Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Why A Victim Of Domestic Violence Won’t Leave


Why not just leave? You may think a victim has the power just to walk out the door and escape the abuse. For some victims it is not that easy. In fact, leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. Abusers may go to extremes to prevent victims from leaving.

A victim’s reasons for remaining with their abusers can be extremely complex and in most cases are based on the following threats and barriers: 

  • The fear that the abuser’s actions will become more violent and may be lethal if the victim attempts to leave
  • Unsupportive friends and family
  • Single parenting and reduced financial circumstances
  • The victim feels that the relationship is a mix of good times, love, and hope along with manipulation, intimidation, and fear
  • The victim’s lack of knowledge of or access to safety and support
  • Fear of losing custody of their children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children
  • Lack of means to financially support themselves and/or their children or lack of access to cash, bank accounts, or assets
  • Lack of having somewhere to go, fear of homelessness 
  • Religious or cultural beliefs and practices may not support divorce or may dictate outdated gender roles and keep the victim trapped in the relationship
  • A belief that two-parent households are better for children, despite the abuse
  • Societal barriers to disclosure

Long-term abuse can also lead to battered women syndrome (BWS). Battered woman syndrome is considered a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Victims living with BWS may feel helpless. This can cause them to wrongly believe they deserve the abuse and that they can’t get away from it. In many cases, this is why victims remain in the situation, never reporting the abuse to law enforcement, friends, or family.  

Battered woman syndrome has four stages. Each stage may not look different for every victim. 

  1. Denial: The person is unable to accept that they’re being abused, or they justify it as being “just that once.”
  2. Guilt: The person believes they caused the abuse.
  3. Enlightenment:  In this phase, the person realizes that they didn’t deserve the abuse and acknowledges that their partner has an abusive personality.
  4. Responsibility: The person accepts that only the abuser holds responsibility for the abuse. In many cases, this is when they’ll explore their options for leaving the relationship.

Domestic violence follows a pattern and contains three phases in the cycle of violence

Phase 1: Tension Building

First is the tension-building phase. In this phase, tension begins to build up. This is where the battered person may feel like they are walking on eggshells.

Phase 2:  A Physical Incident

Second is the actual explosion phase where the physical abuse occurs. It can last from a few minutes to several hours 

Phase 3: The Honeymoon Phase

The third is the honeymoon phase. The perpetrator may be sorry or act as nothing happened, but is still interested in making up and may even promise never to do it again. 

The cycle of violence begins again with each completion of the cycle, and the incidents of violence increase in both frequency and intensity as time goes on, making it difficult to break the cycle. 

You are not alone!

If you’re looking for support, you can call a domestic abuse hotline:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.799.SAFE (7233)
  • Los Alamos Victim Assistant: (505) 663-3511
  • Crisis Center of Northern NM : (505) 753-1149
  • Esperanza shelter: 505-473-5200 or 1-800-473-5220.