you.

Low Self-esteem: If your partner constantly puts you down and blames you for the abuse, it can be easy for you to believe those statements and think that the abuse is your fault.

Love: You may stay in an abusive relationship hoping that your abuser will change. Think about it — if a person you love tells you they’ll change, you want to believe them. You may only want the violence to stop, not for the relationship to end entirely.

Social/Peer Pressure: If the abuser is popular, it can be hard for a person to tell their friends for fear that no one will believe them or that everyone will take the abuser’s side.

‘Jekyll and Hyde’: if the abuser switches frequently from charm to rage and back again you may think ‘he’s not always like this, often he’s wonderful’ and find it hard to be objective about the situation.

If you know someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you can offer support if you understand why they may be finding it hard to leave.