"Why Don't They Just Leave?": An Immersive Role-Playing Activity on Intimate Partner Violence


Download this resource to see full details
This in-class activity requires students to take on the role of an individual making decisions about whether to stay or leave an abusive relationship. It is designed to demonstrate the constrained choices that complicate leaving decisions, thereby addressing a common question heard in courses when discussing intimate partner violence: “Why don’t they just leave?” Like other immersive role-playing simulations such as poverty simulations (see Steck et al., 2011), this experiential activity involves perspective-taking, active engagement, and the development of empathy. It is adapted from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) “Decisions about Staying and Leaving” game, with permission granted from PCADV (Sullivan, 2005).


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Rena Zito 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Class Level:
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

Download this resource to see full details
Materials needed: (1) Script read by the instructor [see "Instructions for Instructors" document]; (2) Green slips of paper—enough for each student to have 9-15 slips; (3) Yellow slips of paper—enough for each student to have 5-9 slips; (4) Seven boxes or baskets to collect slips; (5) Seven posters/sheets of paper...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

Download this resource to see full details
Goal 1:
Identify and describe different types of intimate partner coercion and violence.
Assessment 1:
Post-activity group discussion of forms of intimate partner coercion and violence present in the role-playing activity.
Goal 2:
Demonstrate understanding of the complicated decision-making processes involved in leaving abusive relationships.
Assessment 2:
Student responses to post-activity reflection prompt and/or group discussion questions regarding their decisions during the activity.
Goal 3:
Engage in reflection about one’s own ideas about intimate partner violence and decision-making.
Assessment 3:
Pre- and post-activity reflection writing, as well as group discussion responses.

Files for Download:

Right-click and choose "Save As..." to save file.
Example Posters - Why Dont They Just Leave.docx
Instructions for Instructors - Why Dont They Just Leave.docx