Why Do Victims Of Domestic Abuse Stay?

No one else will ever want me and I’ll die alone.

It was my fault he hit me.

He promised not to do it again.

I’m the only one who cares about him, I can’t leave him now.

I love him.

He’s really sweet most of the time, he only hits me when he’s angry.

He’ll hurt himself if I leave, and it’ll be my fault.

I deserved it for being a bad spouse.

This just means he’s passionate about me.

Maybe he’ll change.

I can’t leave because he has complete control over our finances. The checkbook, savings account, house and cars are all solely in his name.

Everyone will say they told me so.

I’m a stay-at-home parent. But with no income I wouldn’t get custody of our child.

If the above text made your skin crawl, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re not a sociopath.

The Ray Rice incident has a lot of people wondering why domestic violence victims stay with their abusers.

I have been privileged in my life in that I have never experienced domestic violence, but I have spoken with those who have, and I have listened to what they told themselves when they were suffering abuse. These are reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, but really, I suspect they’re just excuses.

The real reason people stay in abusive relationships is that the abuser brainwashes them and victimizes them so constantly that they have no self-worth anymore, and the abuser strategically removes every resource the victim has to prevent them from escaping. It’s all about removing independence from the victim.

It’s a common tactic to cut victims off from family and friends. It’s a common tactic to remove access to money and finances to create dependency. It’s a common tactic to make the victim believe the abuser is the one dependent on the victim. Abusers may get victims to quit their jobs, stop visiting family, drop their friends and stop going out.

These are deliberate choices by the abuser, deliberate manipulations that get the abuser what he or she wants. It’s not some sort of accident that victims think this way. It’s not an accident that victims often stay. That’s what the abusers want; that’s their goal.

In other words, the real reason people stay with their abusers is that they are being abused. It’s not what the victims say to themselves, it’s what the abuser is doing.

Don’t put the onus on the victim, here. Why do they stay? Because they’re being abused, that’s why, and it’s messing with their heads.

And another thing?

Never think this couldn’t happen to you, because that’s probably the one thing that all victims of domestic violence do have in common.

It happens to men and women alike and some victims are very smart, very strong people whose strength has been deliberately, strategically eroded over years by abusers.

10 Responses

  1. John

    Please investigate the following statement which I believe to be false:

    “The real reason people stay in abusive relationships is that the abuser brainwashes them and victimizes them so constantly that they have no self-worth anymore, and the abuser strategically removes every resource the victim has to prevent them from escaping”

    People enter into and remain in abusive relationships because on some level, at some time, and for some duration during their childhood they became accustomed to either being or witnessing abuse within the family. Please Google and read the review articles by Dr. Regina Sullivan regarding the fact that those who learned early in life to form an “attachment bond” to an abusive caregiver will more likely than not do so again in their adult life and even cling more strongly when the abuse is more acute. This is the smoking gun so seldom discussed and you may wish to consult Mr. Tim Hathaway at Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota as well as representatives of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center for corroboration.

    1. That is certainly a factor.

      But self-esteem has been definitively tied to abuse as well, and it is well known that abusers deliberately cut their victims off from the outside world.

      1. Sarah

        While interesting, I am living proof that it is possible to be in an abusive relationship as an adult without having on any level, for any period of time, and for any duration during my childhood, have ever become accustomed to either being or witnessing abuse within the family. My childhood was idyllic.

  2. I am sorry for nit picking in the comment, but, according to federal statistics on partner abuse, partner abuse is “non-gendered”, and and females initiate violence as much as males initiate violence. So, please do not use specific “gender” terms, such as “he’ll hurt me”, because in truth, it is equally justified to state that “she will her him”.

    I am just pointing out a simple, but often ignored, fact.

    1. Actually, the pieces in italics are what people give as reasons they stay, and as such, they could well be gendered. In fact, however, 4/13 of the statements, or more than 30 percent, are nongendered.

      Within the text of the article, when general domestic violence is spoken of rather than specific instances, the terms are all nongendered, except for two instances, one in which I used “he or she,” and one in which I used “men and women.” In both cases two genders are specifically cited. In zero cases is only one gender cited.

      You are also at least mathematically incorrect to state that it would be “equally” justified to state that “she will hurt him,” given that 95 percent of domestic abusers are male, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2000. I would say that it was approximately 19 times more justified to say that “he will hurt her.”

      It is also specifically noted in the article that “It happens to men and women alike,” as you are correct in that domestic abuse is experienced by all genders, not just women and not even just women and men, but everyone.

  3. Wolfy32

    The problem with using statistics, is that in majority of cases, men reporting abuse are not taken seriously. “They’re men, they can help themselves. ” Secondly, when in courts, many times it is up to the male counterpart to Prove abuse and the counter to that, is that women can cry abuse when there was none and be taken fairly seriously. I do believe strongly that our society follows the way of cliché and stereotypes… In a formal documented, police and court documents way, women are taken seriously in abusive situations than men. And men have limited options to turn to for support. How many rape and abuse crisis centers are there for men? I truly believe that men are abused, physically, emotionally, and sexually by partners and that abuse can go on for years much the same as many women suffer the abuse. The difference is that our society only looks at the abused women and tells the men to get over it… ‘Be a man’.

    We’ve got a long ways to go before domestic abuse and domestic violence is treated similarly (and taken seriously on an official basis) for men and women.

    1. Actually, it is also a huge problem that most domestic violence shelters do not take men and that men often have nowhere to go. However, the article is not about male-specific issues.

      Gender is, again, specified only twice within the article and two genders are listed both times.

      In the examples of things abused people say, which precedes the article, 4 of 13 examples are nongendered and can apply equally to women and men.

  4. Hi Kari, Great blog today! I heard you are at Grand Forks now I hope all is going well for you there!
    I wonder … when you go to the Doctors Office and they ask you “Do you feel safe at home?” IF you answer “NO” what happens next?
    Domestic violence should not be tolerated by our society…too many single parents out there…kids never see two loving supportive parents anymore. Sad.

    1. I am definitely liking Grand Forks! Lots of things to do and places to go and people to meet!

      I think they give you resources on trying to get out, but I’m not sure, as I’ve been lucky enough to never need to answer that question with “no.”

      I know from having listened to police scanners that there’s far, far more domestic violence than most people out there, even in the nicest towns…

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