Many people who see abusive relationships wonder why the victim won’t just leave their partner, as if it’s that easy. However, they don’t understand the complications within the relationship and why leaving is actually extremely difficult. Below is an outline of the many reasons why a victim often stays in the relationship with their abuser, adapted from Love is Respect.
- Fear: The thought that if they leave their partner will find them and hurt them even worse, or even their friends, family or themselves. This often stems from threats that the abuser has made towards them.
- Belief that Abuse is Normal: If the victim grew up in a broken home with unhealthy relationships it is difficult for them to know what a healthy one looks like and they are now unable to recognize that they are in a dangerous situation.
- Fear of Being Outed: In LGBTQ relationships, the abuser may be the only one that knows that the victim identifies however they do. If they leave the relationship the abuser may reveal their secret which is especially scary and nerve-wracking to youth who are in the early stages of exploring their sexuality.
- Embarrassment: The victim feels embarrassed or ashamed that they let their abuser treat them the way they did; therefore, they don’t want to tell anyone. They are blaming themselves for their partner’s behavior which is very common in abusive relationships. In addition, they could feel as if they did something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner, even if they didn’t know they were abusive at the start of their relationship.
- Love: If a victim truly loves their abuser before the actual abuse takes place, they want to believe their partner when they say they’re going to change. The victim wants the violence to end, but not the relationship.
- Social/Peer Pressure: Especially in teen relationships, if the abuser is seen as popular it is difficult for the victim to tell people due to their fear that no one will believe them or everyone will take the abuser’s side.
- Cultural/Religious Reasons: Traditional gender roles sometimes make it difficult for women, especially young women, to admit to being sexually active or for young men to admit to being abused in fear that it will somehow threaten their role as a man or woman. In other cultures, and religions, it can also be seen as bringing shame to one’s family to end a relationship instead of staying in it and “fixing it.”
- Pregnancy/Parenting: If the victim becomes pregnant they may feel like they will further tear the family apart by raising their child alone, so it’s common that they stay in the relationship for the sake of the baby. On the other hand, the abuser may also threaten to take or harm the child if they leave.
Distrust of Adults or Authority
- Puppy Love Phenomena: Adults sometimes have a hard time believing that a teen could really experience true love. So, when something goes wrong in a relationship the person being abused may feel like they have no trustworthy adults of authoritative figures to turn to.
- Distrust of Police: Often times there is a stigma that exists around police in the eyes of youth and young adults so they don’t report the abuse because they don’t think that the police can or will help them.
- Language Barriers/Immigration Status: People who are undocumented in abusive relationships fear that reporting any sort of crime will threaten their immigration status. In addition, if English isn’t their first language it can be really difficult to express to others just how serious the situation they are in has gotten.
Reliance on the Abusive Partner
- Lack of Money: The victim in the relationship may be financially dependent upon their abusive partner, and it’s common that the abuser has used money as leverage towards their partner so that they won’t leave. Without this dependence the victim may feel like they won’t be able to support themselves and that they will eventually become homeless.
- Nowhere to Go: After the abuser has isolated their partner from all of their family and friends as a tactic to gain control over them, a feeling of helplessness can ensue when they want to end the relationship because they have no one else to rely on.
- Disability: In cases where one of the partners is physically reliant on their abusive partner, for example if they are their caregiver, the victim can easily feel like their well-being goes hand in hand with their relationship and their dependency can influence their decision to stay.
Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships? – www.loveisrespect.org. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2016, from http://www.loveisrespect.org/is-this-abuse/why-do-people-stay/