People whose lives have never been touched by domestic violence or abuse often wonder why women stay so long in abusive relationships. Although the question may be an honest one, it should never be asked in a way that implies any blame on abused women for the situations they endure. That being said, there are complex reasons why women stay in violent or abusive relationships. Life coach and author Robert Moment gives the Top Ten Reasons why domestic violence victims don’t leave abusive relationships.
Here are the most common ones:
1. Fear of escalated violence
Anyone who has escaped an abusive situation will tell you this: The most dangerous time for a battered or abused woman is the time after she leaves the perpetrator. This is the time when the abuser becomes a stalker willing to do almost anything to regain control of the victim.
Statistics bear this out. The women who sustain the most serious physical injuries are those who have recently left, or attempted to leave their abusers. And among women who are killed by a domestic partner, 75 percent of those had recently separated or tried to separate from that partner.
No one makes a willing choice to be beaten down mentally, emotionally or physically. But if the choice is between bruised ribs and dying, sometimes staying put can seem to make sense.
2. Lack of a solid support system
Given the dangers of leaving an abuser, women need a strong support system in place to help them before, during, and after they make a break with their partners. And that’s exactly what an abuser eliminates from his victim’s life, by isolating her and weakening her ties with family and friends.
3. Lack of financial support
Typically an abuser will control the household finances. Joint bank accounts and strict budgets can make it nearly impossible for a woman to access enough money to leave without ending up on the street with no way to get safe housing for herself and her children.
4. Legal issues, especially child custody
Even an amicable divorce has tense moments. But the prospect of long ugly battles over property, finances and especially children can keep an abused woman from making the decision to leave. She knows her perpetrator will stop at nothing to keep control, including hiring expensive lawyers and allowing them to drag out the legal process. And when the victim has little to offer children in the way of appropriate housing and financial support, there’s a danger that full custody may be awarded to her abuser.
5. Limited work experience
It’s common for abusers to keep their victims at home as stay-at-home moms, or to allow them only a part-time job outside the home. With only limited experience in the workplace, a woman may feel overwhelmed by the process of finding a job that will support her and her children — especially in an economy where good jobs are hard to come by.
6. Pressure from family or community
Some families still hold to the traditional view of marriage — that it’s forever, no matter what. And if the abuser has built strong ties with family members, the victim may be receiving an incredible amount of pressure to “work things out.” This kind of pressure can create intense feelings of guilt in the abused woman and keep her from seeking real solutions.
7. Fear of being alone
A victim of domestic abuse may very well be suffering severe psychological injury. Her abuser has spent a long time convincing her that she’s helpless and unlovable, and she may believe herself incapable of surviving on her own. She may feel so damaged that she thinks no one will ever love her, or that she can never trust anyone again.
Psychologists point to a phenomenon called “traumatic bonding” to explain this fear of being alone. Abused women, like prisoners of war or hostages, lose their identity to their abusers and see them as the source not only of pain, but also of affection and as the ones who supply the basic needs of everyday life.
8. Guilt and shame
A perpetrator will repeatedly list the reasons why their victim is to blame for the abuse. Hearing how she provoked his violence over and over again, a woman may begin to believe that she is at fault. She may try desperately to change her behaviors to please her abuser, hoping that her relationship with the abuser will improve “if only” she can learn to please him.
Some men will threaten the life of a pet to keep a woman from leaving him. Many apartments or women’s shelters don’t allow pets, so a woman may choose to stay to protect a beloved companion.
Remember that women enter into domestic partnerships out of love. There may be weeks or months when there is no abuse, and the relationship feels strong and healthy. When the woman is victimized again, the abuser may apologize and make promises to change — and many women will believe these promises in the hope that the abuse will never happen again.
Your life matters. There is nothing wrong with leaving an abusive relationship even if there are many barriers that prevent you from doing so. You should always think of your own welfare rather than being overpowered by your fears and anxiety. Yes, it is very hard. It is painful and sorrowful. It would take a lot of sacrifices. But what will you choose? Staying in or leaving an abusive relationship can be a matter of life or death. Either you continue enduring the suffering and humiliation for whatever reason or you finally be free of it all and live a life wherein you achieve your dreams and make sure your dignity stays intact.
Robert Moment is a life coach, speaker and author of several life-transforming books, Domestic Abuse and Domestic Violence Help for Abused Women and Domestic Violence Survivors, Verbal Abuse: How Women Can Successfully Recognize, Respond to and Overcome Verbally Abusive Relationships and Abusive People, and How Do You Find Happiness . Robert specializes in maximizing human potential for happiness , purpose and success. Visit http://www.DomesticAbuseandDomesticViolence.com and sign-up for the FREE Life-Transforming e-courses on Overcoming Domestic Abuse and Verbal Abuse