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Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?

"Why Don’t They Just Leave?"

People who have never been abused often wonder why a person wouldn’t leave an abuser. They don’t understand that leaving can be complicated and dangerous.  Leaving is often the most dangerous time for a victim because abuse is about power and control. When a victim leaves, they are taking control of their life. This threatens the abuser’s power and could cause him or her to retaliate.
Aside from this, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. Here are a few of the common ones:

  • FearA person may be afraid of what will happen if they leave the relationship.
  • Believing Abuse is NormalA person may not know what a healthy relationship looks like. They may have grown up in an environment where abuse was common. They may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.
  • Fear of Being OutedIf someone is in an LGBTQIA relationship and has not yet come out publicly, their partner may threaten to reveal this secret.
  • Embarrassment or ShameIt’s often difficult for someone to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner. A common worry is that friends and family will judge them.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Abusers erode their partners' self-esteem with constant put-downs and blame. It can be easy for the victim to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.
  • Love: So often, the victim feels love for their abusive partner. They may have children with them and want to maintain their family. Abusive people are often charming at the beginning of a relationship. The victim may hope that their partner will go back to being that person again. They may only want to stop the violence, not end the relationship.
  • Cultural/Religious ReasonsTraditional gender roles may influence a person to stay. In some cultures and religions, ending the relationship would disgrace the family.
  • Language Barriers/Immigration Status: A person without proper documents may fear reporting abuse. They likely do not know the resources available to domestic violence survivors. If their first language isn’t English, it can also be difficult to express their situation to others.
  • Lack of Money/Resources: Financial abuse is common in domestic violence relationships. A victim may be dependent on their abusive partner for money and resources. Without those things, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship. This reason is especially prevalent if the person lives with the abuser.
  • DisabilityPhysical or mental dependency on an abusive partner makes it difficult to leave. A person often feels a need for the relationship even if it is abusive. This dependency is a big factor in their decision to stay in an abusive relationship.