Graphic Logo for COSC depicting a harp and text

The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

An Oifig Náisiúnta um Fhoréigean Baile, Gnéasach agus Inscnebhunaithe a Chosc

  1. Why don't victims of domestic violence leave the relationship?

Why don't victims of domestic violence leave the relationship?

People stay in abusive relationships for a number of reasons. Many victims do not stay and many others come and go. The primary reason given by victims for staying with their abusers is fear of violence and the lack of real options to be safe with their children. This fear of violence is realistic. Some perpetrators repeatedly threaten to kill or seriously injure their victims should they attempt to leave the relationship.


There are many reasons for staying in a violent relationship, and they vary for each victim. They may include:
1. fear of violence and the perpetrator
2. difficulty accessing accommodation to provide transitional support and safety for the victim and children
3. lack of real alternatives for employment and financial assistance, especially for victims with children
4. difficulty obtaining legal assistance
5. being immobilised by psychological and physical trauma
6. believing in cultural/family/religious values that encourage the maintenance of the family unit at all costs
7. continuing to hope and believe the perpetrator's promises to change


Many children themselves are directly targeted with physical, sexual and emotional abuse by the perpetrator of domestic violence. In an overview of American studies, in 32% to 53% of all families where women are being physically beaten by their partners, children are directly subjected to violence and abuse by the abuser. Research has found that witnessing domestic violence can have a detrimental impact on children (Saunders et al, 1995; Abrahams, 1994; Jaffe et al, 1990). Early work on children and domestic violence (Evanson, 1982) found that 72% of mothers who were victims of domestic violence felt that their children had experienced negative emotional impacts because of the violence.


The literature also notes that there is no uniform response to living with domestic violence and children react in many different ways (Hester et al, 2000). Edelson (1995), in a review of 84 domestic violence studies, highlights the association between domestic violence and a series of childhood problems, and concludes that ’child witnesses of domestic violence exhibit a host of behavioural and emotional problems when compared to other children’".
Source: Hogan, F. & O’Reilly M. (2007) Listening to Children:
Children’s stories of domestic violence, Report for the Office of the Minister for Children.