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Instead of asking, “why doesn’t she leave?” ask, “why doesn’t he stop?”

Often when people are trying to understand woman abuse, the first question they ask is, “why doesn’t she leave?” This is a faulty starting point. The point really is why does he continue to be abusive and why does society, in subtle and not so subtle ways, allow the abuse to continue? Women stay for lots of reasons. Sometimes they stay out of fear. The most dangerous time for a woman, who has experienced abuse, is when she leaves her partner. By beginning the engagement with this issue with the question, “why doesn’t she leave”, we are blaming the woman for the abuse and suggesting that she could stop the abuse by leaving, which she cannot. He will continue to be abusive to her, even after she has left. The problem is with him, not with her.

3 responses to “Instead of asking, “why doesn’t she leave?” ask, “why doesn’t he stop?””

  1. Sue says:

    I realize this post is almost 2 years old, but thank you for this post. I have been wondering this for a very long time & am grateful you wrote about this. Nowhere else have I seen anyone say this.

  2. Heather says:

    Yes, the idea that the abuse ends when a woman leaves needs to be challenged! Abusers use every lever they can find, money, guilt, the kids, their mutual friends, the court, etc. to keep women hooked into the relationship. Bottom line for me was that he wanted to control me more than he wanted to love me. I had a hard time convincing anyone that I needed protection when I left because “he never hit me”. Everything that didn’t leave a mark on the outside was fair game, and there is a first time for everything! It was hard to leave and nearly two years later I am still in the rebuilding process. The fact that he is still behaving abusively towards me even though I am out of the relationship is the answer to my question- it is not about me. He wasn’t abusive “because I stayed” he IS abusive because he is an abuser. He controls or tries to control because he can. My behaviour makes no difference either way.

  3. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Heather. You have expressed it very well. Karen.

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When Love Hurts