Studies show that typically there are 10 major categories of reasons/reasoning behind why victims stay in abusive relationships. These categories are as follows:
1. LACK OF, AND INTERFERENCE OF RESOURCES/EDUCATION/VEHICLES
- The abuser is often the sole breadwinner and may provide the family with the necessities of life: Food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and transportation. Most abuse victims have at least one dependent child. By leaving, victims may lose economic security and face poverty or homelessness.
- In a family where the economic lifestyle is comfortable, the victim may feel he/she would be mistreating the children to take all that away. The victim may question what he/she can offer in its place. Many times the answer is discouraging enough to entice them to stay.
- The abuser may threaten to withhold child support if the victim leaves. If he/she actually leaves, many abusers go as far as getting a job under the table, purposely making it impossible for the victim to collect support and therefore be forced to come home.
- Many abusers threaten to and/or actually interfere with the victim’s employment/education.
- The victim may be unable to attain financial support or shelter from their family. Economic conditions today afford a woman with children few viable options. She knows the difficulties of single parenting in reduced financial circumstances; Government assistance is very limited, and many women dread welfare; or cannot qualify for assistance.
- The abuser may have restricted the victim from being employed outside of the home leaving them with no marketable job skills or experience.
- Abuse victims often lack education and close relationships or contacts with others. Abusers tend to frown on any skills or relationships that would empower his/her victim.
- Many abusers have made sure that their victim has no property that is solely theirs.
- Most abusers control all the money, leaving the victim with little or no access to cash, checks, bank accounts or important documents needed to leave.
- The abuser may have the only reliable vehicle, leaving the victim with either no transportation or an unreliable vehicle in need of costly repairs, or dangerous to drive.
- Sometimes abusers attack so that the victim WILL leave, for the sole purpose of forcing the victim to abandon an opportunity/advancement in the victim’s life. The victim may have been working very hard towards, and sacrificed much to attain a particular opportunity. The victim’s purpose may have been a part of a freedom plan; or, to share the success with the abuser. In either case, the abuser sees it as a threat. The abuser will typically be most abusive just prior to the victim’s college graduation/business promotion. Bosses tend to do this too, only their motive is to protect their livelihood. They become afraid of losing their position to the victim. In either case, the abuser wants to STOP the victim from excelling in, and keep the victim from completing their advancements. Once the victim quits, they’ll feel defeated and may not return. The abuser wants to keep the victim oppressed and under their control. The victim may feel abandoned, insecure, unloved, powerless, and a complete hopelessness will “Hold the Victim Hostage”; as per the plan.
2. MISCONCEPTIONS ON THE VICTIM’S PART
- The victim often thinks that he/she can change the abuser.
- The victim thought that this was just how relationships are.
- The abuser told the victim it was their fault and he/she believes it.
- The victim thinks he/she can’t live without the abuser.
- The victim feels responsible for the abuser’s behavior.
3. HUMANITARIAN/MARRIAGE/RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
- Many women are taught that their worth is contingent upon getting and keeping a man.
- Some victims are true humanitarians. They see the abuser who truly is sick and hurting and they just want to help them get better. They feel certain that they can help them. And, they don’t want to give up trying.
- Religious, cultural and socialized beliefs demand some victims to maintain the facade of a good marriage. The victim may believe that they are responsible for making their marriage work. Failure to maintain the marriage equals failure as a spouse.
- Many victims do not believe that divorce/separation is a viable alternative, especially if they are a Christian living by Bible principals. Christians have a difficult time finding any provision for divorce in the bible other than adultery, and the abuser is not always an adulterer.
- Christian women may endure and suffer because they feel they are following Jesus’ example.
- Christians follow Bible principals that teach forgiveness, so they will continually forgive; and thus, block out many abuse memories. But, those memories do not leave the subconscious mind. They may forever be triggered at times during future abuse. Therefore, each episode intensifies. The more intense the episode, and the more of these scenes that are played out, the more a victim may tend to break down in front of an abuser, leaving themselves with a feeling of foolishness and weakness; and the abuser with a feeling of more power and control. Each time he gets stronger and the victim ultimately gets weaker. Then the abuser begins to withhold from the victim. The abuser may withhold love, compassion, sex, kind words and/or affection. The abuser may cease to touch the victim tenderly, cease to hold the victim, and/or he/she may cease to kiss the victim. There have been numerous studies that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that affection is an absolute need that is essential to a human’s very survival. Without affection, a victim begins to lose any spirit that was left in them. See: Deprivation and Withholding
- Wedding vows are serious to most people. An abuser however, may take them too lightly. This is not the person he/she married. The victim begins to worry that he/she may not be cared for her in her old age, and every time the abuser mistreats him/her it validates a very scary future for the victim. This sinks the victim into an even deeper, most dangerous depression. The victim may become unstable from this ever-clear reality.
