Communities and Justice

Deciding to leave or stay

There are many reasons why you may find it very difficult to leave a violent or abusive relationship. You may be thinking:

Your partner or abuser has promised to stop the violence and abuse

Abusive partners often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in that moment, but they really want to keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to abusing and controlling you when they stop worrying that you will leave.

Even if your partner is in counselling, there is no guarantee that he will change. Many partners who go through counselling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped playing down the problem or making excuses, that is a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who he is now, not the person you hope he will become.

I am hoping he will change. I can help

While change is possible, it's not quick or easy. Change can only happen once your partner takes full responsibility for his behaviour and stops blaming you, or an unhappy childhood, stress, work, financial problems, drinking, drug misuse, depression or temper.

Signs that he is not changing include if he:

  • tells you that you owe him another chance
  • says that he can’t change unless you stay with him and support him
  • minimises the abuse or deny how serious it really is or was
  • continues to blame others for his behaviour
  • claims that you are the one who is abusive
  • says you will destroy the family by leaving.

It's not unusual to want to help your partner. You may think you are the only one who understands your partner or that it's your responsibility to fix his problems. But the reality is, only the abuser can take responsibility for their own abusive behaviour and take action to change that behaviour.

I am worried about what will happen if I leave

You may be afraid of what your partner will do if you leave. You could also worry about where you'll go, or how you'll support yourself or your children if you leave. There are support services that can listen to you and help you figure out what to do. These trained experts can listen without judgement and provide information and counselling, and refer you to local support, including accommodation, health and legal services. To talk to someone call:

As you think about whether to leave or stay with your partner, different worries could run through your mind like:

  • I don't want to end the relationship, I still love my partner and keep hoping for change
  • I feel too scared to leave and worry about what will happen if I do
  • I have kids, I've just had a baby, I'm pregnant... and it's just too complicated to leave
  • I worry about the kids if the family breaks up
  • I've lost my self-confidence and self-esteem and feel unsure of what to do
  • I'm afraid of losing my home and financial security - how will I afford to take care of myself and the kids?
  • I feel shamed, blamed and rejected by friends and family.

If it feels like you are in a never-ending circle of tension, abuse and apologies – you're not alone. Read about the cycle of violence women experience.

You may also want to read about what causes a man to become violent towards a woman.

Remember: it's never your fault. He is causing injury and abuse and that's against the law.

Your decision

Everyone has the right to live without fear. Physical or sexual assault, threats of violence and stalking are against the law in Australia. You may want to read about the signs of healthy relationships to help you understand what you should expect from a partner.

For many reasons, you may decide that staying with your abusive partner is the best choice at this time. If you do decide to stay, for now at least, there are things you can do to keep as safe as possible. And if you need to talk to someone for any reason, call a support services number.

If you've reached the point of wanting to leave, read about how you can plan and prepare for this. The time leading up to, and just after, leaving can be the most dangerous for you. It's important that you're aware of this and plan for your safety.

Your situation may change in the future and you may need to take another look at what's going on for you. It's a good idea to read about planning and preparing to leave so you know what to do when you're ready to move on and leave the violent situation.

Always call triple zero 000 if you fear for your safety or you've been assaulted.

Last updated:

07 Oct 2022