There is never one reason why women choose to stay in a violent relationship, just as there is no one type of violent relationship. To answer the question of why women don’t “just leave” their violent relationships, the nature of the relationship needs to be considered. 

For example, let’s say Bob and Anne are married. They have two kids together. Bob makes enough money for Anne to stay home and not work.  Now let’s say this is a violent relationship.  Bob gives Anne a strict stipend for every week and is in complete control of the money.  They only have one car and Bob takes it to work everyday.  Anne is not allowed to have any friends.  During the day she is supposed to take care of the kids, clean, cook, and have everything ready for the time Bob gets home. 

So, why would Anne stay?

1. Money – With Bob controlling all of the family income, Anne has no access to money. Therefore, she has no way to buy food, clothes, supplies, or transport tickets without Bob finding out.  She would be leaving her relationship with nothing to her name, and no way to provide for her kids or herself. By staying with Bob, she at least has a roof over her head, food in her stomach, and other essentials.

2. Kids – Because Bob is the kids’ father, if Anne takes the children with her, she is depriving Bob of what is partially his. She is kidnapping the children from their home and father. If Anne chooses to take the children with her, she has two more mouths to feed with the little money she has.  In addition, she will have to care for the children and herself.  However, if Anne chooses to leave the children with their father (so they won’t have to suffer from being homeless), Bob has the opportunity to use the children to make Anne come back to him.  He may also turn the children against her, which would be devastating to Anne.  By staying with Bob, she ensures the children are taken care of and that they don’t have to suffer.

3. Psychological Damage – By living with Bob for so many years, Anne may have developed “Battered Wife Syndrome.”  This syndrome includes symptoms such as, the belief that the violence is her fault, fear for her own life and/or her children’s lives, and an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent. This syndrome can make leaving very difficult for women.  In addition, Anne may internalize Bob’s rants and believe that she is useless and undeserving of all he has given her.  She may not even see his violence as a problem.

4. Support System – Bob has forced Anne to become isolated. As stated, she is not allowed to have any friends. Therefore, any support system which would, in theory, help her get out of the violent relationship is non-existent.  If she leaves, Anne will be on her own. With Bob, she at least has a family.

5. Travel – Anne and Bob only have one car, which Bob drives to work everyday.  Anne has no way to get away from the house, other than to use money, of which she has little.  With a car, Anne could leave and get far enough away where Bob could not track her down. However, any method of travel she uses now can easily be tracked by Bob.  

5. 1st Relationship – If this relationship is Anne’s first, she may believe all relationships are like hers.  She may think that there’s no point in leaving because she will not be loved again the way Bob loves her.  With Bob she has someone she loves and who loves her.  On her own, there are too many what ifs to consider.

These five reasons are only a handful in the wide assortment which women have to stay in an abusive relationship.  Others include religious beliefs, feelings of guilt, promises of reform, and sex-role conditioning. With all these logical reasons for staying in a violent relationship, why is it that society readily assumes fault in a women when she stays in the relationship?  Just as there are a multitude of reasons for staying in the relationship, there are numerous reasons to assume fault in a woman. These include stereotypes about women (she’s not strong enough, she’s lying about being abused, she’s not being a good wife) and men (he could never do that, she’s just exaggerating, he needs to keep her in line), sex-role conditioning.  Women are criticized when they don’t leave a violent relationship, yet by all other accounts, they are socialized to stay.  They are brought up to take care of people, believe people can change, and to be good wives.  By leaving a relationship, they are failing all these major assumptions.  Women who are in violent relationships have two choices: leave or stay.  Neither of which are supported by society.