- The victim’s vows may haunt them (“For better or for worse”); or, the victim may feel sorry for the abuser (“In sickness and in health”). We are all taught that abuse, alcoholism and drug addictions are really sicknesses, and that we are to care for the person in need; therefore, the victim cares deeply. This makes him/her feel a deep sense of compassion for the abuser, and the victim may take his/her responsibility to “Take Care” of the abuser very seriously.
4. RATIONALIZATION/LOW SELF-ESTEEM
- Many victims rationalize their abuser’s behavior by blaming stress, alcohol, drugs, etc….
- Some victims believe that it’s their fault and feel they would improve or stop making mistakes, the abuser will stop. They stay because of guilt.
- Learned helplessness: The victim begins to believe what the abuser says about him/her being incompetent and unable to function on his/her own.
- The abuser often uses mental abuse, put- downs, insults and threats to control the victim. As a result, many victims don’t like themselves very much and have extremely skewed perceptions of themselves; especially when verbal abuse is added to the mix. They lack self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem.
- Most abusers are very intelligent and have a variety of incredible talents. The victim may rationalize that the abuser will use his/her talents to find success. The victim may believe that once success is found that the abuser will no longer suffer and therefore his/her anger, bitterness and resentment will soon disappear; leaving the abuser no excuse to abuse the victim further. The victim also may not want to miss the opportunity to share in the good fortune; after all, he/she has suffered too. The victim may have no clue that the abuser is insecure, and scared of success, and as a result, will simply be more inclined to self-sabotage and/or turn down all opportunities for advancement.
- Some abusers are very handy around the house, yard, repairing vehicles, etc…. A victim may rationalize that they need to keep the abuser around to take care of certain things that the victim is incapable of.
- The abuser may be impaired, handicapped, or old; therefore, the victim may rationalize that the abuser will need his/her assistance. Or, the abuser may be perfectly healthy and capable, but the victim may have been conditioned by the abuser to believe that he/she will always need the victim’s assistance.
- The victim’s children LOVE the abuser and he/she cannot take them away. Note: A victim may not recognize abuse other than physical. So, if the children are not being physically abused, the victim may rationalize that it is better for the children to stay.
5. TRADITIONAL BELIEFS
- Many have been victims all their lives. They have, to coin a phrase, become serial victims. The victim’s father may have beaten their mother or the children and the victim may accept it as natural. The more the father hit the Mother, or the parents hit the victim, the more likely the victim will stay in the relationship. In this case, the victim was CONDITIONED at an early age that it’s OK to hit someone you love.
- The victim may have traditional values regarding marriage and family. Many people believe that a single parent family is unacceptable, and the victim may stay for the sake of the “children needing a mother/father.” The victim often feels very loyal to the children and feels that he/she will take the abuse to protect the children. The victim will step between the abuser and the children, using themselves as an emotional and physical buffer.
- The victim’s family, friends, or church may admonish and even disown them for their decision to leave. They may not support or agree with the victim’s leaving, or he/she may be embarrassed to tell them.
6. ISOLATION & DEPRIVATION
- Empowered victims with strong attachments to family and friends tend to deflate the control the abuser wants to retain. Many abusers isolate the victim from friends and family. The abuser may tell horrendous lies about the victim. The abuser is an incredible actor and very “Charming”. The abuser is an expert at making the victim out to be unstable, crazy and/or insane to authorities, neighbors, friends, and family, all done purposely to take the focus off of him/herself. They think the abuser is a terrific person because they rarely, or possibly never, hear or see the violent/mentally abusive side of him/her. The victim may not know about the lies because the abuser may tell them when the victim is not present. The family and friends typically believe these lies. They never ask the victim about it because they were conditioned to “not get involved in other peoples affairs”, therefore; they never get both sides. And, since they have only heard one story, a new, derogatory image of the victim has been planted into their subconscious minds. It will not die…quite the contrary, it will grow. For the abuser is wise, and will continue to feed the story, or tell another, every chance he/she gets. These images of the victim eventually cause the family member/friend to begin treating the victim differently (subconsciously at first), but the victim will not understand because he/she is not privy to what the others have been told. Sometimes, it begins as subtlety as the family member/friend not hugging them quite as sincerely. Sometimes, it is more extreme and obvious. Regardless, the victim will eventually stop trusting them, and will feel a deeper hopeless. This isolation contributes to a sense that there is nowhere left to turn.
