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  • National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
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Supporting critical thinking, learning and victim-defined advocacy...

Will life be better if I stay or if I go?

How can my partner’s violence be reduced or stopped?  •  How will I meet my family’s basic needs?  •  How can I help my children?
Who will help me get what I need to be safe?


It’s such a big fear: to stay and to leave. They are both so fearful.

— Shelter Resident, Meeting Survivors’ Needs through Non-Residential Domestic Violence Services & Supports: Results of a Multi-State Study by NRCDV (November 2011)

How can my partner’s violence be reduced or stopped?

Victims ask this question because leaving can be a high risk, high stakes decision. They ask because — as difficult and painful it is to stay — for some victims, leaving will make life worse.

Leaving can mean the escalation of violence, loss of home, income, job, health insurance, faith community, immigration status, and even the support of family and friends.

For many victims, leaving will make things better. The power and control of an abusive partner is reduced or eliminated. New lives are built. Adult and child victims heal and flourish.

It is often a fluid decision that changes with life circumstances, the behavior of her partner, advocacy, and domestic violence responses. Some victims remain but have long-term plans to leave.

Victims’ concerns and hopes for their children are often central to this decision. Often victims leave to remove their children from the violence. Yet, some victims remain because it is the only way to provide for their basic needs. Others are afraid to leave because they cannot trust the legal system to make parental custody/access orders that will keep their children safe. And, there are those victims who suffer the violence to ensure their children grow up in an “intact” family, believing that is what is best.

The success of leaving as a safety strategy for some victims has led to an expectation that leaving is the answer to domestic violence and that all victims SHOULD leave. When leaving is not the best option, this has serious and negative consequences for victims.

Even victims who leave are likely to have some contact with her ex-partner, particularly if they share children. Children are likely to have contact with their father, even if he is no longer their mother’s partner.

This website is funded through grant # 90EV041001 from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau. Neither the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse this website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).