Why People Stay
Leaving an abusive relationship can be very difficult and there may be many reasons why a person stays. Some of the reasons a person might stay include:
Abusers often repeatedly threaten 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 their partner leaves. A person may stay in the relationship because they are afraid 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 a person who is being abused believes that the abuse is their fault or that they deserve the abuse.
Victims may depend on their abuser for financial support. They may not leave because they are afraid 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 person 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. They may be afraid that the abuser will take the children away or that they might hurt the children if they are not there to protect them. Read about children and domestic violence.
Victims often think they can control their partner's abusive behavior by doing exactly what the abuser wants and by doing everything perfectly. But, victims have NO control over their partner's actions. The only person who can control the violence and abuse is the abuser them self.
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.
Many religions can be used to support both liberation from abuse and control of a spouse over their partner, depending on how the religious text is interpreted. An abuser may quote religious text to justify abuse. A victim may be told they are responsible for keeping the family together and may fear being cast out from their community if they separate or divorce their partner. Read about religion and domestic violence.
An abuser may choose not to file the papers necessary to legalize their partner’s immigration status, withdraw already filed papers, destroy important papers, or threaten to report them to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). If English is not their first language, an abuser might isolate a victim from people who speak their language, prevent them from learning English, and not allow them to have access to information. If the person being victimized does not speak English, they may not have access to resources in their first language or know where to find them to get help. Read about culture and domestic violence.
Pressure from Family and Friends
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 they should try harder. Family and friends may also get angry because the victim stays with the abuser or has left and gone back. Plus, family and friends may be scared about their own safety – what will happen if the victim stays at my home, etc.
Doesn't Know Help is Available
Many abusers isolate their victims from their friends and family in order to gain more control. By the time the victim decides they want to leave, they 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.
Deciding to Leave
Deciding to leave an abusive relationship has risks. When a victim leaves, the abuser loses their power and control-often increasing the danger for the victim. When a victim decides to leave, it can be safer if they get support. Contact LifeWire's 24 hour crisis line at 425-746-1940 and our trained staff can help with crisis intervention, safety planning, emotional support and information about domestic violence. Learn about LifeWire's crisis line and services.