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The challenges of leaving abuse: child and family protection

Social Change

Read the first part of our series of Barriers to Leaving Abusive Relationships on Emotional Turmoil here.

Myth: A woman should just take her children and leave an abusive relationship.

Reality: It’s not that easy; where will they go, how much will it cost, how will this affect the family?

“I was quite lost, still grieving the loss of my marriage, still fearing for my life, and trying to build a future for my children.”

Most mothers would do anything for their children, so much that they may stay with an abusive partner to ensure that their child has a home, food, lessons, and can still go to the same school, have the same friends, or keep a cherished pet. From the outside, the solution looks simple: take the children and leave, but there are many things that need to be considered:

Parenting Concerns

Many women stay with their abuser to protect the children. Some men threaten to kidnap the children or fight for sole custody if they separate or divorce. 

Women with abusive partners often have concerns about fathers having unsupervised parenting time. The concern may vary from the father neglecting the children’s basic needs, for example — not providing nutritious food. Or concerns about the child being physically or emotionally abused.

Breaking up The Family

There are many stereotypes about “single mother families”, and a belief that a two-parent family is best for children, even if the children are witnessing and/or experiencing abuse.  When women leave abusive partners, they need support and reassurance that they have made the best decision for themselves, and for their children. 

What can you do as a friend or family of someone who has left an abusive partner?

  • Do not judge her; she is not to blame for leaving and keeping herself and the children safe
  • Listen; sometimes all she may need is someone to talk to
  • Support her and the children when you can to keep them safe during this vulnerable time
  • Refer them to other support networks. Your friend may need professional help when it comes to concerns such as legal custody and child support.

Check out the YWCA Metro Vancouver Stopping the Violence brochure for local organizations supporting women leaving abuse.

The YWCA has several programs which provide resources for single mothers who leave abusive relationships, from child-care, to housing, to employment services.


Why doesn’t she just leave? It’s not that easy.

YWCA Week without Violence (October 13-19) is a national week of violence prevention. To learn more about #NotThatEasy visit our campaign page. Tomorrow’s post will cover another barrier women face when trying to leave an abusive relationship: Saftey. Stay tuned!

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