Mental and Active Preparation: Examining Variations in Women’s Processes of Preparing to Leave Abusive Relationships

Document Type


Publication Date



Although the process of leaving abusive relationships has received increased research attention, preparing to leave is still largely understudied. Despite an emphasis on safety planning, not all women take active steps to prepare, and the characteristics and experiences of those who do or do not actively prepare are unknown. We address this gap with a secondary data analysis of interviews with 25 abused mothers in the process of leaving. All women initially engaged in mental planning, where they had emotionally disconnected from their partners. Using constructivist grounded theory techniques, we identified two distinct groups: those whose mental planning led to active planning (n = 11), and those who moved directly from mental planning to leaving (n = 14) with little time or need to actively plan. The groups differed on several individual, relationship, and child factors, which may have impacted the ability or decisions to prepare. This study supports the feminist view that survivors are not helpless victims but active agents who strategize for safety. Those who engage solely in mental planning still prepare to leave, even if they do not engage in active planning. Practitioners should consider factors affecting preparations and acknowledge mental planning as a necessary effort in leaving.



This document is currently not available here.