- Often the abuser is the victims only support system psychologically, having systematically destroyed all other friendships.
- The victim may have no idea about, or have access to, or finances for safety, support or services that are available and therefore, the victim may feel trapped. See: Deprivation and Withholding
7. LOVE, CONDITIONING OR A NEED TO BE LOVED
- The victim may still be in love with the abuser, or “think” he/she is simply because they feel that they could never let go of the fairy tale. Didn’t Mom always say; “NEVER let go of your dreams”? The victim has been CONDITIONED to stay.
- The victim is emotionally dependent on the abuser.
- The abuser may tell/convince the victim that this was the last time. Generally, the less severe and less frequent the incidents, the more likely the victim will stay.
- Abusive partners may promise to go to counseling, change their ways, and never hurt their partner’s again. However, abusers are typically charmers, and academy award winning actors, even in the midst of a counselor. They may even go once or twice, but they will not continue because they truly do not believe that there is anything “wrong” with them.
- There is a mix of good times, good memories, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation, fear and oppression.
- The victim and/or the children may love and/or be very close to some of their in-laws. The victim may fear that they will not be able to see them or be included in family functions once they leave the abuser.
- If the victim, or even the neighbor, reports the abuser to the police, the abuser will often take revenge upon the victim. The victim believes the abuser to be almost omnipotent. The victim sees no real way to protect themselves from the abuser. Many of the victim’s fears are justifiable.
- Fear that the abuser will find them, hunt them down and/or kill him/her. The victim believes the abuser to be all-powerful and able to find them anywhere. Many of the victim’s fears and beliefs about the abuser are based in reality since some of the violence exhibited by the abuser is lethal.
- Fear or threats that the abuser will purposely damage the victim’s reputation.
- Many abusers threaten to try to turn the children or family against the victim. The abuser has proven this.
- Fear that the victim’s children will be taken by the abuser. Many abusers threaten to abduct or seek custody of the children. The abuser tells the victim that they will never be able to find him/her or see their children again.
- A victim may also fear being charged with desertion and losing their children as a result of leaving. The victim fears that a less than ideal home and inadequate income will be just cause for the system to take the children away from him/her. Some abusers will use this as a threat.
- Fear of loneliness. The victim has left the abuser before and dreads the empty feeling.
- Fear of dating, diseases from dating or ending up with someone worse than the abuser (drug addict, alcoholic and/or adulterer). Many victims have a misconception that “all men/women are the same anyway, so why should I torture myself trying to learn the abuse patterns of another when I already know the warning signs and can somewhat protect myself from or avoid this one’s outbursts.
- Fear of threats. The victim has reason to believe the abusers threats from experience.
- The victim is afraid because she doesn’t know where to go or what to do.
- A fear or absolute dread of having to deal with all the turmoil, pain, underhandedness, lies, head games and stalking that the victim knows the abuser will inflict, and the victim will have to endure, if he/she leaves. The thought of it is both draining and depressing to the victim; therefore, it’s easier to just stay put.
- Fear of sinking into a depression and not being able to care for the children.
- Many abusers threaten to advise prospective landlords that the victim is not credit-worthy.
- The abuser may be capable of, or has threatened to do something malicious to the victim’s vehicle or some other item that will cause a fatal accident. Many abusers use these types of threats.
- Many abusers threaten retaliatory suicide, or escalate their violence in other ways in an attempt to hold the victim in the relationship.
- Fear and dread make the victim want desperately to avoid the heartbreaking and tormenting cries from her children: “Where’s Daddy?”, “I want my Mommy”, “You should have never left him/her”, “Why can’t I have my toys?”, “I want to sleep in my bed”, Why can’t you buy it for me?”, “I’m hungry”, etc… The victim knows their spirit cannot endure any more pain.
