Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Why Women Stay with Men Who Hurt Them

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 18: Violence Against Women > Why Women Stay with Men Who Hurt Them


two women talking near a sad woman they cannot see

She should try not to make him so mad.
Why doesn't she just leave him?
This is my home. I don't want to leave, I just want him to stop hitting me. Besides, where would I go? He would kill me first!


If we ask why she does not leave, it says that we think the violence is her personal problem to solve. The whole community needs to be responsible for the health and well-being of every person in that community.


“Why does she stay?” is the first question most people ask when they hear about a woman who is being abused. There are many reasons why a woman might choose to stay in an abusive relationship. They include:

  • fear and threats. The man may have told her, “I will kill you, kill the children, kill your mother... if you try to leave.” She may feel she is doing everything she can to protect herself and others by staying.
  • no money, and no place to go. This is especially true if he has controlled all the money and not allowed her to see her family and friends.
  • no protection. There may be nothing to stop him from coming after her and killing her.
  • shame. She may feel the violence is somehow her fault, or that she deserves it.
  • religious or cultural beliefs. She may feel it is her duty to keep the marriage together, no matter what it costs her.
  • hope for change. She may feel she loves the man and wants the relationship to continue. She may think there is some way to make the violence stop.
  • guilt about leaving the children with no father.

But perhaps a better question to ask is, “Why doesn’t he go?” If we ask why she does not leave, it says that we think it is her personal problem to solve. It is wrong to think of the violence as only her problem.

  • The whole community needs to be responsible for the health and well-being of every person in that community.
  • It is the man who is committing a crime by violating the woman’s right to live free from physical harm, or by killing her. His actions should be challenged and stopped.


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