But why doesn't she leave? : the intimate partner violence trap

Helping Someone Understanding IPV

But why doesn't she leave? : the intimate partner violence trap

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Because intimate partner violence (IPV) is complex issue, it is difficult to understand what a victim is really facing when she thinks about leaving. It can be difficult to understand why the victim is making the choice not to leave an abusive partner. In reality, leaving an abusive situation can be very difficult and involve many issues that make this decision very tricky for victims.

The ferris wheel allegory

It is often said that we must respect the victim's rhythm in terms of a possible breakup. In reality, it is not really the victim who is in cause in this rhythm, but the pace of the violence itself. There are times when leaving an abusive relationship can be more perilous than staying in it. Just like being on a Ferris wheel.

When you're on a Ferris wheel, you have limited opportunities to get off, and you have no control over its pace. If the person operating the Ferris wheel decides to stop it while it's at the top... you're stuck. You have to wait for the wheel to start again, for the basket to be at the bottom and for it to stop so that it becomes possible to get off. To make an even more realistic parallel with intimate partner violence, let's imagine that the wheel never stops at the bottom, and that it doesn't always turn at the same speed. You're more and more nauseous... but you can't get off safely. Getting out of a situation of IPV is a bit like that. The wheel often stops at the top, the operator leads the way and the passenger has little control over the situation. It may take many turns on the wheel to understand its rhythm and plan the best way to get off in the safest way possible.

IPV resources are there to accompany the victim on this ride, to help her assess what she is facing, to plan the best time to get off, and to wait for her at the bottom, putting as many mats as possible under the wheel, in case the ride is difficult.

Here are some of the issues that can trap a victim in an abusive relationship :


The potential for danger

The moment of separation is the most dangerous time for victims of IPV and for their children. There is a real danger of escalation and an increased risk for serious injury and, in some cases, homicide. Victims of IPV feel this potential for danger and try to protect themselves and their children as best they can.


The abusers' threats

Abusive partners generally make numerous threats to prevent the victim from leaving: «You don’t know what I could do if you leave»; «If you leave you can forget about the kids, you’ll never see them again»; «If you leave me, I’ll kill myself and it will be your fault», etc.



IPV victims are often very isolated. Not having access to practical assistance and emotional support from their loved ones makes it that much more difficult to imagine leaving the relationship.


Fear for their children

The fear that a violent partner will be awarded full or joint custody of the children is very common, especially if he has already made threats in this regard or if he has been violent with the children.


The repercussions of violence

When they begin to consider leaving a violent partner, many victims have been suffering from violence for months, even years. The consequences of the violence are thus already being felt: they are exhausted, their self-confidence is low, they are confused about their rights, they have stress-related health issues, they are scared and may suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of these consequences, it is hard for them to imagine being able to deal with everything that leaving a violent partner means.


Lack of financial resources

Chronic financial violence often means that victims of IPV do not have (or do not have access to) the financial resources that would allow them to meet their needs and those of their children, in addition to having to assume all the expenses inherent in a possible separation. In addition, the impact of the violence on their health can make it difficult for them to access paid work, sometimes for a while.

These issues (and many others) mean that it is vastly preferable to prepare a separation in a situation of IPV than to make a sudden move. It is also absolutely essential to respect the victim’s decisions concerning the timing and rhythm of the separation.

SOS violence conjugale


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Bien que la violence conjugale touche majoritairement des femmes, elle peut aussi toucher les hommes et les personnes issues de la diversité sexuelle et de genre. Les services de SOS violence conjugale sont offerts à toutes les personnes touchées par la problématique.

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