Why Stay?

What does it look like…what do victims experience?

An abuser uses a pattern of behaviors and often wants total control over your life. They will use anything to get to you – children, family, fear, guilt, minimizing, blaming, shame, finances, isolation, and intimidation. Very often abusers threaten to hurt you and your family members, including pets.

Signs that someone is a victim of domestic violence
   • Anxiety
   • Numbness
   • Embarrassment
   • Hopelessness
   • Nightmares    
   • Unable to concentrate
   • Low self esteem
   • Depression
   • Anger
   • Withdrawal from friends and family
   • Unexplained injuries: bruises, burns, broken bones, scratches etc.
   • Social isolation
   • Major unexplained change in behavior/personality

Relationship/Domestic violence victims often blame their own behavior instead of the violent actions of the abuser. Victims often alter their behavior and actions in order to please their abuser. They believe that if they follow certain rules and make sure the abuser is happy they can prevent being hurt. Regretfully, violent and abuse is often self-driven and depends little on the actions of a victim.  Often victims minimize the seriousness of incidents in order to cope and in order not to reach out in seeking help or medical attention.
Reasons people stay in abusive relationships vary, read a great article from Georgetown University describing some of the reasons why:

“If someone is being abused in a relationship, why don’t they just leave?”
Many people have difficulty understanding why individuals stay in violent relationships. Relationship violence can be a complicated issue, and there are many reasons why a person may stay with an abusive partner. Sometimes it is difficult for individuals to even recognize that emotional or psychological violence is occurring in a relationship. We may be able to help our friends who are in emotionally or physically violent relationships by helping them recognize that the abuse is occurring.
One of the most common reasons people cite for staying in abusive relationships is love. Violence in intimate relationships is very different from assaults by strangers. Many times, victims still love their abusive partners. When an abusive partner says he or she will stop the abuse, the victim may want to believe the abuser. Victims often believe that they are the only ones who can help his or her abusive partner overcome their problems. Most victims don’t want to leave their partners, but they do want the abuse to stop.

Another reason that people stay in abusive relationships is fear. Many victims are afraid of what their partner will do if they try to leave the relationship. Often this fear is justifiable. Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim. Most women who are killed by their partners are killed while attempting to leave the relationship.
A victim may believe that the abuse will eventually stop. When abusive partners are not being violent, they are often described as loving, attentive partners. The violence may begin gradually and increase over time, and victims may see the abuse as isolated incidents instead of as a cyclical pattern. Sometimes one or both partners truly believe that “this time will be the last time.”
One major effect of emotional and physical abuse is diminished self-esteem. A victim of relationship violence may think that s/he deserves the abuse, or that the abusive relationship is “as good as it gets.” Over time, the victim may become depressed and lose all hope. In addition, a victim may not have the financial resources to be independent without the help of the abusive partner, and may also rely on the abusive partner for emotional support.
It is important to understand that victims do leave violent relationships. It often takes a person four or more attempts before successfully leaving an abusive relationship. It is extremely important to avoid blaming the victim for staying in an abusive situation. The victim is not doing anything wrong by loving a partner, but the partner is committing a crime by abusing the victim. Victims know when the best time to leave a situation will be. We cannot judge a victim for staying, but we can offer support and understanding to the victim during the abusive relationship and after it is over.