Quick escape (ESC)

Leaving an abusive relationship

Leaving abusive relationships can allow survivors the opportunity to heal. But when victims do leave, they often find themselves at serious risk.

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Content warning This page involves descriptions and discussion of the experiences and impacts of domestic and family violence. Some survivors might find its content troubling.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be a very difficult, lonely and often a very dangerous time. For some women, leaving can mean they risk losing their, identity, status, family and community support networks, financial security, homes, hopes and dreams.

On average, leaving a violent relationship for good takes six attempts.

Leaving is a dangerous time for victims

Often, when a victim decides to leave, they are faced with dangerous and stressful choices about where they will live, how to keep themselves and their children and any pets safe, and how they will make ends meet while they try to set up a life again. Many women in violent situations, where there is a family pet present, may remain in that situation because of concern for the welfare of their pet if they leave.

Most victims will doubt their decision to leave, and sadly many will return to an abusive relationship. Escaping a violent relationship costs victims in many ways. That is why many women leave and return a number of times, before deciding to leave permanently.

When a victim of domestic and family violence is planning to leave or has recently left their relationship, is often the most dangerous time. If a perpetrator suspects or hears that their partner is planning to leave them, they may fear losing power and control and will often act impulsively, increasing their use of violence.

This is why it is vital that your actions to keep the victim safe are undertaken efficiently and quietly. Professional help and advice is needed at this stage. There are many organisations that offer support.

For immediate support and advice, call 1800 Respect (1800 737 732)

Allow sufficient time to pass

After leaving a controlling, abusive and violent relationship, there might be moments of regret and thoughts of reuniting. These are normal feelings of grief. Concerningly, churches can subtly or overtly encourage reconciliation which can be highly dangerous if the abuser has not truly reformed and is using manipulative strategies (a “honeymoon” period) to get their partner back under their control.

This is an important time for the victim to stay connected to professional support services and to focus on building strong social networks. It is critical to allow the victim enough time to process and feel their emotions fully. They also need sufficient time to observe any indicators of whether or not the abusive partner is following through their promises to change. This can take years.