Why do Abuse Victims Stay?

“You’re telling me that your husband beat you up. I would never put up with that abuse. Why don’t you just leave him.”

We often put ourselves in the place of the victims and imagine ourselves leaving at the first signs of abuse. But breaking free of abuse is not simply a matter of walking out the door. Leaving is a process.

It can be difficult for many people to understand why a person would stay in an abusive relationship. But there are many reasons. Strong emotional and psychological forces keep the victim tied to the abuser. Sometimes situational realities like a lack of money keep the victim from leaving. The reasons for staying vary from one victim to the next, and they usually involve several factors.

Emotional reasons for staying

  • belief that the abusive partner will change because of his remorse and promises to stop battering
  • fear of the abuser who threatens to kill the victim if abuse is reported to anyone
  • lack of emotional support
  • guilt over the failure of the relationship
  • attachment to the partner
  • fear of making major life changes
  • feeling responsible for the abuse
  • feeling helpless, hopeless and trapped
  • belief that she is the only one who can help the abuser with his problems

Situational reasons for staying

  • economic dependence on the abuser
  • fear of physical harm to self or children
  • fear of emotional damage to the children over the loss of a parent, even if that parent is abusive
  • fear of losing custody of the children because the abuser threatens to take the children if victim tries to leave
  • lack of job skills
  • social isolation and lack of support because abuser is often the victim’s only support system
  • lack of information regarding domestic violence resources
  • belief that law enforcement will not take her seriously
  • lack of alternative housing
  • cultural or religious constraints

What is Domestic Violence?

The Cycle of Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence in the Suburbs