People experiencing domestic violence often report many barriers to leaving. With this thought in mind, barriers are put into layers and expanded upon within these layers. The diagram helps to understand the barriers better. Understanding these barriers helps to create safety plans, and support healing for people who are experiencing  or have experienced domestic violence.

It is common to misunderstand people who are experiencing domestic violence, especially if we have not experienced it ourselves. Often people jump to conclusions and say, “Why don’t they just leave”, but to be a support for survivors we need to understand the obstacles they face and understand that leaving is a process, not an event and it is unique to every person experiencing it. Contact The Shelter at 800-931-7233 if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence. In an emergency dial 9-1-1.


Layer 1: Barriers in the environment

  • Lack of access to information
  • Abuser causing physical barriers
  • Leaving creates an onset of extreme violence
  • Lack of finances/ lack of job skills
  • No access to proper housing outside of relationship
  • No transportation
  • Religious beliefs that discourage leaving the abuser, or encourage being “submissive” to the abuser.
  • Discrimination which blocks them from receiving help
  • Language differences

Layer 2: Family and social role expectations

  • Values and beliefs about relationships. (ex. you must sacrifice yourself for your partner)
  • Lack of sense of self
  • Family rules (ex. you must stay married)
  • Values and beliefs about abuse (ex. society romanticizing jealousy, and obsession)

Layer 3: Psychological consequences of abuse

  • Denial, as a survival mechanism
  • Sleep deprivation leading to serious head trauma
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Stockholm syndrome (adapting to abusers worldview as a survival strategy, due to being made to feel like the abuse is somehow their own fault)

Layer 4: Childhood abuse and neglect issues

  • Childhood trauma increases the power of the other three layers
  • Learning that abuse just happens after experiencing it in the home as a child.
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