Women’s Centre manager Nycole Duncan shares why many women fear leaving abusive relationships

People are always shocked when I tell them that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she decides to leave.

In fact, the risk of being killed is increased up to two years after she has left.

That’s one reason why safety planning is such a huge part of our jobs at the YWCA Women’s Centre in Haliburton County. Our Outreach Service Workers co-create safety plans with every client, helping her to identify the areas of risk in her individual situation.

But the lethal risk after leaving helps to explain why a woman would stay in an abusive relationship.

People often ask me: Why do women stay?

For women who experience gender-based violence, there are many reasons. Every situation is unique. We know that for many women, it can take six to eight tries before they separate from an abuser for good.

Sometimes a woman wants to avoid the terrifying thought of losing her home, having to move out of the area to find a decent job or affordable housing. She may not want to uproot her children or risk losing relationships with extended family or friends.

But in my experience, she’s also likely to be scared of what might happen to herself, her kids, or both if she tries to leave her abuser.

For those who have lived in rural communities their whole lives, they might forget that the risks out here are different than for people living in the city or suburbs. In Haliburton County, there is no public transportation. When the closest neighbours are kilometers away, people are isolated, especially in the winter. Some folks may not have phones or internet, so it’s harder to reach out for help. It is common for homes in the area to contain guns and other lethal weapons, which can turn a situation from severe to deadly.

It really does take incredible courage for a woman to decide to leave an abusive relationship. She struggles to choose between the danger she already knows, and the uncertain danger she could face.

That’s why I’m so grateful to you for your generous support. Thanks to you, my team and I are able to be here for women in so many ways, when they need us most. We help women in all kinds of crisis situations to navigate their next steps, provide emotional and logistical support, and find them a safe place to stay.

Can we count on you to help us continue to be here for women?

You know the old saying, about how we are all within six degrees of separation from one another? Well, in the small communities around Haliburton County, it’s more like one and a half degrees.

That can be an added layer of risk for women experiencing gender-based violence.

In a small town, everybody doesn’t just know who you are — they know who you’re related to, who you’re dating, who you’ve left, and who you went to the grocery store with.

It means a woman might be less likely to share what she’s going through with family or friends, or might be scared that someone will tell her ex-partner where she is now.

But it also shows how important our work is, and how critical it is to make sure people know who we are and what the YWCA offers here in Haliburton County. Because it doesn’t take long, when I’m out in the community talking with people about what we do, before someone speaks up and says, I know how valuable you are because you helped my neighbour, or you helped my daughter, or you helped me.

We’re here for women and their children on some of the worst days of their lives.

Whether they need an empathetic listening ear without judgment, someone to help them navigate the complex court systems, help them find and secure housing, help them apply for financial assistance or a job, or a temporary safe space to stay.

Please make your gift today! With YOUR help, my team and I will continue to support women in our community as they move forward in their lives.

With sincere thanks,

Nycole Duncan
Women’s Centre & HERS Manager
YWCA Peterborough Haliburton

P.S. We have seen an increase in the demand for our services and we need your help today. Every dollar you give helps women and children in Haliburton County. You could be helping a neighbour, friend, family member or colleague. Please donate today!