This is the most commonly asked question of domestic violence victims and survivors and for someone who has never experienced domestic violence, it can be a very difficult to understand. Breaking free of abuse is not a matter of simply walking out the door. Leaving an abusive relationship is not only hard to do but it can be very dangerous and the reasons for staying vary from one victim to the next. The most common reasons why victims stay are:
Abusers often threaten over and over that they will hurt the victim, their children, a pet, a family member/ friend or themselves. Abusers may even threaten to kill the victim or themselves if his/her partner leaves. A victim may stay in the relationship because they are scared of what the abuser will do if they leave.
When an abuser calls their partner names, puts them down and plays mind games it can make the victim feel bad about themselves. Many times victims believe that the abuse is their fault or that they deserve the abuse.
Victims may depend on their abuser for financial support. Victims may not leave because they are scared that they will not have enough money to support themselves–a fear that often gets worse if they have children.
It is very common for a victim to stay with an abusive partner because they do not want to “break up” their family and are afraid that it might be hard on their children if they leave. Victims may be afraid that the abuser will take the children away or that they might hurt the children if s/he is not there to protect them.
Victims often think that they can control their partner’s abusive behavior by doing exactly what s/he wants and by doing everything perfectly. But, victims have NO control over their partner’s actions. The only people who can control the violence and the abuse are the abusers themselves.
Hope for change
Abusers often promise that they will change and that the abuse will not happen again. Many victims want to believe this is true, and they hope that the abuse will end and things will get better.
Pressure from friends and family
The friends and family of a victim may not be supportive. Victims may not be believed, told that the abuse is their fault or that all relationships have bad times and that s/he should try harder. Friends and family may also get angry because the victim stays with the abuser or has left and gone back to the abuser so many times. Plus, friends and family may be scared about their own safety–what will happen if the victim stays at my home, etc.
They don’t know that help is out there
Many abusers isolate their victim from her/his friends and family in order to gain more control. By the time the victim decides they want to leave, s/he may feel like they have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Victims might not know what help is available to them in their community.
Ending a relationship is not easy, especially if it’s an abusive one as there are many risks involved. When a victim leaves, their abuser loses power and control, often increasing the danger for the victim. Leaving is a process and when a victim decides to leave they are taking that first step towards safety. However, it can be a long journey for many. If you or someone you know is a victim of please contact us for support. Center of Hope is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help victims learn about their options and plan for safety.