- The children may be of age to have a say in who they live with (the abuser has worked hard to brainwash the child by belittling and blaming the victim for all of their troubles and thus, winning them over). The victim might fear that the children will want to go with the abuser if they leave. The children may have already insisted that they stay with the abuser. This produces an even greater fear that the children might be abused, neglected or even killed, and that he/she would not be there to protect them.
- Victims may face greater injury or death at the hands of their abuser if they try to leave. Many abusers will threaten to kill the victim or other family members if the victim leaves. Some abusers threaten to seek custody of the children, to withhold support, to interfere with the victim’s employment or to reveal/lie about the victim’s credit worthiness to landlords or creditors, to turn the children or family against the victim. The abuser may even threaten to kill the victim, children or family members. The abuser might threaten retaliatory suicide or to escalate his/her violence in other ways in an attempt to hold her in their relationship.
9. PERSONAL PROPERTY & PET ABANDONMENT/DESTRUCTION/ABUSE
- The victim would have to leave everything they have ever worked hard for, or sentimentally collected. The victim may not be able to take a lot of his/her or the children’s personal belongings/needs. The abuser either won’t allow the victim to take anything, or the abuser watches the victim carefully to make sure he/she doesn’t leave, leaving the victim with too narrow window of opportunity to get out safely. Or, the victim may not have the help he/she needs to move their personal belongings as fast as he/she must.
- The abuser has threatened, or the victim knows from past experiences, that the abuser will destroy all of his/hers and the children’s personal belongings (everything that the victim loves) as soon as he/she leaves. The abuser will not think twice about consequences; sacrifices; OR, sentimental, replacement or price value.
- The abuser threatens, or the victims knows from past experiences that the abuser may sell everything that belongs to the victim and the children to support the abuser’s habit as the abuser wallows in depression from the victim’s absence.
- The victim may not be able to take the pet(s). He/she may fear that the abuser may neglect, abuse or get rid of them.
- The mortgage may be in the victim’s name and the abuser may refuse to leave. The victim cannot leave his/her home and trust the abuser to pay the mortgage. The abuser might be irresponsible or purposely not pay it to destroy what belongs to the victim out of resentment, and/or to destroy the victim’s credit (a tactic to further weaken the victim).
10. INSTITUTIONAL & AUTHORITATIVE RESPONSES
- Despite the issuance of a restraining order, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating the abuse.
- Prosecutors are often reluctant to prosecute cases, and judges rarely levy the maximum sentence upon convicted abusers.
- Clergy and secular counselors are often trained to see only the goal of “saving” the marriage, rather than the goal of stopping the abuse.
- Religious or cultural beliefs that, if violated, may cause additional guilt or shame; or, could result in a loss of support from the victim’s church.
- Amazingly, Police Officers often do not provide support to the victim. They treat it as a “domestic dispute”, instead of a crime where one person is attacking/harming another person. Police may try to dissuade the victim from filing charges. The abuser “charms”, acts, and convinces the authorities that the victim is the abuser, or that the victim is mentally unstable. The police often believe these lies. They may make the victim leave the home; OR, their belief in the lies simply make it harder for the victim during future attacks. Next time the victim needs the police the abuser may goad the victim with “what a fool he/she made of themselves the last time”, and the abuser will increase the victim’s self-doubt with, “go ahead, they won’t believe you anyway”. Based on the previous experience, the victim may presume that the abuser is correct, give up, and never make the call again. It leaves the victim vulnerable to increased violence and the victim feels more helpless, hopeless, alone and untrusting of authorities/the system.
For more Information see: Why Do Victim’s Stay?
It is no wonder that these victims end up back with their abusers…
Peace Foundations will provide programs and services that will provide solutions to each of these barriers
Victims can be male or female. There are many men being abused by women. However, approximately 95% of the victims of domestic violence are women that were abused by men. (Department of Justice figures)
The most important thing to remember is to never judge the abused You do not know what threats or coercion methods are being used. Just Be There for the Abused…Freely offering Love, Kindness, Trust and Unconditional Support
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A CRIME
If you are being abused we urge you to seek Help and Safety
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