Why Didn't you Leave | Deposit Photos | Stock Image ID 6485787 | Author: Elnur_

“Why Don’t You Leave?” The Need For Coercive Control Awareness

Coercive Control By Jun 12, 2024

The question “Why didn’t you just leave?” is a hallmark of the prevailing ignorance that blames the recipient of abuse for another person’s decision to inflict harm on them. It’s a question that enables perpetrators to escape being held to account. Furthermore, it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding about the dynamics of abusive power and control that makes it possible for cycle of abuse to continue with impunity.

By understanding coercive control, we can empower communities to prevent abuse, stop femicide, support survivors, and break the cycle.

The Danger of “Just Leaving”

Coercive control is a silent epidemic yet most people are unaware that it exists. Intimate partner- and family violence invariably takes place in the context of coercive control. Perpetrators of this scourge intersperse dominance behaviors with acts of kindness to induce profound yet confusing feelings of attachment in the people they harm. Leaving an abusive relationship may seem like an obvious solution to the uninformed bystander whose ignorance of coercive control mechanics blinds them to the dangerous realities victim-survivors face. Abuser may resort to intimidation, threats, physical violence, and stalking to maintain control.

Exiting an entrapment-based relationship can be fatal. In 2020 alone, a global total of 47,000 women and girls were killed by intimate partners or family members.1 Femicide is the ultimate expression of the perpetrators control over the victim-survivor. The gravity of the victim-survivors’ predicament is captured in the words of Marie Skou, who explains, “In case you were wondering, we call ourselves survivors because not all of us make it out.”

Post-Separation Challenges

It is difficult for victims-survivors of coercive control to find support once they leave the relationship. They are often deeply traumatized, financially compromised, and in the throes of a character assassination campaign waged by the abuser to control how others perceive the victim. Their feelings are usually invalidated and they asked why they stayed in the relationship. Most people who fail to understand that people in entrapment-based relationships often have no other choice but to stay.


Educating the public about coercive control can transform how society understands intimate partner- and family violence. People who have lived through it deserve compassion and support as opposed to the disbelief, stigma, disbelief and blame they usually encounter in the uninformed bystander.

If you or someone you know is experiencing coercive control, and are in need of confidential support book a free consultation on our recovery coaching page.

Photo: Elnur_ / Deposit Photos.


  1. Gibbons, Jonathan (2021). UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Killings of women and girls by their intimate partner
    or other family members Global estimates 2020
    . Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). ↩︎

Manya Wakefield is a recovery coach specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy and coercive trauma. Her expertise has been featured in publications such as Newsweek, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Huffington Post. In 2019, she launched the social impact platform Narcissistic Abuse Rehab, building a global audience through human rights advocacy. The same year, she published the book ‘Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship,’ which is used in domestic violence recovery groups around the world. In 2020, Manya developed The Coercive Control Legislation Global Database. She is also the host of The Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast, which is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.