Domestic Violence is a complex issue that takes many forms. It can be difficult for those outside of the abusive relationship to understand why a victim stays. Many ask, “why doesn’t she just leave?” However, it is not that simple. The answer is far more complicated than may appear.
Reasons Victims Stay:
- Fear: Fear of what will happen if they leave, from physical escalation to lack of security if they aren’t with their partner. Leaving can be the most dangerous time for a victim. That is why it is so important to have a safety plan.
- Children: Fear of losing custody of their children, that the abuser will harm their children if they leave, or that a two-parent household is better for their children.
- Self-Blame and low self-esteem: Abusers often manipulate their victim into thinking that the abuse is their fault or that they “deserve” it.
- Love: Often, victims feel love for their abuser. They may have a family together. The victim probably remembers the “honeymoon period,” when the relationship seemed wonderful. A victim may feel as though their abuser can change, or that the behavior will stop and that the relationship can be saved.
- Guilt or shame: It can be very difficult for someone to admit they’re being abused. Fear of judgment from friends and family can keep someone from leaving.
- Lack of Information: Without information about how to leave, organizations that can help them, or resources available, it can be really hard to leave.
- Lack of money: Abusers often make their victims financially dependent on them. Without money or a place to go (especially for victims with children) leaving can seem impossible.
- Limited or no support system: An abuser often manipulates their victim into ending relationships with family and friends. Or, sometimes, family and friends are just not supportive to the victim, and that lack of support makes leaving intimidating.
- Belief that the abusive behavior is “normal”: Without knowing what a healthy relationship looks like, it may be hard to recognize what is unhealthy.
- Cultural/religious reasons: The traditional gender and familial roles that some cultures or religions ascribe to have a big influence on a person’s decision to stay.