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Support, Response, and Prevention

Why Victims Stay

There are a number of reasons why victims stay with their abuser. It is important to note that victims do not stay in abusive relationships because they enjoy being abused. Rather, they have very real, compelling reasons for staying.

Fear

Generally, victims stay because the fear of leaving is greater than the fear of staying. Fear of the unknown can be a powerful reason for “staying put.” Also, victims are often threatened with physical harm if they try to leave. It is well documented that victims are at the most risk of injury when they are leaving. They fear for their safety and the safety of those who help them.

Control

Many victim’s feel that they have more control by remaining in an abusive relationship. They know their abuser’s whereabouts and moods and therefore know how to act in the way that will be least likely to trigger their temper. The victim fears that if they attempt to leave, the violence could extend to their family or friends who are helping them escape. The victim’s identity has been lost because for the duration of their relationship the abuser has made many of their life choices for them. The abuser has encouraged or completely forbidden the victim to see their friends and perhaps even keep their job, which means they are completely reliant on the abuser for financial and emotional support.

Promises of Reform

The abuser promises that it will never happen again; the victim wants to believe that this is true.

Guilt

The victim may believe that the abuser is sick and needs their help. The idea of leaving can thus produce feelings of guilt. The victim may be the only person who hasn’t left the abuser, so they feel a sense of responsibility to help them.

Lack of self-esteem

The victim may come to believe that they somehow deserve the abuse. The abuser has destroyed any sense of self-esteem they once had and therefore they now may believe that they don’t deserve anything better.

Children

Being a single parent is a strenuous experience under the best of conditions, and for most victims, conditions are far from the best. The enormous responsibility of raising children alone can be overwhelming. Often, the abuser may threaten to take the children away from them if the victim leaves or attempts to leave.

Love

Most people enter a relationship for love and the emotion does not simply disappear in abusive relationships. Most victims want the violence to end, but love their partner and want the relationship to work.

Finances

A lack of money can make these situations even harder because many options for leaving require payments, such as a hotel fee or a plane ticket. If the victim does not have the means to do these things many of their options disappear.