Are you thinking about leaving? We encourage you to make a plan, be cautious about how you implement it, and make positive choices in your life.

There are challenges to leaving any relationship, especially when there is abuse and violence involved. It’s very common for women to leave their abuser several times: Women’s Refuge have found that a woman can leave and return to an abuser between four and seven times before she can feel strong and supported enough to make it permanent.

However, from working with tens of thousands of domestic violence cases over time, we’ve noticed some patterns.

Five things we’ve learned about leaving

  1. Leaving doesn’t get easier with practice.
  2. Staying with an abuser is likely to get harder to cope with and more dangerous for you and your children as time goes on.
  3. The reason you leave the first time will almost always be the same reason you leave the last time.
  4. You, and only you, will be the best judge of when it is safest to leave.
  5. All your efforts to keep the peace at home will never work. Why not? Because domestic violence is about your abuser, not you. It is their responsibility to change – and you can only choose whether or not to be around them in the meantime.

Some advice from us to help your decision-making

Be proud that you have done whatever you needed to do in order to keep yourself and your children safe, but you all deserve to live without fear, shame and anxiety.

If you’re considering your options, there is no right or wrong way to feel at this moment. You are likely to be feeling a mix of emotions that change in strength and urgency throughout the day, and over time.

There are many things to consider, so try to get clear in your mind before you make your final decision. Talking to someone you trust or people who know about violence against women may help you with the choices you need to make. Do not let the person abusing you know you are thinking of leaving. You can phone our confidential Crisisline if you want to talk to a Women’s Refuge advocate on 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843.

Make a Safety Plan, whether you’re choosing to stay for now or leaving the relationship. We have designed some you can use for free, outlining exactly what you need to think about for a safe new future.

And finally, know that there are stories from brave women who have found the courage to leave abusive relationships, and been rewarded with peaceful, loving lives. Because around half of all murders committed each year in New Zealand are domestic violence related, many women believe leaving was the best decision they ever made.